In the Seattle school district, the Wednesday after Labor Day is The First Day of School. So we had a big day in the Dana Treat household last week. Graham had his first day of school in his new school (1st grade!) and Spencer moved up from the Orange Room to the Yellow Room at preschool. The Yellow Room is pre-K, the room with the biggest kids. How it came to be that my baby is in that room, I can’t really explain.
Emotionally, I’m a bit all over the place. I don’t feel the crushing nostalgia that hit me last year at this time. I feel thrilled about Graham’s new school. Being there for an open house last week, meeting some parents and kids at a 1st grade brunch, being there on the first day as the ribbon was cut and the community was welcomed – I just feel such relief. This is the right place for him. He will thrive there. I want to get involved. I see myself making lifelong friends and really joining this community. Why didn’t I feel that way last year at his other school? Was I afraid that Graham would not be successful there and was I protecting myself? If so, how selfish. I’m not sure truthfully.
I feel glad to see Graham back in school. We had a nice summer. He spent a few days a week at a day camp near our house but he also got plenty of time with me and Spencer. We had a couple of Lopez weekends and two trips involving airplanes. I love and adore that child with all my heart but he does tire me out. The fact that he still, at the age of 6¾, requires so much of my attention is exhausting. I can’t just say something offhand to him, every remark, every request has to be extremely deliberate. At school he has a lot of success. He has many people who adore him and are cheering for him. He will have the same resource room teacher as last year and the same beloved librarian. I am ready to hear about how well he is doing instead of focusing on challenging he can be. I hope that doesn’t sound too callous. I have to add the caveat that Graham continues to be a sweet, loving, charming, sensitive child who really truly always tries his best.
My emotions about him continue to be so complicated. I still feel that I have failed him every night when I get into bed. I need more patience, more acceptance, more tolerance, more light-heartedness, more thankfulness, more celebration in the things that make him uniquely Graham. I need to be easier on him, kinder to him, more generous with him. I first wrote about these struggles years ago and I am ashamed to say that rather than improving I am worsening. Sometimes I feel that I don’t really “get” him. I don’t know what he is thinking or experiencing because often he can’t really tell me. It is hard to see the world through his eyes. But on the first day of school, I did get a glimpse.
Because it was the first day for everyone in this building, they had a photographer on hand to get a picture of all the kids. The parents stepped away for a few moments as the photographer clicked away, hanging out an upstairs window. Before we knew it, the ribbon was cut and there was a bit of a crush as all the kids, parents, and teachers went up the steps and through the doors. I hurried over to find Graham and saw him a few paces ahead of me and his body language (shoulders rounded, head down) told me that he was trying to hold it together. I pushed past a few small people, touched him, said his name, and he spun around with a look of terror on his face. Once he saw it was me, he burst into tears and wailed, “I don’t know who my teacher is!” Oh my. Of course. Here we are, walking into a building that he has only seen once before, to a classroom he has only seen once before, to see his teacher who he has only met once before. Overwhelming for really any young child but particularly one who doesn’t totally understand what is going on. This poor kid who tries so very hard but spends a good part of his day a bit confused. He knows he is at a new school, he does not know why. At times he embodies that saying “fake it ’til you make it”. He smiles and charms people all the while not truly understanding what is going on. And yet. He thrives in school. He is learning at a pace similar to his typically developing peers. He does not have any behavioral problems. He eats and sleeps well and is nice to his brother. Sometimes being a mother is a bit bewildering.
This post is not about me but I do have to say a word about my hair. I’ve stopped coloring it. I am not sure how I feel about it. As it was starting to grow out, I even considered writing a post called “Gray – No or Yay” but that seemed a little vain. My mom has the most gorgeous all-silver hair and while I know I am far from that, it seems to be the path I am taking. Randy loves it, my family loves it, I think my friends are puzzled by it. I’m on the fence but I don’t miss paying a fortune to sit with chemicals on my head every six weeks. Thoughts?