Coffee Chat: Patti’s First Week of School

I’ve been beyond excited for this school year since April. After reading The Most Important Year and the girls acceptance into our state-funded Pre-K program, I was determined to give my kids the best school experience ever.

I did everything I could think of to be ready. Their school supplies were bought in June. But the entire week before school started, I had the worst sleep. I kept thinking that I had forgotten something. That they weren’t prepared. That they were going to hate their big elementary school. That somewhere there was a mistake and they weren’t registered. It was spiraling black hole of worry.

Open House Day

Cut to the Friday before school starts for Open House. We never got confirmation on which teacher the girls were assigned to, so there was always the possibility that they were going to be placed in separate classrooms. Objectively, I knew the girls would be able to handle that situation if it happened, but it never came up during their registration and I didn’t get any contact over the summer.

When I saw their assignments with their separate classrooms, I had a very unexpected reaction. I was not okay. I know all the reasons that schools use to justify separating twins, but I had really hoped that this would’ve been a discussion between us and the school. Instead, I’m crying in the middle of the day.

I really have to applaud both of my girls’ teachers. They sensed how unusual our situation was and made an appeal to the principal on our behalf. Ultimately, we asked our girls directly what they wanted for their school year and they chose to be in different classrooms. As uncomfortable as it made me feel, we gave them the choice and honored their decision. It didn’t help my black hole of anxiety.

What are you packing?

It wasn’t until I was doing yet another grocery store run that I realized I was at the end of my bandwidth. I think I had over $200 worth of lunch and snack options when I could feel my heart pounding in the middle of Kroger. It was like a little anxiety hot flash.

Our previous preschool provided breakfast, lunch and snacks every day, so this would be my first time packing my kids’ lunches. I haven’t packed lunch since 2002, and even then, it was Coke and PopTarts.

I watched hundreds of TikToks about packing school lunches. I’ve saved so many menu options on Pinterest. I know how to warm up my kids thermos before packing a hot lunch. WTF am I freaking out about??

This was one of the many things that kept me from sleeping that first week.

I was worried about pickup, “How is this going to work if the girls are still in car seats?”.

I was worried about drop off, “What do you mean I can’t walk my kids to their classroom?”.

I was worried about snack, “Is this healthy enough?”.

Was this separation anxiety? No. We’ve had plenty of time away from our kids, and they had an entire year of full-day preschool prior.

Is this “oh, my baby is growing too fast”? No. I’ve been super excited for this step and if they weren’t at this school, they’d be at another one.

This was genuine worry for my kids’ happiness. I didn’t want their first impressions of school to be about them feeling separated. Being separated from your twin would be something that none of their other classmates would need to adjust to. Something that I’m glad they were able to navigate and find their way through.

By the third day of school, we got our new routine down. On the fourth day, Troy had to fly out of town and I did it solo. The girls got used to our quick good mornings and the carpool line. They adjusted to early bedtime and earlier wake up calls. They are definitely cranky in the afternoons, but next week starts dance class and gymnastics. I got some tired kids, but they are happy and still excited to go to school (most of the time).

I also got my sleep back by the second week when they were out with colds. Of course…

If this first month of school has taught me anything, it’s that parenting stress can pop up in the weirdest places and is triggered by the weirdest things. As much as I over-prepare and overcompensate, nothing I buy will stop the worry until my girls go through their experience themselves.

If anything, it is a relief to know that after just a couple days, my kids adjusted just fine and so will yours.

Looking Forward

Last week was our school’s Curriculum Night. This was probably the first time that I actually felt ahead of the parenting curve.

We learned that our school and county are now teaching non-curriculum skills, including problem-solving, self-motivation, collaboration, and work habits. These are the beginnings of Executive Function, our topic for next week’s blog posts.

From our Most Important Year review, Pre-K can set the tone for learning and growth mindset for years to come. So, I’m glad that our girls will have exposure to more than just reading, writing and arithmetic; a big change from what we were taught in 90s. These executive skills also blend well into our time at home, from helping in the kitchen, to daily chores, to being curious about how things work.

I’m excited about what the girls will learn and I’m hopeful that they will have a great Pre-K year.

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