Steve Mullen: A big First Day

August 5, 2009 10:53:00 AM

Steve Mullen - [email protected]


We''re neck deep in the First Day of School. The kids are outfitted, supplies have been bought and delivered, and I''m helping them out of the car to join the throngs of new classmates. All that remains is the completing of ten months of this until we get a few weeks'' rest, then do it all over again. 


This is a big First Day. The kids are in a new school, in a new city. Every face will be new and different. Last year''s teachers aren''t around to provide support. No old friends or classmates will be there to welcome them. Constants like the library and the cafeteria and the playgrounds will be different and alien. 


Lee is a teacher, so it''s also her First Day, in another new school, with new and unknown students and colleagues.  


We''re realizing that while the First Day is the start of something new, it''s a reminder of everything outgrown or given up, and left behind. 


For me, it''s a life-sized reminder that the kids are getting older. Are they really going to be in second and fourth grade? That can''t be. Seems like not too long ago, I was dropping them off at preschool. 


But it''s true, and they look so grown up now. Somehow, inexplicably, out of my gene pool came these beautiful, perfect little girls. The older one, intelligent, reserved and independent. The little one, gregarious, headstrong and fun-loving. 


Yesterday afternoon, however, they were both quiet, yet curious, as we made our way to their new classrooms to meet their new teachers at open house.  


They admitted they were nervous. I admit we were too, and still are. But everything seemed fine; the teachers were kind and helpful, as were the administrators and others we met. It should be a good year for them. 


At times like these, the big First Days, parents realize just how much they want the best for their children. Am I doing the right thing? Am I giving them what they need? Will they be happy? Will they be able to grow, learn and succeed here? 


Back home, after open house, it was time for pajamas and the laying out the First Day clothes. This is important, because with the First Day of School comes the First Day of School Picture -- the kids posing with their new book bags, new outfits and new shoes; something we''ve done each year since preschool. 


I catch a glimpse of them setting out their clothes. Suddenly, they don''t look so grown up anymore; they are the tiny delicate children I used to carry in my arms into their first school, miles away, years ago. Time melts, and there they stand. 


But now it''s the morning rush. It''s off to the school, and out they go. Words of reassurance, and a quick good-bye. 


They disappear down the hall. 


That''s the First Day. It''s letting them go, and embracing the new and unknown, again. 


Steve Mullen is managing editor of The Dispatch. Reach him at [email protected]

Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.