The One Thing Every Parent Needs on the First Days of School, And It's Not on the School Supply List


School has started. And it is always exciting but also mixed with other emotions, not always easy ones. So this year, I re-read my blog post from last year to prepare. This tool, this tug, has saved me every time and yesterday, the first day of this school year, was no exception. So, today, I am doing a throw-back post to bring you the tool as well. I hope it serves you well...

Yesterday was the first day of school. And it was a doozie. Such a mixed bag of emotions for me and some very intense. It was a day when I practiced what I call my Tug of Gratitude exercise. It is an exercise that will save you every time. For those challenging days, whether full of joy, grief or nostalgia. Fear, anxiety or excitement. It will keep you grounded and help you stay in the present moment which is the key to any challenge. Let me set the stage so you can see how I used it and how it can come in handy for you next time you need it. 

Yesterday was my oldest son's first day of high school. An emotional day for many parents for sure. Your first born entering high school, really taking flight, only four more years in the home, it all rushes to you. Nervousness for him socially, for the choices he will be faced with, the increased academic pressures, all of it. 

It was my middle son's first day of middle school. So the day so far had two new schools, two new transitions and big milestones. To add to it, my middle son knows no one in this middle school because he changed neighborhoods this year. He was a rock star of sorts at his elementary school and now knows no one at all. That could be the situation for many kids but his added challenge is that he is in a wheelchair, has cognitive delay as well and is basically very different to the kids around him. (and of course, I am scared because middle school kids don't tend to be as forgiving and welcoming as elementary kids) To add to all that, the school district characteristically dragged their feet all summer so he does not have an instructional aide in place which is the key to his success. And on top of all of that, he spent his first stint in the ICU last month for a harrowing few days and has been teetering between solid health and otherwise since then. For the last couple of days, he has had some strange symptoms and we just weren't sure what kind of state he would be in for his first day. 

It was my youngest's first day in fourth grade in a school she knows and loves so this was my "easiest" first day child yesterday. I would love to say she is my "baby" but she has flown from the nest faster than the other two. She is her own person and fiercely independent. When she got to school, she learned she wasn't with the friends she had been expecting to be with all summer and I could tell she was not sure how to emotionally express that disappointment balanced with her utter excitement to get to school. 

And to add to all of it, the night before was a circus. All three kids had a bad night's sleep, played musical beds and I was up from 3-5 with my middle son. So this morning was pure chaos!

When you are in the thick of all of that, the adrenaline to get them all ready and where they need to go, to three different schools, keeps you focused on the task at hand. I felt things in my body like my heart racing and some intermittent tightness in my chest. And I finally cried like crazy. All of my emotions came to a head and they were a tangled mess. I wasn't even sure what I felt. 

But this is what I did during the whole morning. This is the one thing that saved me and might save you. And you can't buy it where you get your school supplies...Some might call it a tug of war but I think it is more a tug of love because gratitude can really be your best friend. Different emotions pulled on me for each child, many very challenging and I tugged back with gratitude, every time

For my oldest:

I felt rushes of pride for sure, so proud of all he is and yet to become. But what I also felt was rushes of nostalgia as I realized he was really growing up and becoming his own young man. Not needing me as much as he used to. I felt rushes of fear as my own high school experience which was not very positive tugged at my heart, hoping his experience would be different. Fear, anxiety, sadness, letting go all tangled up in my heart. Tugging tightly on my heart.

And with every painful tug, I tugged back with:
"I am grateful that he has the privilege to go to school. I am grateful that he is finding himself as a young man. I am grateful because all of my sadness means that I love so deeply." 

For my middle son:

I felt so so much fear that the kids will tease him or worse yet bully him. I felt so much fear that he will have an accident at school and the kids will feel that he is even more different than them. I felt so much nervousness that we will not find an instructional aide who can support him well to learn as much as he can. I felt so much anxiety around this new school, new principal and teachers who yet don't know him and might feel that he is a burden in their classroom. I felt sadness that he couldn't just walk into school like the other kids. I felt sadness that something so simple as school had to be so painful for me. And on and on.

And with every painful tug, I tugged back with:
"I am grateful that he has a school that can welcome him and hopefully celebrate his differences. I am grateful that he teaches me (and others) every day the power of love and tolerance. And I am grateful because my fear means that I can learn to trust more deeply."

For my youngest:

I felt mostly elation that she is getting back to school because she loves it so much. But I did also feel a tug of sadness as she refused to take a picture by her classroom sign, her fierce independence and desire to be "grown up" coming through. I felt sadness for her and her two best friends who were crying that she was not in her classroom. And I felt nostalgia that my youngest baby is not a baby anymore.

And with every painful tug, I tugged back with: 
"I am grateful that she loves school so much. I am grateful that her separation from her friends might open other friendships for her. And I am grateful because my sadness about her getting older teaches me to celebrate the milestones of life." 

Every time you move yourself to gratitude, whatever challenging emotions you are feeling shift right there and then in the moment. 

It is impossible to feel all of that jumbled up stuff while also feeling gratitude for them. Once you move to gratitude, you see the emotions for what they are, just emotions. They are normal, beautiful and sometimes so painful. But that's all they are. And when you feel grateful for all of them, even the really hard ones, they become more than just emotions. They become lessons. 

Gratitude is a constant teacher. It brings out the beauty and the teaching in all we experience. 

If you let it. 

When you feel an emotion tug on you, tug back with gratitude. 

Live well,



Tanmeet Sethi4 Comments