It was all I could do not to title this, “This is me in Grade 9,” a lyric any even casual Barenaked Ladies fan would sing, rather than read, aloud. But this is serious, people, maybe even Serious with a capital S: My son starts high school tomorrow.
Is he ready? In the technical sense, sure. His new backpack is loaded with all the correct supplies direct from the prescribed list; we scored the insanely pricey graphing calculator at an insanely reasonable price; he received his eighth grade completion gift today, his new laptop; Friday morning, he and I completed a dry-run of his bus route together–his school doesn’t run yellow school buses, no. He gets a County Transit bus pass and will hop mass transit, transfering about 25 blocks from here due south to high school; my husband is assembling his new IKEA desk as I type. In every technical sense of the word “ready,” my boy is.
But he’s nervous. Weren’t you before your first day of freshman year? Were your parents dying the thousand deaths I am today? Did you sleep even a wink??
En route to my last (better be my last?!!) stop to gather the boys’ last minute school supplies, I listened to the song Grateful, my summer jam by Better Than Ezra, and cried. Like tears ran down my cheeks cried, thank you very much Kevin Griffin, Tom Drummond, and Michael Jerome. Non sequitir: You know how my dedication to my concentrated hobby has landed me in my superfan group, the Ladies Ladies? Ultra-mega-mega fans of Better Than Ezra call themselves the Ezralites, a name that tickles me a whole lot–it’s awesome. Anyway, Grateful. It’s a nearly perfect song, just not long enough really. Long enough to elicit tears it seems, but I always listen to it twice in a row because I wish it was longer. Anyway, after snapping up two college ruled composition notebooks, I became paralyzed with terror, right there in the checkout line: Who will he sit by at lunch tomorrow?
Will kids be nice? What if they’re assholes? What if he unknowingly plops down at the cool kids table and he’s treated the way kids are ostracized on television? What if there’s room for eight kids and he’s ninth in line? What if the reality of his school cafeteria is the scene out of every 80s movie, or worse? What if he drops his carton of milk or can’t open his water bottle? What if it really is more like the high school depicted in Thirteen Reasons Why? Laugh if you must, but this is the kind of shit that steals my sleep. I experienced a similar terror the first day he took hot lunch in four-year-old kindergarten. Anxiety is not Johnny-come-lately to me.
I am inert, so I busy myself with mundane tasks around the house, and I’m not doing those well or with attention either for that matter. I have failed to locate a very important work binder brought home specifically this summer with the intent it stay “safe,” that it not get lost at my office over the summer. Yeah. Super. It’s my first student day as a speech-language pathologist (year 28, yo!) tomorrow too, and I’m what you might call distracted. Sorry other students, my own kid is top priority today and tomorrow.
It’s OK though, right? I didn’t get to this ripe, old age without surviving freshman year, and neither did you. He’s nervous, did ya hear? He’s nervous, but his mother puts on one hell of a game face. I tell him it’s OK to be nervous, a little nerves are expected, appropriate even, that it’d be weird were he not a touch butterflies-in-tummy. We’ve discussed his 504 plan, about which his new school’s 504 coordinators have already contacted me, so he’s on the radar. I’ve assured him that he won’t receive detention for being late to class, that he’s got a contingency if his fingers choose not to cooperate. He doesn’t have physical education first semester, and I’m working on some alternatives for next semester in that regard, so thank STARS for that!
He thinks he’s nervous? Jaysus, the boy’s got nothing on his mother. He doesn’t catch me tearing up because I’m the mom, and mom’s gotta keep that shit together. He doesn’t see that my Fitbit reads about 102 all the time (which, for what it’s worth, is not a sustainable heart rate for daily living–it’s exercise simply being me, ofttimes). He doesn’t see this stupid blog and read how nervous I am.
But he also doesn’t know how excited I am for him too. It’s a whole new world, high school.
He, and every other kid matriculating tomorrow, gets a clean slate. He gets to be the same kid he’s always been, or he gets to reinvent himself. HE gets to pick. What a gift and adventure on which he’s about to toddle those shaky first steps.
My fingers are crossed and I also kinda want to puke, but as the song says–
I’m gonna be grateful every day
Make a little wave and we’ll ride it
I’m gonna keep shakin’ off the shade
Make a little ray and then shine it, shine it, shine it on.
Shine on, my baby. Oh, how I love you, and how grateful I am for the opportunities awaiting you. Got a million things to do, what’s the point in trying, trying? Keep trying anyway. Go get ’em, Class of 2022!