Tales of a First Grade Basket Case
I’m astoundingly good at taking my own experiences and anxieties, and making them into new anxieties about Lorelei’s experiences. I’m like a fucking anxiety superhero or something.
Lorelei started first grade yesterday, and I’ve been putting out low-grade anxiety fires every time I think about it. This is the age where I can look back and really start to pinpoint some of the earliest truly anxious memories I have.
I cried every morning for six weeks. My mom put a family photo in my lunchbox, and I was scolded by the teacher for looking at it too often. It’s not just the fact of this that I remember, it’s the feeling. I can still connect to that scared and anxious six year old.
I had never been through the lunch line, because I was scared I would not understand how it worked, or would drop my tray, or would do something wrong. I was in the third grade before I bought my lunch. I remember a day in first grade, during lunch, when I needed a napkin. The napkins were near the end of the line, which was inside a separate room . I got up courage and walked across the cafeteria, easing past students waiting to pay. As I tried to break in line just to grab a napkin, the teacher shook her head at me with a stern look, reinforcing my fear of mistakes. I can still connect with this, too. Probably because I’ve felt it so many times since.
Lorelei sometimes has a similar fear of being unintentionally wrong, or feeling like she is being laughed at. So it was easy for me to be nervous of her starting first grade.
Instead, she was annoyed with me. Why? Because I walked to her classroom with her the first day, rather than just dropping her off in the car line. Today she was firm in her decision to be dropped off, not walked in. It was my plan, anyhow, but she wanted to make sure. She hopped out of her booster, gave me a quick kiss, and walked into that school building with her back straight and her head high.
She had a great day yesterday. And while I’m sure there will be hiccups along the way, it serves as an important reminder that our children are not us. That she will have her own set of worries, and I need to dissociate her from mine. By being hyper-focused in my watchfulness for her to inherit my own anxieties, I might miss out on the chance to help her through hers.
And, evidently, first grade is not one of them.