Thursday, August 21, 2008

School Daze

It's that time of year. Leslie termed it 'the most wonderful time of the year'. Oh, I can certainly relate to that sentiment. I've just never experienced it. In the 13 years since I sent my wee ones off to kindergarten, I also had to gear up for another school year as a special education para-professional. No hurrying my kidlets to the bus stop and waving a fond farewell to them or dropping them off at the entrance, watching them walk into the building and skee-daddling to corporate America for Bullet Hole. I had to head 'back to school' just like my kids. And looked forward to it about as much.

This fall everything is different. I have a different job--one that I actually like--and all my children are ready to head off to college. Well, 'ready' may be stretching it a bit. But like it or not, it's that time of year.

Two of my three freshmen are commuting to community college their freshman year to accrue general education credits while they work and save to transfer to a four year institution--and hopefully figure out what they want to do as a career. My other two will be living on campus. I'll be helping my freshman daughter move into her dorm Saturday. Or so she assures me. As of today I see little evidence that such a move is imminent or even possible. Good thing her campus is 45 minutes away and 12 miles from my place of employment because I predict lots of 'oops, I forgot' trips.

I'll be carrying a heavy course load myself this term as I finish up my Criminal Justice degree.

I comfort myself that I won't have to deal with the 'empty nest' syndrome until next fall. Thank goodness.

This morning I was listening to my favorite radio station, 1040 WHO Radio, and it's a tradition on the first day of school for the host to read a poem called, I Trust You'll Treat Her Well--a letter written by the father of a daughter about to begin her first day of kindergarten. Not only was the co-host blubbering, but the sports guy (a father himself) was getting choked up. Me? Steel, man. Solid as steel. Like a rock.

What? You don't believe me? You think I had great gobs of mucous flowing and a thick knot of emotion in my throat? You think I went through a wad of tissues faster than I do a bowl of M&Ms? Me? The ex super trooper? The 'wonder woman' who raised four kids on her own while working, writing, and going to school?

How the heck did you guys become so bloody perceptive?

Oh. I forgot.

Many of you are writers and all of you are readers.

Duh. That's how.

For those of you who may have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or other children in your lives heading off to school, here's I Trust You'll Treat Her Well'. (Warning: Do not read without a box of tissues handy!)

Dear World:
I bequeath to you today one little a crispy dress...with two brown eyes...and a happy laugh that ripples all day long.. and a flash of light brown hair that bounces in the sun when she runs.
I trust you'll treat her well.

She's slipping out of the backyard of my heart this morning...and skipping off down the street to her first day of school. And never again will she be completely mine.
Prim and proud she'll wave her young and independent hand this morning and say "Goodbye" and walk with little lady steps to the schoolhouse.

Now she'll learn to stand in lines...and wait by the alphabet for her name to be called. She'll learn to tune her ears for the sounds of school-bells...and deadlines...and she'll learn to giggle...and gossip...and look at the ceiling in a disinterested way when the little boy 'cross the aisle sticks out his tongue at her. And now she'll learn to be jealous. And now she'll learn how it is to feel hurt inside. And now she'll learn how not to cry.

No longer will she have time to sit on the front porch on a summer day and watch an ant scurry across the crack in the sidewalk. Nor will she have time to pop out of bed with the dawn and kiss lilac blooms in the morning dew. No, now she'll worry about those important grades and which dress to wear and whose best friends is whose. And the magic of books and learning will replace the magic of her blocks and dolls. And now she'll find new heroes.

For five full years now I've been her sage and Santa Claus and pal and playmate and mother and friend. Now she'll learn to share her worship with her teachers ...which is only right. But no longer will I be the smartest woman in the whole world. Today when that school bell rings for the first time...she'll learn what it means to be a member of the group...with all its privileges and its disadvantages too.

She'll learn in time that proper young ladies do not laugh out loud...or kiss dogs...or keep frogs in pickle jars in bedrooms...or even watch ants scurry across cracks in sidewalks in the summer.
Today she'll learn for the first time that all who smile at her are not her friends. And I'll stand on the front porch and watch her start out on the long, lonely journey to becoming a woman.
So, world, I bequeath to you today one little a crispy dress...with two brown eyes...and a flash of light brown hair that bounces in the sunlight when she runs.

I trust you'll treat her well.

Sniff. Sniff. So. Anybody have a 'back to school' story to share? Funny or poignant. Do tell!
~Bullet Hole who is determined NOT to cry when she leaves her baby at the dorm Saturday~
I Trust You Treat Her Well Copyright © 1960, 1961, 1963, 1965, and 1966 Dan ValentineFrom the book "American Essays: Sentimental Classics Designed to Make the Heart Sing".
Published by Geo. Mc Co., Box 15671, Salt Lake City, Utah 84115


Keri Ford said...

