The weeks leading up to the first day of school are often stressful and frustrating. While most people are counting down the days until they are able to drop their kids off and have a much needed break, I am racking my mind for ideas to keep a certain kids clothes on all season long. I am thinking up of all the possible things that could and will go wrong -and solutions for them. I am trying to remember if I signed all the papers, met all the people and agreed to all the things.
Chances are I missed something. Chances are there is going to be at least one person who judges our mishaps along the way, and while this silent judging rarely bothers me -it is a new school, with new teachers, new faces and new people to impress.
All this newness also means there are going to be the inevitable meltdowns along the way -from both the kid and myself. And probably a few teachers. When the school season finally does come to an end, we won’t sigh relief -because it will mean ironing out a new normal, a new routine, a new schedule -just after we got used to this one. I don’t complain about it, I don’t talk about it, and I rarely mention it. It is what it is -it comes with the responsibility and the process. We all have our thorns. This is mine. This back to school business.
I bought all the pencils and binders, books and packs. I bought shirts and shoes and jeans that I know won’t get worn. I bought a lunchbox that will carry his lunch to school and home again -day after blessed day, because hard as I try he will not eat unless he is in the comfort of his home and everything is as it should be. But still, I pack the lunch I know will get thrown away because someone might question if I don’t. I buy the shirts I know won’t get worn -because at least it will look as though I am trying. Not hard enough, never hard enough -but at least trying.
The morning starts the same way it does -every day. With a bowl of cereal and a pile of TV remotes. Quietly in the early hours of the morning he gets cereal and remotes and talks himself through his day. I don’t know what he says, or what he does -but I know it works and I know it doesn’t hurt anyone and so I let him go. I throw the cereal away a few hours later, right next to the cereal from the day before -because he doesn’t eat that kind. Only the other kind. Only after his morning routine. Only once the cereal has been thrown away and the remotes accounted for. Only then.
I try not to show the panic that has settled in next to the guilt, panic about how the day is going to go down, about how the year will pan about, about how nothing ever goes as planned and this certainly will be no different. Guilt over not doing enough, not trying hard enough, over doing too much and not enough. Circles upon circles of endless thoughts.
The drive in is quiet. I step around the fragile questions I am not sure if he has or not -trying to settle my nerves as much as his. Trying, desperately to make this seemingly mundane and normal task -just that, when it is anything but. Trying to fight away the thoughts that crowd my already fragile mind. Hoping, desperately, for a normal moment when it is anything but.
He walks through the school that we just visited not even two days ago as if he has been there for years. He ignores his teachers and gets straight to business making himself at home with something he shouldn’t be touching. “He will be fine.” I tell no one but myself, and then I leave. Because I know after years of doing this that ripping the Band-Aid off quickly is better than slowly.
I am alone with my thoughts for the first time in months. Alone with nothing but myself and the stale air. Alone. The perfect time for all the jumbled thoughts to align and make force. I only dropped one kid off this year. Only bought supplies for one backpack. Only arranged for one kid to go to school. Only made lunch for one box. Guilt for not trying hard enough. For pushing too hard. For not seeing things earlier. For not stepping in sooner. What went wrong, and why? The questions that never seem to have answers flood my mind, because for now -I can’t be bothered to push them aside.
This one has come so far -the one they said wouldn’t. The one they said would never make it to seventh grade -is now entering the seventh grade. The one they said wouldn’t understand laughs at his own jokes. The one they said wasn’t worth it. The one I drug, kicking and screaming, yelling and biting down the halls of school only to be called back ten minutes later because it wasn’t working today. The one that hid in the corner screaming for hours at a time. The one that fought, tooth and nail -everyday, all day. Is now walking into new situations like nobody’s business, leaving me in the dust -the way it should be.
But the one they said would be fine. The one they said was just having a rough year, a rough patch -just needing some extra time. The one they diagnosed, and treated -that one, isn’t here. For reasons I still have yet to understand. The one that was supposed to be ok -wasn’t. He wasn’t here for the first day of school. He won’t be here to get off the bus. Won’t be here to complain about his teachers or homework.
Too much, not enough. Never enough.
I try, because it’s the only thing I know how to do. Even when I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. I try, because if I didn’t try I would give up. I try, because there is nothing else left to do. I try, because he deserves more -he deserves better. But it will never be enough. The intermingling of the thoughts, the twisting of ideas, the comprehending of the future. Binding the past with the present and trying to make a future.
Because it’s never enough.