Nothing could have prepared me for my daughter’s first day of high school. I expected there to change. Even expected there to be stress and nervous energy. Definitely, did not expect the first day of high school to be harder than the first day of kindergarten. It was so much worse.
I not the mom who cried in the kindergarten corridor, my girls are stoic. They’re independent and they suck it up. They get that from their daddy. I’m highly emotional. I do suck it up but I always give myself permission to feel my feelings.
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All summer Bella’s joked that she wants to be homeschooled. She’s wanted to be homeschool since about 2nd grade. Due to demanding dance schedules, Bella’s ballet friends are homeschooled. I never put much weight in it because I work from home. I’ve taught and had classroom time. But teaching your own child is something different entirely so my answer has always been a firm no.
But this summer, she wouldn’t drop it. I assumed she was getting nervous for the change to high school. After all, she’s been at the same school since 1st grade. But on that first morning, she was overcome with fear and begged me to not make her go.
Do you have any idea how hard that was for me? I’m very close to my girls. We’re a small family, just the 4 of us and they really are my best friends ( I know it’s not cool to say that but in our case, it is true). I don’t say no very often to things they really want. Things yes but not asks of me as a mom. This morning, I had to stand strong and push my baby bird out of the nest, for her own good.
As moms, I think most of us would love to just keep our little ones snuggled up near us forever but that’s not what’s best for them. How can I expect her to be a functioning good human being when I let her shy away from everything that scares her?
The entire car ride to school, she was silently holding back tears. I saw it. I didn’t acknowledge it because, just like when they are toddlers and you make a deal about a booboo, that’s the moment the histrionics begin. I was trying to be stoic because, confession, I am totally the mom who kisses all the booboos and makes a big deal. But I needed to be strong for her.
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About a block from the school, we were stopped in traffic and she could see the cars lining up to make the street cross at the yield sign. She could see all the other freshman and realized that she knew none of them. I heard the whimpering as she stifled her cries. My heart broke into a zillion pieces. Be strong, Debi. You can do this. Do it for Bella She needs you. This is not about you. Do NOT fall apart woman. Not turning the car went against all of my mommy instincts.
There we were in the car at drop off on her first official morning of high school. This day was just for incoming freshman. I love that. The student ambassadors were standing outside lining the drop off lanes, holding banners welcoming the new students. Cheerleaders were cheering. Teachers were standing at attention with full-faced smiles. Even the school mascot was standing outside giving out free hugs. I felt comfortable dropping her off in this situation.
I turned to the passenger seat and there say my baby, my firstborn, sobbing from fear of the unknown and no amount of reassurance was going to fix this but neither was letting her not face it. It was now. This was her moment. It was also a really hard parenting moment because I confess, all I wanted to do was grab her in my arms, peel outta there and take her home with me and make it all better. Instead, holding back tears behind my giant Gucci sunglasses, I grabbed her hand, told her that I loved her, kissed her cheek and told her to have the best day. ” I’ll see you soon.”
Looking back at me with her cheetah spotted face, through blubbering from sheer panic and fear, she said, “I hate you, mom.” I knew she didn’t mean it. I knew that was her way of letting me know how very hard this moment was for her. This was her being scared and clinging to anything that would get me to stop the trajectory of our morning. She wanted off. She wanted out. She was terrified and I was the only thing that stood between her and the comfort of how things were.
I cried all the way home. I felt like the worst mom in the history of the world. I felt like I had abandoned her at the moment she needed me most. But I know that I did the right thing because it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I had to walk away when my daughter metaphorically had her hands outstretched to me, begging me to rescue her. Instead, I gently pushed her out of the nest. I’m not sure how I’m going to survive when she goes away to college.
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That’s the thing about being a parent, we have to love them so much that we do what’s best for them, even when it breaks our hearts. We have to let them go, even when all we want to do is hold them tight. We have to love them so hard that they see themselves the way we do. We lift them up, give them courage and self-confidence when they are at their most vulnerable. We watch from the sidelines, with no glory or fanfare, being their biggest cheerleaders for all of their lives. We love them enough to convince them to see that they are as wonderful as we’ve always known they were…since that moment they were first placed upon our chest the moment they were born.
What was your child’s first day of school like this year?