Now that my kids are a little older, it gets easier, but I make accommodations for the kids, mostly Isaac, all summer long. Every single day. It’s difficult for him to entertain himself, although some days are better than others. He has a certain routine he wants and needs to follow. I made the same lunch for the boys 90% of the time because it’s what Isaac insisted upon. He often became upset when I wouldn’t eat the same thing.
He begged me to turn off my computer, even when it wasn't on. Sometimes he shut it down and put it away when I wasn’t looking. He spent every night with Chris at the pool or the Rec Center. He thrives on sameness and routine and predictability.
Would a month of vacation be okay for us? Yes. Two months? If summer school is included, yes. Three months? No, that doesn’t work very well. As I told a friend earlier this month, “I am now officially climbing the walls. School needs to start soon for everyone’s sake. I no longer know my own name.”
Everyone was ready when school started earlier this week. We’re still getting into the swing of things, but we made it. We’re back to school! Hurrah, hurrah!
Here’s to new beginnings! Let freedom ring!
When I dropped off Noah at the junior high Monday morning at 9:10, it looked like hundreds of teens had gathered for a rock concert on the front lawn. I pulled over in one of the few open spaces and prayed that a bus or a distracted parent jabbering on a cell phone wouldn’t sideswipe our van. Noah looked at the students standing in front of the school and said, “Population density: 2000 people per square mile.”
I laughed. I was glad he was returning to a familiar school where he is known by many teachers and staff. He grabbed his backpack and lunch from the backseat. Like me, he has been ready for school to start for weeks – maybe months.
“Noah, I hope you have a good day. I love you,” I said. He told me the same, and then he disappeared among the sea of students.
I didn’t have time to cry or to think about how proud I was of my ninth grader. I was stuck there for at least a minute with my blinker on, hoping I could somehow merge into the constant flow of buses and cars without being involved in a fender bender.
Earlier that morning Noah assured me he didn’t need to take his schedule with him. He had memorized it. He was confident he knew where to go and when. His mind is like a steel trap, so I should have known he was correct.
“What’s your locker combination?” I asked, hoping I could stump him.
“I don’t want to say it because of the lack of security in this house,” he said, rolling his eyes.
“That was interesting,” he said, with a laugh.
He is eager to get started. He’s always loved school and is anticipating a good year. He and other students are already practicing for Opus Honor Choir auditions. He has to be at rehearsal this week at 7:00 a.m., which is Noah’s dream come true. He’s an early bird.
“You’re probably the only ninth grader who is happy about it,” said his music teacher. She knows him well.
Rating for the first few days of school: 9.6 out of 10
Chris dropped off Henry at school Monday morning while he was en route to a dental appointment. It was special for Henry because I usually take him to school, not his dad. Henry was ready to go to school because he’s tired of being with his family. (That's more or less a direct quote.)
We met Henry’s fifth grade teacher, Mr. Graf, last week when Henry dropped off his school supplies. Henry’s all-time favorite teacher mentioned that Henry and Mr. Graf have a similar sense of humor.
“At least I have a teacher with a sense of humor,” Henry told me later. “That’s a good sign,” he said, sounding relieved.
Henry talked about the three new students in his classroom.
The teacher shared funny stories about his black Labrador retriever, who apparently is a retriever in name only. The dog never got the memo about playing fetch. Mr. Graf told the class he likes to read stories to his dog. She apparently enjoys it quite a bit, particularly if the stories are written by fifth graders.
Henry said the class would be putting together a time capsule, and he needed to bring an item to school to put inside it. He decided on a plastic alligator that all the cast members received at the end of his Sturgis Youth Theatre experience this summer. Mr. Graf will soon be burying the time capsule under a bratwurst tree in his yard. It will be dug up sometime in 2016, when items will be returned to students.
I’m excited to see what this year brings for my creative son. He's auditioning for Opus Honor Choir and plans to be involved in band and chorus this year. I’m proud of his efforts at school and know his kindness is appreciated by other friends.
Rating for the first few days of school: Awesome! Tired.
“I’m so glad you’re Isaac’s bus driver again,” I said to the kind woman who opened the bus door. Isaac climbed inside, waved goodbye with some prompting, and he was on his way to school.
The night before school began, he said, “River Hills closed!” That was a command. He loves school, but it hasn’t been his routine for several weeks. (He had about 20 days of summer school in late June/July, which was a bit of a transition, too.)
As he was getting ready for bed, we talked about what would happen Monday morning and what would happen Monday evening.
“You’ll get off the bus. Then we’ll go to the library. We’ll eat spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, and then you’ll watch the news like usual. Then Dad will take you to the Rec Center.”
“Yes,” he said, as tears fell from his eyes.
He told me he loved me. He kissed me. He told me he loved his brothers and his dad. He kissed me again. He kissed his brothers and Chris. Then he went into his brothers’ room and snuggled in bed with them for a while before finally falling asleep in his own bed.
Change is difficult.
Isaac’s new teacher this year, Andrew, worked at the school for four years as an educational assistant. He recently earned his teaching license and was hired at the school. We’re thrilled. Because he’s worked in Isaac’s class before, Isaac didn’t seem as nervous about the change. Andrew has even accompanied Isaac to out-of-town Special Olympics events. The placement seems like a win-win because they both know each other well. Andrew said he was happy to see Isaac on his class roster.
That’s all I knew because he couldn’t tell me more. He has five students in his class, but Isaac didn’t say their names when I asked. Isaac brought home a bright yellow calendar for August, which we hung on the refrigerator. His schedule is slightly different this year, which has thrown him for a bit of a loop, but I think he’s doing fine.
He’s still announcing the bus waves at the end of the day with his speech generating device and the intercom system. He sits at a secretary’s desk and lets everyone in the school know when the buses have arrived and which group should be boarding. It’s an important job and one he loves and does well.
When he stepped off the bus in the afternoon, I sensed that he felt a bit out of sorts. His behavior was fine, but it was a look in his eye that gave him away. He seemed tentative and distant. If he could speak more eloquently, I think he would have said, “I survived the first day of school, but it wasn’t what I had expected, really. What the hell just happened?”
I offered to take him to the library, as I had promised. He didn’t seem interested until I told him we needed to go to Hy-Vee. He grabbed the van keys and sat in the garage for several minutes, listening to 98.5 FM, his favorite country music station. It was his way to unwind and process the day. By the time I got out there, he was singing along quietly.
All things considered, he’s done very well. I’m really proud of my guy.
Rating for the first few days of school: getting better every day