In just a little over seven hours the thing on my wrist will beep, over and over until my waking consciousness suddenly jumps up and remembers it is an exciting day. Today is the first day of school. It’s strange as an adult, because for me, it will be like most days. I will work and I will do stuff—my day won’t be drastically different. But for the kids, it will be a very different day, one they haven’t had for months. And even then, it will not be like those other days that have come before, the ones where school was involved, because it’s all new, again. Not only that, but they have changed and that, really, changes everything.
The backpacks are packed—except for the lunches of course, those I make fresh—the clothes are bought, cleaned, and folded only to be unfolded in mere hours. The shoes are lined up, ready to be put on. Maia will be in “street clothes” while Keana will be in the now familiar navy blues, whites, and khaki. It was funny to hear her, two years ago as a kindergartner, use her new vocabulary word “khaki” for anything tan, and even now it sounds like such a foreign word coming from the mouth of our child. The supplies seem almost endless for Keana and it’s hard not to look back to when I was this age, only going to school with a notebook and pencil, and wonder how bad the state of education must be where even in a pretty well-off school like this one, Keana still has to bring two reams of printer paper, other notebooks with lined paper, a composition book, a box of pencils, glue, crayons, markers, highlighters, erasers, folders, and even a day/homework planner that has to be purchased for $3 from the office tomorrow. Oh, and two boxes of kleenex. I almost wondered if I should I also send her with the package of toilet paper that I have in the hall closet.
We’ll be sending our kids out for the day tomorrow packed high with supplies, food, and water, but even with all that, as a parent, you wish you could give them more. You know you can’t though, you’ve already given them everything for now—mentally, emotionally, spiritually—and you tell yourself it has to be enough. “It’s good, it’s important, it’s the right time,” you tell yourself and mostly you believe it. If you didn’t there would be no way to unlock that door in the morning and let them walk through it. This year should be much easier now that Keana is going into second grade and Maia is returning to preschool, now one of the older kids. Aliya, though, will be left wondering where her sisters are going and will no doubt want to follow fiercely. Maybe she won’t though. Maybe she’ll enjoy the alone time at home and Maia will be home by 1 p.m. anyway, excited to tell her all about her first day back at preschool. Then again, she may also come home in a storm, swearing never to return. You just don’t know.
And that’s the thing: you just don’t know how it’s all going to go. It’s just like any other day in that regard, but it’s not. We’re sending our kids out into the world with strangers. Not just adult strangers but smaller strangers too. Smaller strangers with different perspectives and vocabularies and experiences. They’ll experience new people and things and some will be great and some will be shitty and some may even fall somewhere in between. “It’s good, it’s important, it’s the right time,” you tell yourself and mostly, you believe it.