The photos had already been pouring in on Facebook and Instagram. The First Day of School was upon us. Since our sons didn’t start until the 9th, I had a week or two to see tons of adorable ideas plastered all over social media. Bento box lunches, lunchbox notes, handmade signs being held by pudgy hands underneath proud grins, declaring which grade they were about to begin. Not to mention perfect little outfits and Pinterest-worthy back-to-school breakfasts.
The truth is that I want to do all of those things, I try to do all of those things and sometimes? Sometimes I even succeed.
But this year?
Oh man. We failed. We failed so hard.
The failure began the night before, really. We had planned to get them into bed early but somehow stories weren’t over until 8:45 and Xavi didn’t fall asleep until after 9:00. This was a bad omen, but I chose to ignore it. As the night wore on, what had seemed like an innocent slightly sore throat turned into a raging, raw, swollen throat disaster. I couldn’t breathe, swallow or sleep. Around three am, while on a trip to go spit in the bathroom sink, I heard heavy footsteps behind me. Thinking I woke up my husband, I started to apologize but he told me that he couldn’t sleep either because his ear was in excruciating pain. We all woke up excited the next morning. Okay, the adults couldn’t wake up since we never technically went to sleep, but we were truly excited. As the boys showered, I went into their room to lay out their First Day of School Outfits. But wait…oh, that’s right, I hadn’t bought any! They made do with decent shorts and year-old navy polos. To add to the excitement, my husband was going into work an hour late so that he could be there to see both boys off on their first day. Yay! We haven’t had breakfast together as a family in months!
Shoot. Breakfast. Why hadn’t I planned ahead for breakfast?! Carlitos wanted a shake but I didn’t want to wash out our big blender in our tiny bathroom sink. (Have I mentioned our remodeling has left us without a kitchen for almost two months?) Xavi wanted cereal but I realized we didn’t have anymore paper bowls or plastic spoons. (Later, I realized I had already unpacked our real bowls and spoons. And that my pregnancy brain is now functioning at about 35%.)
Eight minutes later and I was rushing through the front door with fresh, piping hot…muffins and breakfast sandwiches from Dunkin Donuts. Yeah, not so healthy, special or hearty.
As we yipped and yapped in circles at each other to Hurry up! Put on your shoes! Find your backpack! Brush your teeth! Put on pants! (That last one was directed at me.) I suddenly remembered that my kids consume food even when not in my care. And that things like ‘lunch’ and ‘snack’ typically fall to, you know, their caregiver. As you can imagine, Carlitos’ bento box contained no veggie concoctions that resembled Lego airplanes. In fact, it didn’t even contain any protein, because I had planned on sending nuts and suddenly realized I had no idea if it was a nut-free school. I later found out that it is nut-free so at the very least I had a Winning Mom Moment by not accidentally sending in little pieces of deadly matter with my son on his first day. That’s a plus.
As we pulled up to Carlitos’ school, it dawned on me that I didn’t know where his letter was that told us his teacher’s name. I managed to recall what area of the front lawn he was supposed to report to and that the teacher’s name began with a Z. Thankfully, that was enough. Xavi and I stayed in the car so he wouldn’t have to re-buckle in before we sped to his drop-off. I watched from the car window as my husband proudly walked Carlitos to the correct spot and waited for the teacher to come out and gather her ducklings in a line. Just as my husband returned to the car, out of the corner of my eye I saw Carlitos sprinting toward us. We both yelled for him to stop, scared he might keep on running across the street in order to reach the car. He stopped and I immediately saw the freaked out look on his face that tells me tears are on their way. My husband rushed over to him and walked him back up to the front door, where he had to pass him off to the principal since parents aren’t allowed inside during morning drop-off. It turns out that somewhere in between his teacher saying ‘I’ve got him!’ and then walking inside, Carlitos had moved into a nearby line from a different class. The poor kid had never stepped foot in the school before and had no idea what to do. My husband was upset with himself for walking away before he actually saw Carlitos enter the building, but I am just so thankful we hadn’t yet pulled away.
By the time we were ready head toward Xavi’s school we were running ten minutes behind schedule. We both also had distracted minds as we hoped that Carlitos had found his way into the correct classroom and wasn’t roaming the halls lost and crying. With the mayhem, we ended up being late as we pulled up to Xavi’s school so again I sent my husband in with him and went to go park the car. By the time I got inside Xavi was already playing and, ahem, too busy to even give his mommy a kiss goodbye. I know it’s much better than tears and clinging, but it also wasn’t quite the relaxed, special moment I had hoped to savor.
My husband and I looked at each other, shrugged, and started back to the car. Before we left the parking lot I made him try calling Carlitos’ school. They were so helpful and called the classroom to confirm that yes, Carlitos had in fact made it into the correct room with the correct teacher and was not upset at all.
I hung up, looked over at the father of my children, and burst into tears.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “you still have one more on the way. You won’t be alone for long.”
He didn’t understand at all. And yet, he understood perfectly.
So, in case you noticed that my Instagram feed didn’t have my sons standing next to a chalkboard with ‘Preschool!’ and ‘First Grade!’ written on it as they beamed smiles from underneath perfectly parted and slicked hair, now you know why. There was no perfection this year. We simply managed to get them there. By the skin of our teeth. No frills.
We took them to Benihana that night to celebrate their first days, both of us pretty much white-knuckling it through as his ears throbbed and my throat swelled. It was the least we could do. I am hoping that any memories they have of their first days of school in this new town revolve around onion volcanoes and shrimp tails being flipped into chef hats.
And next year, well, next year there will be a chalkboard and brand-new shirts and maybe even a sandwich shaped like a robot.
We will do our best. And at the very least I am hoping I can provide some breakfast cereal in bowls with spoons. Like a boss.