Halleluiah. The first day of school has arrived. Daughter has always been OK about school- she doesn’t love it, but she doesn’t really dread it. But this is the ugly year- she is officially a Junior. And for a college bound kid…..it’s akin to torture.
But before we even get to the actual school stuff, we went through the outfit- what should my daughter wear on the first day of school. Per daughter- “The outfit you wear on the first day of school determines your path- it sends a message. My outfit has to convey leadership, intelligence and just the right amount of cool. Like it or not, you are judged on how you look.” Let’s just say that planning this outfit involved more steps than D-Day. Which dress? Which shoes? Earrings? Necklace? Hair? Lipstick? Polish? Pictures were exchanged amongst friends. Bracelets were displayed next to the dress- FYI- the decision was no bracelet. And yes- daughter devotes this much time, effort and thought into everything she does.
Then Monday night- the official torture began. While some were enjoying Labor Day picnics, the college counselor at her school was busy at work. On Monday Eve we received the college readiness calendar- a list of dates that are suddenly the most important thing in her world- the grade 11 flashing next to more required lines than we cared to see. Friday morning- the Junior breakfast- guest starring the college counselor herself.
Tuesday- the arrival of the schedule. This added a new dimension of fun, and if you ask my daughter, the arrival of “Mean Mommy”. See, daughter got every class that she asked for. Every class. She got the physics teacher that she wanted. She has a lunch period with about half of her friends. She got exactly what she wanted, yet…..she was complaining. Cue the teeny tiny violin. She decided that she didn’t want guitar anymore- but changing guitar would mean upending her schedule and screwing up all the other things. I told her to just leave it and deal with guitar. She pouted. Told me I wasn’t being very nurturing. I believe I said “suck it up , Buttercup” or some equally pithy expression. And I got a 20 minute lecture on how I was the meanest Mother in the world. (I believe I said something about being glad that I was the best at something in her eyes)
We reached détente yesterday morning when I filled her water bottle and handed her a granola bar before she went off to her obscenely early tennis practice. By the time she returned home from tennis, she was a little calmer. Thank you physical exercise and humid weather.
But you know that Wednesday would have it’s own special stressers. Sharpening pencils, new batteries in the calculator, loading the pencil case, packing the backpack. I think it was the backpack that sent her into full panic mode. She asked me to walk with her to the hair salon. I asked her if she was looking forward to special dinner with husband/dad.
“Ahhh- But I still have so much to do! I didn’t print out the Lang essay. I have to pack my tennis bag. I forgot to put post it’s in the bag. I don’t think my book notes are good. What if Eisenhower wasn’t the right answer to the APUSH question. We didn’t try on the dress with all the accessories.”
And I looked at her. School hasn’t even begun and she is already stressed. And what as a parent can I do? Every parent has challenges that they must face when they are raising their children. Mine may be different than others, but they are still daunting when you are facing them. My challenge is keeping her balanced, trying to make sure she handles her stress in a positive way. I know that she is the type of kid that thrives on pressure, on pushing herself. But still…. what do I say?
“Are you ok with Guitar?”
“Yes. I just freaked out a little.”
I diverted, because I wanted to take my time. This wasn’t the time for snappy comebacks. This was time for a speech. Thoughtful and inspiring. Knute Rockne. Win one for the Gipper. I didn’t have it yet.
The night wore on. I brought two cups of chamomile to her room. And I said, “Did you choose between the earrings? (she was between hoops and little dangly discs) We looked over the ensemble, she tried on two different hair accessories. I helped her pack her tennis bag. Tennis was on- Federer was not having a good night. Was this the time to give a talk? I decided no- not so much because of Fed (after all- the women’s semi’s exceeded her expectations) but because I didn’t know what to say. Mark this down- I didn’t know what to say.
I woke up this morning and went to the gym. I try not to think when I’m exercising, but my mind was in overdrive. And I realized she doesn’t need a speech- she needs me.
She ate her breakfast (egg and cheese on a roll from the corner bodega – this is a NYC thing, and her traditional breakfast on auspicious days such as this). I sat across from her.
Me- Remember in nursery school, you wanted princess underwear like your friend, and I said you could get it when you went on the potty all the time? What did you do?
Daughter- I know. I went on the potty- from that moment on. But this is different than princess underwear. This is college.
Me- The point is- you just do what needs to be done. You have a goal, and you just go for it. You don’t always succeed, but you try. You don’t always win, or get what you want- but that really doesn’t matter- because you are always in the game. I’d like to take credit for this drive, this determination that you have, but I can’t. It’s all you. I have nothing to say to you, because you know what you need and want to do. But remember, I’m here for you. I am your soft place to fall. But- you know how you call bullshit when I do/say something stupid? I reserve the right to do the same to you when you get ridiculous.
Daughter- Like when?
Me- When you complain because you got every class you wanted…..
Me- So just have a great year. It really will all be fine.