Navigating the First Week of School

Well, we’re just over the hump in this first week of school and so far, it’s a mixed review. Maia’s been having some pretty great days in preschool and after how she struggled last time she was there, that’s been great to see. Generally she’s been very excited to go, often exclaiming, “Yes! I have school tomorrow!” The first day we dropped her off she was a little sad, but today she was ready to let go.

Aliya seems to really be enjoying seeing her sisters off to school and enjoys the special attention at home when it’s just her. Every day she flexes her newfound skills and talents and exerts her independence too. The big one I’ve noticed lately is wanting to get in and out of the car on her own and wanting to sit in Keana’s “big girl” car seat. She pitches a fit when we insist on the right-sized seat, but quickly recovers, usually being distracted by the world passing by through the moving car window. She has been very talkative too, and although her vocabulary and sentences improve daily, she often has a string of phrases that are completely unintelligible. In these instances taking cues from what she’s looking at or pointing to usually helps, but when you’re driving, it’s a lot of asking, “Ummm, what’s that baby?” Some of our favorite phrases are “Yeah, sure”, “I love you_”, “Sleepin’ me?” (She sometimes put “me” at the end of a sentence instead of an “I” at the beginning.) She continues to be a jokster and a ham, often mimicking her older sisters’ behavior like shaking her butt, walking like a fashion model, teasing, “roaring” and generally being crazy. All this is tempered by her super-sweet personality though, and she continues to be an absolute joy, especially during this stressful week.

That leaves Little Miss Keana. She is certainly still our package of sunshine and is once again a staff favorite at school. Her first day she was the only one to reach the top of the behavior/participation chart, and while that makes me proud at first, I do worry about what she’s learning about external assessment and reward, and what pressures she might be putting on herself. We try to keep the focus on how she feels about her performance and effort in school, and leave the silly grades and ranking at school. Still, I know it does sink in and we’ll certainly keep an eye on it. It’s been tough too because while she’s been excited this week, she’s also been very emotional and stressed out after school. One minute she’s bouncing around happily doing her homework and the next (it seems) she’s sobbing about how hard everything is. And by “everything” I think it’s school work, being away from home, adjusting to the new schedule, less sleep, new/old relationships at school, and who knows what else. The other thing is yesterday she had a side ache that wouldn’t go away and today it was a sore throat. At first I thought it might just be mental—or at least over-exaggerated—but she has developed a runny nose, so we may already be looking at the first illness of the year.

And then there’s us, the parents. The start of school brings new freedom but also a boatload of potential stress and adjustment. It’s hard to listen to what the girls say and watch how they behave and accurately evaluate what their going through. We get pieces of the picture and a few clues and that’s about it. With that we have to try and be loving and supportive and somehow piece together whatever they need to best navigate this new territory. And today it really struck me what a big adjustment it is for Sarah and I too and how important it is that we listen to each other, be loving and supportive, and give ourselves whatever we need to best navigate this same course. So if you’re involved with the start of school out there in any way, be strong, but most of all, be gentle.

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