CONVERSATIONS · elementary school · slice of life

Holding My Breath

Obligatory First Day of School Photo Taken in Front of Our Temporary Home’s Door. Isabelle wouldn’t let me take her photo in front of our house that’s being built since she claimed she wanted two different doors in her third grade photo. As much as I wanted to take her photo there, I wasn’t about to let my desire get in the way of her need.

What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever held your breath? 30 seconds? One minute? TWO minutes? Today I held my breath for nearly seven hours… and it was hard.

Today was Isabelle’s first day in her new school. It wasn’t just a new school. It was a new school, with new kids, in a new city. Yes, she met a few kids at day camp who would be in her school. Yes, she took a new school tour. Yes, she met her teacher a week-and-a-half ago. But none of those things are the same as walking into a school where you know everyone, which she’s done for the past three school years.

Even though I was holding my breath all day, I had a feeling it was going to be a good day. Every person I’ve interacted with at the school and in the district office has been helpful and friendly. However, what I worried about were the typical parent-of-a-new-student fears. Would the kids in the class be nice? Would Isabelle feel comfortable with the noise level in the cafeteria? Would anyone play with her at recess?

Isabelle was the first child lined up a the dismissal door this afternoon. I wasn’t sure what that meant so I took a few deep breaths. I spoke softly and asked her how her day was. Unfortunately, she started admonishing me, “Why are you talking so slow? Why are you asking so many questions? Why don’t you think I’m okay?” I stayed calm because I have found that a steady demeanor gets better results than matching her frustration.

We walked to the car and she climbed into her seat. Quietly, I looked through her bag to see what she brought home. I acknowledged her empty water bottle and made note of the thick school-to-home folder of “homework for mommy.” I asked her to get seat belted and walked around the car. Once I pushed the starter, I turned around and said, “When you’re ready, I’d like you to tell me how your day was.”

I began to drive after her seat belt clicked into place. First, Isabelle told me about a mini zip line on the playground. Then, she told me lots of random things. I learned that her teacher began reading Charlotte’s Web. We talked about how she already knew that story since her teacher read that book aloud last year. I asked some questions like, “Did you do any writing today?” to which I was told, “I wrote some words.” Oh. My. Goodness. THAT answer didn’t please me, but I continued with my calm line of questioning. I got bits of information that didn’t add up to much. But, finally, Isabelle paused and told me, “I think I’m going to like this new school.”

That was it. I was done questioning. I could finally breathe.


24 thoughts on “Holding My Breath

  1. Their happiness is everything. I could relate to the breath holding and the questioning… and the feelings about the writing!!! But that happiness… it’s priceless.

  2. I remember the first day of school when my girls were young. The youngest had the hardest time adjusting. She’d cry nearly every day for the first two weeks. Eventually she became the most well adjusted, the child who went away the farthest. Life is like that. Most of the time the things we fear do not happen. Isabelle seems to be comfortable with who she is. She will adjust well with you by her side.

  3. My little 6 year old granddaughter started a new school this year, too. It was a little bit of a rocky start for us all, because my dad passed away and so she missed day two of school for the funeral. And, she missed her friends at her old school.
    What I kept thinking about was how unimportant the academic part of school seemed. All I have cared about this year is the social-emotional part of school. Ultimately…no matter how great the curriculum is or how accomplished the teachers are, you know that if your child isn’t feeling accepted and happy with other children, she won’t thrive and learn. Seems she is feeling more comfortable as the days pass. But, I sure know the feeling of holding your breath. Hope both she and Isabelle have a happy year. I keep thinking that as much as I want it to all go smoothly for her, she will learn important lessons that will help make her more empathetic and compassionate. And, when i see for in schools ro work with teachers, I will be reminded of how the work I’m trying to help them with in reading and writing is only one small part of the important work they did each day.

  4. Glad she had a good day. Hope she, and you, have great year. Change is nerve wracking no matter what our age or the situation. Glad you can once again breathe.

  5. It’s always a challenge to begin a new school year in a new place. We never found out our kids’ teachers until the morning school started. Since we lived only half a block from the school, it was all I could do to refrain from running down there for a quick preview before I arrived with my kids. So glad you heard the words that allowed you to breathe again! Sounds like Isabelle is off to a wonderful beginning.

  6. The first day of school always makes me want to hold my breath too! I want to check in on my children a million times, and they are much older! I hope that your daughter’s experience continues to be great in every way!

  7. Isabelle is growing up so fast, Stacey. I think you handled the questioning period with such calm and patience. The first day of school can be filled with eager anticipation or fears. It looks like Isabelle found a place in her new school. How wonderful and Mommy got to breathe.

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