“You’ve got to calm down,” my husband said as we put the dirty breakfast dishes in the sink. “You’re making me nuts.”
It was the first day of school yesterday – the first day of second grade and first grade for my two older boys, and the first day of a new school for all of us. When my husband and I got married last year, we moved to a new home in our town…but, as it turned out, another school district.
But my husband wasn’t talking to the boys, who were busy exhibiting unusually calm behavior, putting on their new raincoats and adjusting the straps on their brand-new Batman backpacks.
No, my husband was talking to me. And rightly so — a casual observer could smell the nutty nervousness on me from a block away.
If we’re being honest here, I’d been nervous the whole week before. Of course, having no power until last Thursday, a now-8-week old baby in the house and having a “boil water” alert didn’t do anything for any of us in the relaxation department. But I’ll admit it – I felt like I was the one going to a new school, and I was scared.
My nervousness was an utter mystery to my husband. After all, he repeatedly pointed out, I actually wasn’t the one going to a new school – the boys were. He also noted that first and second grade have long passed me by. And moreover, the boys were clearly excited about their new school. Sure, they had a touch of nervousness, but really no more nervousness than any kid has before the first day of school, new or not.
So what was my problem, anyway? The new school was a terrific school. The teachers seemed lovely. The principal was a great guy. All signs pointed to a great year.
But it was as though I had somehow vacuumed up all the nervousness I’d thought my boys would have and had taken it on as my own. Now, I don’t consider myself a helicopter parent: my kids fall down on the playground with impunity rather than ambulances being called. But apparently, I’m an emotional Black Hawk.
My natural inclination is to empathize. That inclination to empathy generally is an asset rather than a liability when it comes to nurturing little humans. But there’s a point at which one can empathize preemptively, and, arguably, a bit too much. I can’t have my nights pockmarked by patches of staring into the dark, imagining my kids eating alone at lunch, sadly chewing their little peanut butter sandwiches. Imagining problems before they exist doesn’t do any good for anyone.
Being a good parent means being able to say, it’s not about me – it’s about them. And they can and will make new friends, and it might be tough, but they will, as always, impress me just by being themselves.
So we all got to school, brought the boys to their classrooms, and said a fond farewell… for a few hours, anyway. Then, we went to the “welcome back” parent meetup. The other parents we met were all friendly. No one was mean. I got a few cell phone numbers.
“Did you make new friends?” my husband asked me, teasingly, as we left the building.
“Yeah, I think I did,” I smile back. “It’s going to be okay.”
They’re going to be fine. And so will I.