My personal dog days of the summer always start at the end of July, right around when L. goes back to school. A large part of this is because it's hard for me to see him go back; hard for me to let him go--especially during these early months of a new school year--when I can't protect him during the day, or advocate for him, or be there to make sure it's all okay. I have to sit back and hope it will all come out okay at the end. I'm having an extra difficult time this July, because I can't help but think about how this time next year we'll be facing what might be one of the largest transitions of his young life: the transition into middle school.
He's worried, too--already thinking about how much he'll miss teacher so-and-so, and wondering about how he will make friends, and how on earth he'll be okay in middle school. Feeling stressed about middle school at the beginning of fifth grade is normal, L.'s resource teacher told us today. The fifth grade teachers hit the ground running--talking up the work in middle school, the change, the enormity of this next big step. It's all been a bit much for L., who is so easily overwhelmed enough as it is by the start of a new year, without having to take on the additional worry of the next one.
I'm so not ready for all this. Will I be ready? Are we parents ever ready for that next big step?
The other night I woke up briefly in the wee hours and found--or thought I found--L. lying next to me in bed. I could swear I patted his back and whispered to him to go back to bed and he answered something and rolled off and headed to his room.
I could swear I checked on him, too, and he was back asleep. And then I went back to bed and talked to Scott briefly, who had also woken up. My husband doesn't remember any of this, though, and L. doesn't either, which makes me wonder if I dreamed it all. And then I wonder, if it hadn't been a dream, why had L. done that? It's been a year since, awake from a night terror, he's tried to slide into bed with us. Had the start of school tipped his sleeping psyche back in time to those childhood nights when he'd crawled into bed with us with comfort?
Or, maybe, my own sleeping psyche had projected onto him? Maybe I wanted him there, and given the disconnect I feel now that he's back in school, wanted to protect him in that simple old way I could when he was very little--when all he needed for comfort in the night was us--our warm bodies, our physical presence.
The start of a new school year always finds me haunted by images of L. when he was little. I look at pictures and wonder, is he going to be okay? Is there something more we need to do before he gets any older, before he crosses some unknown demarcation point? Do we trust our gut instincts? Our minds? I backpedal into his childhood, to the first day of every new school year. I want to fix past mistakes before new ones are made, yet we don't always know how. The variables are too different every year.
I can safely say now, with five whole years of elementary school under our belts, that L.'s schooling continues to occupy a disproportionately large part of my waking brain, and quite possibly my sleeping, dreaming, brain, too. I hope this year will be a good one. Through all the roller-coaster ups and downs of parenting, the getting-through-the-tough-times, the sleep deprivation, the colic, the constant breastfeeding, then the weaning, the many milestones so joyful and also bittersweet, none of all that had quite prepared us for the challenges school would unroll before us. And here we are now, poised at the start of FIFTH grade, the end of one chapter of it all, taking deep breaths--like divers ready for the plunge.