Sunday, September 26, 2010

What’s wrong with getting it all wrong?

Most parents look forward to the opening of the school year.

Their kids, who have been sitting around all summer begging for something to do (because they have been SOOOOOOOOOOOO Bore-DAH!) traipse happily back to school with their fresh supplies and snappy new clothes. They can't wait to meet up with friends and have their experiences structured in neat, 42-minute intervals.

As soon as the doors close on the Yellow Bus that first day, parents generally dust their hands and breathe a sigh of relief into their morning coffee. As their kids go back to school, they soak in those first peaceful hours and feel back to normal.

I wish that were me.

School, in my anxiety-addled mind, presents a huge opportunity to fail as a parent in embarrassing and potentially devastating ways. Collectively, we think these missteps are destined to ensure that Harvard and Yale have already heard of our children and are in the process of hiring security. The way we're mucking up their lives, they scoff, it will be amazing if Astoria Trucking will accept their transcripts.

Everyone says the early years are most important. I sure hope that's not the case ...

Hmmm. … Who was it who forgot to attend their daughter's first school Birthday Party? Forgot to bring a birthday snack? Oh right, that was me.

Bad mom.

There are so many dates in the calendar destined to be forgotten: When does school start? An orientation? Which day was that?

Bad mom.

Parenthood feels like a state of life in which no amount of preparation is enough, and not enough preparation sets your kids on the road to an address under a bridge.

Did we do enough reading over the summer? Did we practice any numbers? Holy mackerel, she can't tie her shoes.

Shoulders up to my ears, I endure the long days with a thousand what ifs.

What if she doesn't like her new teacher? What if her teacher doesn't like her? What if she doesn't like the after-school program? What happens then?

Worry, worry, worry.

Looking at opportunity from the wrong direction is exactly how anxiety distorts a person's outlook. Backward thinking. It keeps us from having faith or hope. So I force myself to think past my fears.

It doesn't hurt that you get a "do-over" with your second child ... or a doing it all wrong again, but I'm not going there.

When I dropped off The Champ for his first day of preschool this year I felt a little of both. He was wearing pajamas and a smudge of breakfast on his face. He said goodbye, I kissed his cheek and pasted a smile on my face as I walked past the teachers.

There were no tears, no 'mommy stays.' There was just him, playing, sleepwear and all.

Still, I felt as if I were holding my breath for the rest of the day.

More what ifs crowd out any happy thoughts. … What if he growls at other children who want to play? What if he won't share toys? What if he sits in the corner and sulks?

I've seen so many sides of my children I'm never quite sure which will come out or when. I worry that first impressions will imprint themselves incorrectly ... and that the judgment will follow them forever.

Will he be needy or clingy or difficult? Will he be charming and social and funny?

I feel disloyal as I wait for the teacher to give her verdict.

When she tells me "He's so great!" I relax a little. I know it's true, he is great. And it occurs to me that maybe the only thing wrong about "getting it all wrong" is worrying about it.

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