First grade blues

We have heard from so many of you who are struggling with the back-to-school transition. Please know that you are not alone and it will get easier. With that in mind, I unearthed this blog post I wrote back in 2012 when my now 11-year-old was having a hard time with Grade 1. – Jane

My daughter Sadie is a pretty smart cookie. Like her brother before her, she has always had an insatiable curiosity about the world around her and a real aptitude for languages in particular. She uttered her first word at nine months and hasn’t really stopped to take a breath since. She learned to read seemingly overnight and has a vocabulary that could rival that of some adults. All of these things – besides being a shameless mom brag – are why I thought that, for Sadie, grade one would be a breeze. Turns out… not so much.

We are currently at the end of week four in the new school year. I know it’s week four because I have been telling myself every day for the past three weeks and four days that the next day, for her and for me, has got to get easier. And yet every morning after our brisk 20-minute walk to the school – during which I have regaled her with what I consider to be some very inspirational pep talks ­– we assemble with all of the other moms, dads and kids in the schoolyard and relive the same scenario over and over and over again. It’s like groundhog day, only not as funny. Not funny at all, really.

First, Sadie finds her class line-up, then she casts her eyes up at me with a pleading look on her face – a look that I quickly dash by telling her that not going is not an option. And then it begins. Almost as though she’s having an allergic reaction, her eyes well up and instantly turn red. Then her mouth twists into a tight-lipped downward arc and then her beautiful face contorts into what I can only describe as the ugly cry. Her legs seem to give out and I have to hold her under the arms to keep her from falling to her knees. It’s all very dramatic.

To make matters worse, while all of this is going on, half of the girls in the schoolyard are swarming my stroller like it’s a portal to a OneDirection concert. Turns out, chubby babies are quite the attraction among the preteen set. Poor little Shep isn’t quite sure how he feels about all of the attention but I let the girls ogle, tickle and peekaboo away to their hearts’ content because my focus is on my daughter and doing whatever it takes to help her straighten out her spine and get her the heck into that classroom.

I feel like I have tried everything in search of a solution. I’ve tried showing up with lots of time to spare so she doesn’t feel rushed. When that didn’t work, I tried racing in, mere seconds ahead of the bell in the hopes that less time would mean less opportunity to dwell. No dice.

I have tried a million variations of the aforementioned pep talk. I have kissed each palm leaving a lipgloss stain behind and told her to touch the kisses to her cheeks whenever she’s feeling sad. I have given her a pewter token with the word LOVE etched into it to carry around in her backpack, kind of like an amulet possessed with the power of mom love.

I have tried more hardline tactics, too, from extolling the virtues of bravery and praising the noble practice of sucking it up, to more harsh threats and the revoking of privileges.

I’ve tried relatable anecdotes, reverse psychology, pinkie swears, marble jars, notes in lunch boxes, play dates outside of the classroom, good old-fashioned bribery, and yet here were are… three weeks and four days later and each day is as tricky as the first.

But tomorrow is another day and one of these days it really does have to get easier, right?


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