Family

Back-to-School Trauma

No, not my son's trauma — mine

As millions of moms and dads load their little ones onto school buses (some for the first time), I remember my son’s first day of school like it was yesterday. Considering that he walked proudly into his fourth grade classroom just today and will soon enter the double digits, I’m stunned this is one of my lasting traumas. (I mean memories.)

At 8:20 that first morning, we stand at our door, set for the big departure. It’s a crisp September day. But I’m afraid, somehow, that we will miss the preschool bus. Bright yellow buses are easy to miss when they’re coming to take away your child!

I look at Luke, my Big Proud Three-Year-Old, in his maroon hoodie and slightly big-around-the-waist khaki pants, carrying a small canvas book bag emblazoned with Star Wars action figures. He’ll be among the oldest in his class. He’s ready. I’m not.

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We’re on time, miraculously, for the big day. We’ve eaten our cereal, brushed our teeth, gotten dressed. Even Baby Sister — all of age two — has her play clothes on. I write “we” not to imply that I am in any way together (much less ready for work), but because I swear my kids are still attached to either my body or clothing at almost every point in the day.

“Eggs!” Luke suddenly screams.

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Argh! Here I thought I was sooooo good for giving the child Wheatie Os. I should have known better than to trust carbs.

Related: Back-to-School Blues

To the pan! No time for whisking. Milk goes right into the skillet on top of the sunny-colored yolks. Five minutes later, I have “scrambled” eggs, whole wheat bread straight from the bag, and more milk in their cups. But at this late stage we must dine in front of the door. On the stairs.

Yellow morsels tumble down and begin to grind their way into the carpeted stairs.

“Special treat!” I say, my code for getting their attention. “We’re going to make egg sandwiches, team, and have … a … stair breakfast!”

The kids toddle to the steps, plop down and attempt to fold a single piece of bread over their scrambled eggs. Yellow morsels tumble down and begin to grind their way into the carpeted stairs. Big Brother helps Little Sis by cramming tiny pinches of bread into her mouth. They’re giggling.

It is funny (sort of), though I’m convinced Luke’s spanking-clean school clothes will surely become egg splattered, all the while keeping an eye out for the bright-yellow kidnapping machine that will interrupt this nice moment.

Related: Back-to-School Bus Safety

At 8:30 a.m., we go outside. Sara immediately runs to a neighbor’s yard, out of my reach, and Luke begins to dismantle a dead butterfly.

“Look, Mommy! His legs!” Luke holds up sad bug appendages. I try to spin it positively, reasoning that with Luke’s dissecting abilities he’ll ace biology.

Luke holds up sad bug appendages. I try to spin it positively, reasoning that with Luke’s dissecting abilities he’ll ace biology.

When the bus comes, chills run down my damp back. The miniature bus is a third of the size of the buses of my school days, with 12 tiny toddler seats, belts dangling, buckles clacking. I love it. I hate it.

My boy climbs on, with Mom attempting to buckle the tiny belt.

“I do it myself, Mommy.” He swats my hand. Ouch goes the heart.

Related: ‘I Am a Mom Forever’

His excitement is palpable — and I hope contagious, because the other kids look a bit dour and apprehensive. A bit like I feel.

Baby Sister climbs on, too, and plops in the seat opposite her brother. I have to haul all 20 pounds of her off the tiny bus, her legs kicking the whole time. “Sara go to school!” she insists. Ouch, ouch!

“Next year, baby.” Or never.

The bus pulls away as we look through the small windows and see Luke’s silhouette, his curly blond hair framed in the window. His hand is waving; he’s looking straight at me. He grins like all the delights of Candy Land await him.

And you know? I think that’s how he sees it.

But does a mom ever live down the trauma?

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