Brace yourself. I know this is against the mom code. I did not take any pictures of my sons before they left for their first days of school this week. I know, I know. They will never be in these grades again. (I feel certain of this because they get nothing but ✔+ marks on their report cards. The teachers tell us that is good.) You know what else? I didn’t take any pictures of them when they came home, either. I heard that gasp. It didn’t bother me a bit.
Maybe, it bothered me just a little. That, and all the adorable pictures shared on Facebook by my friends of all their adorable kids in their back to school clothes and shoes and backpacks. I love looking at those pictures. I think about the ones I didn’t take. I feel a pang of guilt. It passes.
Back when the boys first started school, I made a big fuss. I would buy new clothes, shoes and backpacks. I would load the backpacks with supplies they didn’t even need. Haircuts two weeks before school started were mandatory. And, of course, there were pictures. Pictures with eyes closed, backs turned, and blurred by fidgeting. Pictures of my boys with blank stares or looks of dread.
For the first few years, the first day of school would be a flurry of activity. A special ‘first day of school’ breakfast, lunches packed with first day of school notes, and me talking about how exciting it was that they were starting school. The mandatory, “I can’t believe you are in ____ grade this year!” would be repeated several times. All this would end with my insisting we take pictures and the boys struggling to stay still for them.
It took me a while to realize it, but my boys weren’t enjoying all the first day of school hoopla as much as I was. In fact, it was making them more anxious. They would complain that the new clothes were uncomfortable. Aaron would ask why I insisted on buying new clothes when his old ones still fit (which they did) and were already “broken in”. That’s his code for comfortable. Nic hated breaking in his new shoes on the same day that he had to start a new school year. I was piling on too much new all in one day. Topping all of that off with my need to take pictures to commemorate the day was too much pressure.
Nic thought I was making such a big fuss and wanted to take pictures because he was never coming home. “Ar you making me live at school like the teachers?” he would ask. Aaron made it clear that pictures were unnecessary and part of the “pain”.
When Nic got to third grade, the first day of school extravaganza came to a screeching halt. He was struggling with school, understanding the world, and keeping it all together. Keeping with a routine, making things calm, helping him feel safe were more important that getting that great first day picture. To keep his anxiety in check, I played it off as no big deal. “First day of school. It’s no big whoop. Right?” He would smile because he liked the sound of the ‘whoop’. It was a genuine smile, not like the forced ones in all those first day of school pictures.
The low-key routine seemed to suit Aaron as well. “See, Mom, I didn’t need any new clothes. And you didn’t need any pictures. And, it was still the first day of school.”
So, every year now, that is how we do it. First day of school is no big whoop. We are all calmer and happier. I may not have those first day pictures to share but I do have two boys starting the school year with real smiles on their faces.