The sound of one mom hoping

For the first time in about seven weeks, I am sitting at my desk in broad daylight with nothing but the droning of the fan behind me as background noise. I have a million things to do, of course, but I have a solid six hours before I have to talk to anyone else, get anyone something to eat, settle a squabble, or decide whether or not we can go swimming now.

First day of school, baby. How do I love the public school system? Let me count the ways. No; scratch that. That would take up precious minutes that I could spend eating cookies because there’s no one here to see me.

Make no mistake—I’m thrilled they’re back (as early as it is) and my expectation is that this will be a great year, but I worry for them, too. I worry for both of them in different ways and for different reasons, but they’re my babies and that’s my job.

Monkey bounced out of bed this morning, all excitement and bedhead. He’s more like a goldfish than a monkey, sometimes, because his memory is blessedly short about many things. For example, he doesn’t remember that yesterday at Sunday School he had a gigantic, spectacular meltdown and was in hysterics when we came to get him at the end of the service. I never really did figure out what that was about; something having to do with the craft they were doing and something he wanted done a different way (of course). He was furious and heartbroken all at once, and—as is his anxious, overwrought way—was yelling at the teacher about how she wrecked it, even though she was trying to help him.

I calmed him down as best I could. I talked quietly to him about why we don’t have outbursts, how the teacher was trying to help, how we don’t use ugly words and be mean. I managed to get him to settle down a bit and apologize before we left.

I was mortified.

Back home I tried to talk him through how reactions like this will get him in trouble at school, and how the other kids will have little patience for a second grader who throws tantrums. He wasn’t interested in reason until he calmed down, and by the time he calmed down he was Mr. Reason and assured me he’d be perfectly fine because he knows the rules and he wouldn’t misbehave and I love you so much Mama and I’m going to go play Pokemon now.

He was fine, and I felt sick.

I mean, this is him. This is how he is. His anxiety gets a choke hold on him over the dumbest things and he goes all Hulk except for the big muscles part. When it’s over, he sort of glances around at the carnage and says, “What happened? Oh, nevermind, I see something shiny over there,” and goes on his merry way.

At the beginning of first grade he freaked out so often that none of the boys wanted anything to do with him. The girls sort of took him under their wing, but it wasn’t until after Christmas that he had a boy buddy. He never seemed to mind that much, frankly, but everyone’s another year older, now. The boys may not be so forgiving if it takes him a long time to settle down. The girls may not be so patient. His memory might not be quite so brief.

So I worry about him.

Chickadee was clingy and quiet yesterday. I sat on the edge of her bed at bedtime and stroked her hair. When I asked if she was excited about today, she said that she was “feeling a little nervous.” I told her the truth, which is that she makes friends easily and teachers love her because she’s a hard worker and that by the end of the week I fully expect her to feel right at home. That fourth grade is the beginning of all the good stuff. That it’s normal to be a little nervous but that I hope she’s excited, too. That I am proud of her no matter what.

This morning she turned off her alarm and I found her with her head under the pillows, and she complained that it was too early. She perked up a bit at breakfast but still insisted she did NOT want Otto to come to school with us. (Chickadee’s favorite game: Control Twister! Put your left foot on Write A Note For My Lunch, Mom! Put your right hand on Make It Clear To Your Stepfather That You Don’t Want Him To Be Here! Put your left hand on I Demand Ponytails At Precisely The Height I Specify!)

She will not say what she’s feeling, she’ll only lash out all around in an effort to recreate the discord she feels inside on the outside. She’ll suffer in silence and resist all attempts to soothe her. She’ll bottle it up and then let it loose when we least expect it.

So I worry about her.

By the time we were outside taking pictures, Chickadee seemed to be relaxing a bit. We walked over and hung out with the neighbor kids for a few minutes (they go to a different school, and let’s just pretend I wasn’t completely wigged out by their 10-year-old daughter having been allowed to both dye her hair and wear LIPSTICK) and wished them a good first day at their school. After I sent the bus on its way (why yes, I AM a sucker who’s decided to drive the kids every day), I told the kids to get into the car. They were only too ready to comply.