I went to a small school. Something like 600 students K-12. So, all the buildings were right there together and 7-12 shared the same building.

First day of 7th grade and a teacher stopped me and wanted to know if I needed help getting back to the elementary building. I was short, well heck, tiny for my age. Seriously, as a seventh grader I could have passed for a 4th grader with my size.

Terry S said...

Sending my daughter off to kindergarten was nothing compared to sending her to university for her post-graduate degree. Like your daughter, her undergraduate college was only 45 minutes and many oops "I forgot" trips away from home. Now...from the Pacific Northwest to Scotland for a 5 year program. Well, I guess for all the bumps along the way, the world is treating her right. With only 2 years of university to go, Scotland is now her home. I guess I did my job right and raised a wonderful woman who is more than able to stand on her own. I couldn't be more proud of her, but the next visit always seems too far into the future!

Kathy Bacus said...

Just what a 7th grader needed to hear on the first day mingling with the big kids, right,Keri?

One of my daughters is very short, too, and I suspect she'll have to present proof of her age for many years to come. While that might not be much fun right now, I suspect there will be a time down the road that she'll enjoy looking younger than she is.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

OMG, Terry! Talk about long-distance separation anxiety. Realistically, I know given the careers several of my offspring are considering and their expressed desire to see more of the world than the Heartland, eventually they will all be off to new, exciting places. While I love the idea of visiting Scotland,(some branches on my family tree originated there)sending off even a 'grown-up' that distance from home makes me a bit queasy.

But you are so right to remind yourself that you raised a strong, independent woman who is ready, willing, and able to take on the world--even half a world away from mum.


~Bullet Hole~

Anonymous said...

"~Bullet Hole who is determined NOT to cry"

If you do your daughter may have to pretend she doesn't know you. Either that or she'll blame it on PMS. :)

Christie Craig said...

Ahh, Kathy,

Thanks for sharing this. Sniffle.

Crime Scene Christie

Gemma Halliday said...

Sniff. Sniff.
Great poem. Loved it! I swear I even heard Leslie pause in her joyous back to school shopping for a moment of sentiment. (Maybe. Either that or it was another snort of glee that we're one day closer to summer being over.)

Kathy Bacus said...

I know one thing for sure. If I do have a case of the weepies, it will be after I've gotten in my truck and driven away, bookmobiler.

And I thought of another reason my daughter could chalk up the moist eyes to: allergies!

Sniffle. Sniffle.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Yep, it's a poignant poem, Christie. And I think it's natural that mothers worry a bit more about their daughters on campus.

I just have to hope I've raised my girls to remember all the safety lectures I've given ad nauseum and to be aware of their surroundings, somewhat savvy, and to practice good ole Midwest common sense.

And not be timid about applying a strategically placed knee thrust when the occasion calls for it.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Yep. You're right, Gemma. I'm certain I detected a disturbance in the supreme celebrating going on east of me, as well.

Still, what author doesn't crave those precious hours of solitude?

And when I finally get some of those, I'll report back on how it feels..!

~Bullet Hole~

Unknown said...

My son just started seconed grade this year and I still was sad sending him off. I enjoyed having him home this summer - we golfed, played tennis, went to the pool. I work in the school system as well, so I had the summer off too.
I'm dreading the middle school years. I think I'll worry a lot more at that time than I do now.

Kathy Bacus said...

~Hugs, Sandra~

I've gotten used to doing activities with my kids, as well and it's like losing your little buddy, isn't it?

It's nice that you work within a school system and can have the same days and summers off to spend together. That was the best part of the school job for me.

~Bullet Hole~

Estella said...

Great poem!

Kathy Bacus said...

Isn't it, Estella?

Van Harden, the radio personality in Iowa's capitol city who narrates the poem does such a wonderful job that it's hard to keep from tearing up even though you don't have any offspring heading off to school.

This year it was particularly touching for me considering my last three just graduated from high school and are spreading their youthful wings.

Thanks for dropping by!

~Bullet Hole~

catslady said...

First day of preschool my daughter's teacher told me to rein in my daughter - she was a social butterfly. Teacher's always right, right? I'm sorry I said anything to her because later I learned her teacher was burnt out and just wanted everyone to sit and be quiet. Despite that teacher, she has turned into a lovely young woman who just got married at 24. My other daughter I just helped move into her own apartment to go away to college after 2 years of community collge. I most definitely have empty nest syndrome.

RM Kahn said...

My son starts 6th grade this year and it seems like such a short time ago that I was taking him to his first day of preschool. He walked right in with hardly a wave good-bye. (I was close to tears) But one week later he said he didn't want to go back to preschool. He told me he was done playing with those kids.

He is already looking forward to school starting next week. I'm just grateful he still loves going to school.