A letter to my daughters on their first day of school

Dear daughters,

Today you both start another year of school. For the third year in a row it will be in separate states, and for the 15th year in a row I’ll spend the day trying not to drink my feelings be overwhelmed with feelings that, if allowed, will engulf me. Feelings that surprisingly (or perhaps not very surprisingly at all) haven’t changed much as the years have flown by and you’ve instantly grown into a college junior and a high school sophomore. Sadness at the passage of time, shock at how quickly it happens, and unbridled joy when I think of the upcoming nine months of uninterrupted naps I get to take what amazing, remarkable young ladies that the very time I curse has given me.

Remember your very first day of kindergarten? I do. Both of you were dressed from head to toe in a coordinated Gymboree ensembles with oversized backpacks strapped on proudly, which you couldn’t wait to fill with very important things like artwork, marker caps, countless forms for me to fill out, crumpled book orders (oh, remember how we loved the book orders??), playground rocks, empty fruit snack bags, browning apple cores, and crushed goldfish crackers.

 

First day of K collage

I cried when each of you walked away from me, and I remember feeling a bit ridiculous for being so cliché. Ha! The cliché was only beginning! Had I known then how that feeling of loss and emptiness — that shocking void I was feeling— would repeat itself over and over as the years passed I’m not sure I’d have been able to breathe … or fall asleep as easily as I did on the sofa once I got home and dried my eyes.

After kindergarten, the first days came at us fast and furiously, didn’t they? I bet you, too, look back on them in your minds as if they’re playing on fast-forward. Remember when you used to actually look forward to school starting? You did. Both of you. You were so excited to wear the tacky sparkly outfits from Limited Too (and then Justice) that you’d chosen for the first day.  You couldn’t wait to load your backpacks with all your colorful new school supplies, each with your name carefully printed in Sharpie. You couldn’t wait to get to your new classroom and start a brand new year. I hope you remember how that felt — the not being able to wait for school. Of believing that school was one of the most favorite things in your life. Of course, you didn’t have Netflix then so you obviously didn’t know any better.

When I think of your first days of school — especially those early years — I think of that excitement. I think of my your dread and back-to-school night groans as the years progressed and having to get up early after a long, lazy summer became such agony. I think of first morning pancakes shaped in the number of your grade. I think of taking pictures out on the back deck and then again in the front of the house because there’s never enough light out on the deck and the first ones end up too dark. I think watching you at the bus stop until you were safely on. I think of how there’s such a flurry of morning activity and then suddenly you’re just gone and I’m left in a strikingly silent house with a mess of dried pancake batter and feelings. I think of how every single year I wonder constantly what you’re doing while I’m baking your annual back-to-school cupcakes and watching morning television before taking a nap tidying up the house. I think of how much I miss having you around.

First day collage

This morning, as one of you begins your junior year of college and the other your sophomore year of high school, I’m thinking of all those first days. I’m smiling remembering your giant backpacks and your eager faces. I’m laughing thinking about some of your fashion choices (so many sequins). I’m still struggling, of course, with the realization that time marches on without my permission, but the giant mimosa joy I feel to have so many memories helps balance things out. At least that’s what I try to convince myself. And despite the 280 miles that keeps one of you from enjoying the number shaped pancakes and makes it a bit more difficult to take that first day of school photo (request for a selfie, please), I’m once again right here, about to take a nap on the couch, wondering — constantly — what both of you are doing in your big, sterile classrooms.

Something I’m trying not to think about? The fact that one day soon — too soon — there won’t be any first days left. That ‘flurry of activity and then you’re just gone and I’m surrounded by silence’ is all too quickly taking on an entirely new meaning. Soon I’ll have to rely on the memories of sparkly shirts and questionable chokers, of complaints about setting alarm clocks and doing homework, and of end-of-day stories and cupcakes to fill the staggering void.

But not yet.

Today is another first day — for all three of us. And like it or not, I hope both of you grab hold of it.
Get excited about the possibilities that a new year brings.
Be present.
Have fun.
Make memories.
Make mistakes.
Learn from them.
Wear something sparkly if you want.
Eat two cupcakes.
I’ll be right here, remembering the firsts, denying the impending lasts, and most importantly, taking a nap.

 

For more of my ramblings on parenting, click HERE
For more posts about coping with college, click HERE

For posts about dealing with (or denying) senior year and graduation, click HERE

 

 



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