It was a total zoo at the school, of course, but we got Monkey situated and then wound our way over to Chickadee’s class and stood outside her classroom’s door. “Do you want me to come in with you or leave you here?” I asked.

Her brow furrowed. Certainly, it would be cooler and more befitting a child of her advanced age to walk in without me. She fiddled with her backpack and then held out her hand, so I walked her in. She chose a seat and deigned to give me a kiss goodbye. As I walked out I saw another girl saying hello to her, and a small smile sneaking up the corners of her mouth.

I’m back home, ready to get a ton of work done, hoping the phone doesn’t ring with news from the school that one or both kids is having a problem. I’ve got the whir of the fan and the tapping of the keyboard to accompany my unspoken prayers that this is everything they need—that there will be friends and awesome teachers and a slow, yes, probably slow but steady progress towards the forging of a life they can claim and fit into and find so natural that soon this will be their home.

They have no idea how much of me they take up, and that’s as it should be.

Pay no attention to the mom behind the curtain. Just go be kids. I promise to be here when you get back, and you don’t even need to know that part of me never really left you.


  1. Woman with Kids

    Oh, first day of school is so hard. Boy 1 starts junior high in two weeks. Eek. He can be the same as Monkey, massive destruction and then bafflement that the world is in shreds… how did this happen? Eh, where’s the game boy?

  2. MMM


  3. Kimmie

    Man…..I was all ready to send my kids off on Wednesday (it’s only a half day). Now I’M worried. Princess Noodle is a pro at this going to Third grade. Turtle, however, is hyper and all boy and going to Kindergarten. Kindergarten is NOT the same thing as Preschool!!!!!!!


  4. Shash


    Spiff had (has?) similar school issues as Monkey at that age, and the girls will still flock around him. Monkey will find guy friends and it will be okay real soon. I have noticed all the girls want to mother, and there is usually one boy out of the bunch that will befriend Monkey because many kids when they are young look past the outbursts and see the kid and how cool and fun he can be. I sit in exactly the same spot you are in right now every year, and I am still amazed at how it all works out as time progresses. I guarantee there is some boy in that class that will be thrilled to talk Pokemon with him. Trust me.

    We start school a week from today. I can’t WAIT.


  5. Stephanie

    You have a wonderful way of capturing the essence of motherhood. Every time my children go out into the world (the scary, scary world), they take a part of me with them. I can only hope that they know that I will always be waiting for them, even if they do take the long way home.

  6. Colleen

    I’m right there with you kiddo..major mommy hugs coming you’re way.

  7. RuthWells

    My younger son, who’s heading into 4th grade, shares a lot of Monkey’s anxiety and tantrum reactions as you describe them. First and second grade were really tough; things improved markedly in third grade. Third grade seems to be a magical year for boys in many ways, so hang in there. It gets better.

  8. Jessica

    My 2 are only babies still (3 and 1), but I still feel that way when I drop them off in day care. I spend most of my life with them hanging out in the back of my mind…and the rest of my life with them hanging off me, literally. I love mommy-hood. :)

  9. Leandra

    I feel your pain. Bubba’s new school has a “kiss and ride” lane where you just open your car door and one of the teachers help the kids inside. Today was the first day it was active and I called Kent to see how he did. He said Bubba seemed sad and gave him an extra long hug before he got out of the car. BUT, I know that as soon as he got inside he was going full steam ahead and his usually happy self. Chickie and Monkey will be fine — I’m sure of it!! (that’s the power of positive thinking for you!)

    And dyed hair and lipstick on a ten-year-old? Uh? Well, maybe….Hmmm. I can’t even find anything to say about that.

  10. Melisa

    Enjoy your day and try not to worry. You’re doing a great job.

  11. sherry

    My oldest is starting school in just over two weeks and I’m trying to hide how nervous *I* am so that I won’t make her any more nervous than she will be on her own. Reading this made me feel panicky and reassured at the same time.

  12. Delton

    What an awesome account of all the fears and joys and just everything wrapped up in this day. Enjoy the silence. And thanks for telling the truth about things. It’s always so reassuring to hear that other parents and other kids have some of the same feelings and issues.

