Family adjusts to new school year

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

They're back.

Students in Cape Girardeau public schools returned to class Monday.

It's amazing how quickly one school year rolls into another.

My teenager, Becca, is now a high school freshman. My younger daughter, 10-year-old Bailey, just started fifth grade.

That's a huge change for our family.

Alma Schrader Elementary School was a huge part of our life for nearly a decade -- first with Becca and then with Bailey.

Joni and I grew used to walking into the classroom on that first day of school.

Becca outgrew such a parental activity years ago. Last year, we walked Bailey into her fourth-grade classroom.

On Monday, I offered to do the same thing again. But Bailey cast a disapproving look my way. "Dad, that's so uncool," she said as we drove to her new school.

So I dropped her off in front of the middle school like she wanted.

Still, I had to have the last word. I rolled down the passenger window of the van and shouted out, "Have a nice day."

Bailey smiled back at me with the look of a child who knows her dad means well even if he is a little bit embarrassing at times.

How quickly they grow up.

Each year seems to go by more quickly.

Becca's thrilled to be in high school. But even on her first day she couldn't resist telling me that college is around the corner.

I don't want her to think that far ahead. Not on the first day of high school.

Actually, I don't want to think about it.

I'd like these school years to slow down a little. All parents probably think that way.

While I'm proud of my daughters' educational progress, I miss those years when my daughters held their dad's hand on the first day of school.

They were clearly Kodak moments. I should have taken more pictures.

Dropping Bailey off this morning seemed less like the first day of school to me and more like a morning commute. I felt more like a taxi driver than a dad.

Judging from all the parents dropping fifth graders off at the middle school, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who felt strangely disconnected from the first-day scene.

Some sentiments die hard.

Our family has a first-day-of-school routine. Joni never lets it pass without a few snapshots.

She managed to get both our girls to pose for first-day-of-school pictures before we left home. They seemed OK with it this year.

Maybe they viewed it as evidence they're growing up.

An elementary school principal told me that in kindergarten class there were more tears by parents than children.

That's not surprising. As parents, we find it hard to let go.

And school becomes an extension of our family life, one of the many signposts that define our everyday existence.

Like our children, we look forward to another school year.

We're excited for them. Of course, they may be less excited about the homework.

And we're glad that at least for now even our teenager still needs us to provide transportation.

We're still in the driver's seat. We want it to stay that way, at least for a few more school years.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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