Any day now the school bell will ring to usher in a new academic school year. For many parents this will be the beginning of a new chapter. For others it will be the continuation of a work in progress. No matter where you are on the spectrum with your child, whether your are sending off a Kindergartner or a Senior in high school, one thing seems to remain constant -- the emotions that merge with the “first day of school good-bye.”
Some parents tell me that they can not wait for school to begin. The summers were long, hot and the lemonade sales have fallen off due to the saturation of the neighborhood market. Other parents are wearing black, mourning the morning that they will have to cut the strings of their aprons to send their children off to that big institution, “school.” These antithetical emotions do not have a clean correlation to the grade that a child will be entering. I know parents of children, at all different grades, who have felt all different ways. And sometimes a parent can even feel both ways at the same time! No matter how eager or resistant we are to saying our good-byes, most parents find that their heart always has that same “pang.” These heart pangs can be fleeting. They also can linger for quite a while. Some of us can not even control the tears that emerge as we feel the connectedness with our children being compromised on that first day of school.
It was when my child was going into second grade that I finally figured out an S.O.S. -- a sign of school. This was the answer that I found to my question of how to ease those heart pangs that would develop as I would send my son off to school. Needless to say, I’m not extraordinary, for I did not figure out the theory of relativity. Yet I did figure out the way that I could relatively stay connected to my child even after saying good-bye. Together, we came up with a sign.
Ours is simple. Many people may already know ours from the commonality of it in communication, yet it is still special to us because it is ours! (If I told you what is was it wouldn’t be right because you and your child need to come up with the one sign that is special just to the two of you.) Although I tell my son that it is not polite to have secrets, I remind him that this is not a secret, it is just a sign. It’s a sign that I love you. It’s a sign that connects us. It’s the sign that says, “I will be thinking about you when you are not near.” Most importantly, it’s the sign that puts closure to what can sometimes be a tearful good-bye—especially on those first days of school.
One year, as my son grew older and more mature, he was a bit resistant (substitute “embarrassed”) to giving me the formal, “Mom-son have a great day good-bye kiss.” Having our sign was our substitute for that embarrassing kiss. Thank goodness he is more mature now than those early years. Now at the age of 20, as he heads off to the East Coast for college, he once again lets me kiss him goodbye – as long as it is not a substitute for our sign. We will always do our sign!
A tug on an ear lobe, a touch to the nose, a wink of an eye, these are all examples of signs that can be communicated from a distance—especially with modern technology like Skype-- whenever and wherever. Although our sign started as our personal S.O.S., “Sign of School,” -- we now have incorporated it into our lives in and out of school.
“To part is such sweet sorrow.”
Good-byes are never easy. Each year I delude myself and think that this year’s “first day of school send off” will be easier than the one from the previous year. Yet who am I kidding?! For me it has always been difficult. I already know that next week as he ventures off for his junior year of college, it is going to be a real tearjerker!
Needless to say, having a S.O.S. eases the pain – for both of us.