  13. daysgoby


  14. Nichole

    “They have no idea how much of me they take up …”

    *sniff sniff*

  15. Aimee

    *sniffle* Happy first day of school, Chickadee and Monkey!

  16. jenn

    fingers crossed and a good thought in my heart.

  17. shannon

    it really won’t be long until they are jazzed about all the friends they have…what time does school let out?

  18. jennie

    I read this today and thought of you (mostly because the article mentions the warm weather in Georgia, and you are the only person I “know” who lives there). But in the interest of the environment, and saving you some money, here is the link :)

  19. Kate

    Why do your kids go to school in the middle of August? Did you win some kind of parenting lottery?

  20. becky

    aw, i’m all choked up. what a great post about your hopes for them, mir. nicely done.

  21. Not The Mama

    What a great post with so many conflicting emotions. I’m sure both of them will settle in soon and wind up loving their new school. Soon it will be like they’ve been there forever.

  22. patty

    Eee! My daughter has that same shirt! Where do we shop?

  23. saucygrrl

    at first I was all “oh man! monkey sounds just like my younger sister-in-law Kerri” and then I was all “Oh, chickadee is gonna be ok…” and now all I want to do is get a tissue…

  24. Cele

    Awesome post, you do motherhood so well.

  25. Crisanne

    So well written, as usual. My oldest starts Kindergarten in just over a week. I’m so excited and nervous all at the same time!

  26. Sara

    BAM! That’s the sound of you nailing it in the last two para graphs. Stellar post.

  27. ScottsdaleGirl


    The Prince and I kinda got ambushed and my psuedo stepson is now living full time with us. Guess what? it takes TIME to get registered into school! and guess what else? You can’t just go to any old school you want! And know what else? The school you WANT him to go to? Waiting list.

    Today is the first day of school and the boy? Going to work with his father. Gah!

  28. Sheila

    Here I was, all hyped up and happy about getting them off to school in a few weeks, and you went and reminded me that it also means letting them go and grow -and make mistakes and face possible disappointments- for another year.

    This mothering gig is hard work, ain’t it?

  29. Karen

    Yes, Yes!! Sorry to say this continues until the second year of college and then you are so happy that they leave with all of their stuff and again you can sleep through the night.

  30. BOSSY

    One small benfit of the southern states… meanwhile, back in the Northeast…

  31. Megan

    It. Never. Stops. Just spent a week and a half (okay, four working days but somehow the math works doesn’t it?) getting Children 1, 2 and 3 registered for high school and at the end of the ordeal I have one beast actually happy with its schedule (almost), one still waiting for 2 honors classes to open up but basically thrilled because it got the class both the others wanted and so can gloat and one with a great massive blank spot where there is supposed to be a sixth hour which “oh, no problem, we’ll probably find something that will work there.” And me? I’m fretting that 1 isn’t really as happy as it claims, that 2 will not allow anyone to befriend it and that 3 will happy-go-lucky itself into academic disaster. Well, that and about 40 other little niggling bothers. Parenting is fun!

  32. Libby

    I normally just lurk but I have to say that this post was simply beautiful. It made me all kinds of weepy.

    I have a 5 year old girl starting school for the very first time in a couple of weeks and I am both excited and terrified for her. I am glad to know I am not the only one. I hope they all survive.

    Best of luck Mir, love your blog.

  33. Dawn

    Ditto Megan. It.Never.Stops.

    I have one who should have graduated high school this June, but was too cool for school in grade 10, so is a few credits short of a diploma. (Rendering me a few sandwiches shy of a picnic in the process.)

    Now we’re on the see-saw of returning to school. Will she go back? Won’t she? One day it’s a given – she doesn’t want to sling hash the rest of her life, DUH! – and the next it’s “I simply cannot spend my days with those children!” I never know what today’s position will be. Which way is the wind blowing today? And there’s another 3 weeks until school starts here, so we have at least another 10 changes of opinion to get through.

    The older one is one credit shy of a university degree. ONE.CREDIT. Argh.

    I LOLd at “Pay no attention to the mom behind the curtain.” Ain’t that the truth!

