For days now Claire has been randomly telling me how nervous she is about school starting. Sometimes it’s a chipper, “I’m really nervous about school!” And sometimes her mood changes in an instant from smiles to slumped shoulders, her face collapses, and she sighs, “I’m so nervous about school.”
In a perfect world, I would take her in my arms and we would have a meaningful conversation about her fears and her worries, about how amazing she is, and everyone would leave with that warm, fuzzy, after-school special feeling.
It just doesn’t happen like that around here all that often. Conversations are stop-and-go, mostly stop. Today she literally interrupted me mid-sentence to ask if she could watch television. I’m trying to create a Hallmark moment over here, and she’s thinking about Netflix. I mean, I get it. I’m knee-deep in a Game of Thrones binge, and your dad is already dialing up the next episode before you’ve climbed all the way into your bunk bed in the evening. But at least wait until I finish my sentence before you start thinking about PowerPuff Girls?
At bedtime I climbed into her bed and we talked about how we’re sad that summer is over, but there is so much fun stuff coming up still, like the ACL Festival (for which they get to skip school this year), Halloween, the holidays. School starting doesn’t mean fun ending.
“I’m nervous,” she said again. And then I did something terribly corny, and we spoke all of her worries out loud and put them on her shelf.
“Just because they’re out here on the shelf doesn’t mean they’re gone,” I said. “It just means that we’ve said them, we can acknowledge them, and we can come back tomorrow to see if they’re still here.”
The after-school special is practically writing itself at this point.
I told her that I used to get nervous too before the first day of school. I told her that I still get nervous when I’m in a new situation involving people I don’t know well, or when I’m traveling to an event and don’t know what to expect. The unknown is not exciting for me. The unknown is a bit terrifying.
So I know exactly where she’s coming from. I hear her.
It’s easy to think of a new school year as shoving them out the door in favor of hours (and hours!) of a quiet house in which no one is asking if they can eat something every 5 minutes and I don’t have to referee whose turn it is to play a song on “the music phone.” But it’s also about new beginnings, for them and for me. I tell myself that without the constant chatter in the background, I will suddenly be more organized, more efficient, more inspired, and more productive.
But let’s face it, I know myself pretty well, so I can tell you it will probably look more like the exact opposite of that. Because when you have limited hours to work and run errands, dishes and laundry wait until afternoon, then they wait until evening, and then they wait until someone asks if they can please have a clean pair of underwear because the drawer is empty.
And I’m not going to lie, I will probably go get a pedicure this week, and if you know me, you know that I am not a pedicure person or a “stranger touching me in general” person. But I have a gift card burning a hole in my pocket and toes that could use a fresh coat of paint.
We have a lot to look forward to.