This morning, I put both my kids on a school bus for the very first time, waved to them, and then went about my business for seven hours.
That's never happened before.
I mean, I've been away from them for that long. But never without knowing that I could pick up the phone at any time and the person responsible for them would answer and tell me exactly what was happening. I didn't take advantage of that knowledge, but I knew I could.
You can't do that when your kids are in school. For one thing, the teacher is too busy being responsible for them and 20 of their soon-to-be closest friends to stop and take a phone call from a paranoid parent. For another, they go to a bunch of different places. Are they on the playground for recess? In the cafeteria eating lunch? Playing in the gym? Painting in the art room? Enjoying story time in the library?
So all day long, I've been wondering, "Where are they right now? What are they doing right now?" But in addition to that, I can't help but also wonder, "Were they scared or confused when they got off the bus? Did they like their new teachers? Did they find someone to sit with at lunch? Did they remember to wash their hands after they used the bathroom? Will they be able to find the right bus at the end of the day?" So many questions.
And with one hour left before the bus brings them back home, I'm trying to decide which of those questions I should ask them at the end of their first day. Actually, I probably shouldn't ask them any of those questions. What I should be asking them is things like, "Who was the nicest person you met today? What did you like best about your new classroom? What did you bring home in your backpack? What was your favorite part of the day? Who was wearing the cutest first-day-of-school outfit? (that one's for my daughter) Who had the coolest backpack? (that one's for my son) What was the most interesting thing you learned today?"
Because I know that my attitude will rub off on them. They'll understand my concerns about school, even if I don't express them in so many words. If I approach them with questions that assume their first day was scary and uncertain and unpredictable, they'll think of school as being scary and uncertain and unpredictable. But if I ask them questions that assume their first day was exciting and interesting and fun, they'll think of school as being exciting and interesting and fun.
And that's exactly what school should be: exciting and interesting and fun. And I bet that if I approach it that way, I'll be sure to get the right answer when I ask, "Are you looking forward to going back tomorrow?"