  34. Mimipz5wjj

    First day of school for us too… It’s hard to send him off but I know he will do well – so excited to be a first grader now! And I got to go to Caribou coffee with only one child and go grocery shopping in relative peace — one kid is easier than two at the shop!

    Good luck! They will do fine!

  35. Heidi

    Whoa. *I* don’t dye my hair or wear lipstick, and I’ve got 40 years on your neighbor girl

  36. elswhere

    Oh, Mir, did I ever love this post.

    And when Chickadee outgrows her Control Twister board, the Mermaid Girl would be happy to take it as a hand-me-down. On the other hand, now that I think of it, my girl seems to have her very own set–probably stuck behind the giganto-bin of Pet Shops that she made me promise not to pack yet.

  37. Fold My Laundry Please

    I was sitting here flabbergasted at how early your kids are starting school this year. I mean, my son still has almost 2 months to go until his first day. Then I looked at the calendar a little more closely and just about burst into tears when I realized that in just 3 short weeks, my baby boy will be starting his first day of kindergarten! Where does the time go? And I thought I was going to be looking forward to having one less baby in the house for a few hours every day. But I guess not. *sigh*

  38. Manic Mommy

    I think it’s the nature of boys. HRH is starting his second year of preschool and I simultaenously worry that he’s too sensitive and that he doesn’t show enough empathy. He did not make a ‘best friend’ last year either, which also gives me pause.

    You got a kiss from Chickadee – a good sign!

  39. carolyn

    Mir, that one made me cry.

    Fear not for Monkey. If he needs it, there is certain to be a girl, or two or three who will gather him up and care for him. My 14 year old still does that.

    Speaking of which, she starts high school next week, and I am speechless, with dear, excitement, and a lot of other feelings…which I can;t share with her because she is far too cool for that. Ugh!!

  40. Lisa

    Oh, wow…I was doing ok until the last paragraph and then i got a bit weepy. *sniff* Great post!

    I love the “Control Twister” thing and laughed out loud! I’ve got one of those myself!!

  41. Lisa

    Oh, and the first time I read the post title I read it as “The Sound of One Mom HOPPING” and thought “What in the HECK?!?”

  42. Daisy

    My heart aches for you. Really. New school, new home, and you KNOW they’ll do well, but you’re their mom…you have to worry. Sending virtual hugs your way…

  43. Jane

    Thank you. Beautiful. I hope I may be as insightful when it’s my turn to send them off.

  44. Cynthia Samuels

    As usual you take a universal experience and see more and tell more than most of us can. You were born a writer and the gift of mom-hood just added precious material for you to write about. Your talent is a gift to us all.
    My sons are grown and I treasure every first day of school, class play, holiday assembly, concert, field trip and Writers Workshop “book.” It’s just lovely that your lovely accounts let me have some of it again.

  45. tammy

    Never mind the palmetto bugs, I think you need to spray your house for floozies. (It’s the little ones you have to worry about, you know.)

    I hope school went okay.

  46. Mom101

    “They have no idea how much of me they take up, and that’s as it should be.”

    That’s what makes you a supermom. Seriously.

  47. Chris

    Awesome post! Nuff’ said!

  48. Jen

    WHAT a beautiful post, Mir!

  49. tuney

    Made me understand my mother better. Poor woman…it’s a wonder she survived my childhood.

  50. tuney

    And? You rock.

  51. StephLove

    shares a lot of Monkey’s anxiety and tantrum reactions as you describe them. First and second grade were really tough>>

    Don’t say that! My often anxious son’s about to start first grade. He had a bad year in kindergarten, though, so maybe he got half of it out of his system early. It didn’t help that his teacher was a witch, and by that I don’t mean a gentle nature-loving Wiccan with long skirts and flowers in her hair either. That I would have been cool with.

  52. Karly

    For some reason those last two paragraphs made me cry. Damn hormones.

  53. chris

    well said, good mom, well said! would it help or hurt to tell you that 18 years later, i have goosebumps on the inside, worrying about how #2 will do in law school, FAR away in philadelphia!?

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