First-day-of-school wisdom from parents

Posted Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Back-to-school week!

Saturday: Supplies that stand out

Monday: Unique after-school activities

Tuesday: Ways to punch up lunch

Wednesday: Quick family dinner ideas

Thursday: Parents share first-day wisdom

Saturday: Redesigning dorm rooms

Sunday: Class projects making a difference

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

The first day of school for children is as special today as it was for their parents and grandparents. There’s something about this time of year that makes us feel a little nostalgic, so we asked readers to share their personal stories to help impart wisdom to other families.

“What would you do differently if you could go back and do it all over again?” we asked.

Many expressed the same regret — that they didn’t take more photos — so, parents and grandparents: Don’t be afraid to play paparazzi for a day.

Be prepared for laughter and a few tears as you read through our readers’ nuggets of advice and inspiration.

Freeze frame!

“I wish I had not been embarrassed to take more pictures!”

— Shana Hazzard, Fort Worth

“Our very smart daughter-in-law took many pictures of our oldest grandson on his first day of school. He graduated from high school last May and she took another picture of him on the last day of school in the same place. In his hand was a very clear picture of him from 12 years back, leaving home on that first day! It is one of our favorite pictures and brought back a flood of memories, as you can well imagine. I wish we had thought to plan that far ahead!”

— Ben and Carla Oefinger, Cleburne

“I have three grown children, now ages 30, almost 29 and 27. One thing I wish I had begun when they each first started school was to take their picture before they left for school, and to continue doing it throughout their school days. Then I would have a compilation of their growth and changes through the years. I only have one picture of all three of them the first day my youngest started kindergarten.

“Second, I remember those first days being traumatic for me, so, moms, make the day special for yourself, and plan to do something fun. Go out for breakfast with another mom sending her children off to school the first day. Or plan some time shopping, or a mani-pedi, or a trip to have a massage to help you relax. It would have made the experience more enjoyable and I would have been able to greet them at the end of their day more focused.”

— Ravyna Missel, Arlington

Let it flow

“I had been teaching kindergarten for three years before my own daughter, Susan, started to kindergarten. I always understood the tears of some of the young children on the first day of school, but I never understood the tears of the moms. After all, the children and I were going to have a fabulous year learning together.

“I remember my daughter’s first day of kindergarten well. I parked the car in the teachers’ parking area and she and I walked to the front door of the school building. I gave her a hug and sent her to the area of the playground where she would get in line with the other young children. She took off running, leaving me with tears streaming down my face. I had to get control of myself because I would soon walk to my classroom, where I would greet her as her teacher.

“I would always understand, from that day forward, why moms cry on the first day of school. The babies they left that morning would come home a little more grown up and a little less dependent on their moms. It is a wonderful new beginning, and the tears will come again for other first-time events such as graduations, marriage, births and, someday, another precious first day of school. Let the tears come.”

— Jeanette Awbrey, Brownfield

Dress for success

“I should have laid out ALL of her clothes, not just the top layers! When my oldest daughter began kindergarten in 1978, we were living in Michigan and she was going to attend a private school. We had picked out her first-day outfit the night before. That morning she dressed herself, then I buttoned the back of her dress, tied the bow and brushed her hair. She looked beautiful and was really excited to begin school.

“When she got home and I was helping her change, I noticed she didn’t have any underpants on. When asked where they were, she told me that I hadn’t laid any out so she didn’t put any on. I was mortified! After that morning, I made sure to include underpants. She made sure that her daughters were correctly dressed on their first day.”

— Kathleen Poznick, Weatherford

“This was many years ago, but it worked then and might work now. I embroidered my daughter’s first name on her little dress for the first day of school. Because she was the only student whose name the teacher knew, thanks to the embroidery, she was chosen to be ‘line leader’ and addressed by name all day. She came home so happy and in love with school.”

— Kay Huggins, Arlington

The right ride

“On the first day of school for our daughter Kim, we had concerns with her being picked up by a day-care bus after school. Before dropping her off at school, I told her often that she was to take the day-care bus after school and I would pick her up at the day care.

“That evening when I picked her up, I was informed that the school had not followed our instructions. She got on a bus that was taking kids to their neighborhoods, not the day-care bus! Thankfully she did not get off the bus, and when the driver realized Kim was not supposed to be on her bus, she took Kim back to the school, where the day-care bus had been waiting for 45 minutes.

“I paid a visit to the school the next day to make sure that this scenario could never happen again, and we explained the difference between a day-care bus and a school bus to Kim. We did not want to frighten her with what could have happened, so we praised her for not getting off of the bus.”

— Cathy Pepper, Fort Worth

It’s a big deal

“For the child, the first day of school is a big deal. It’s new, exciting, maybe a little scary. For the parent it’s an even bigger deal. This first chapter of letting go will be followed by others: first date, prom, graduation, college, first job, moving away, a wedding. Each milestone brings both joy and a sense of loss.

“Each calls for rituals. These rites of passage foster new family memories and help express feelings — all of them. Rituals might include tucking love notes into lunchboxes, organizing school supplies, making a countdown calendar, bringing out old family photo albums and videos, connecting with close parent-friends, going to ‘Meet the Teacher’ night, and attending a parents’ ‘Boo-Hoo Breakfast’ after child drop-off.

“Creating special occasions to mark this first passage will pay off down the road. Some day at a family gathering a lovely, mature adult will ask, ‘Remember when you walked me to school my first day of kindergarten and the balloons that welcomed me home?’ Or a grandchild will say, ‘Tell me again about the summer you played school with Mommy and her dolls.’ And you will smile.”

— Carolyn H. Brown, Bedford

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