The early bird, it has been said, gets the worm. Basically, success comes to those who prepare and put forth the effort to succeed. Starting Monday morning, the early bird better be on the corner of the street waiting for her school bus because this school year, my oldest will be going to 5th grade. 5th grade means going to a new school, the intermediate building. In our district it’s like an estuary of our elementary schools. They all lead in to the intermediate building in a sea of pre-pubescence, peer pressure, and grades 5 and 6.
Every start of a school year leading to this one, we have gone through the same routine. My wife and I plan as if we’re preparing to invade Normandy. My kids try their best to delay the inevitable buzz of the alarm clock the day before and all of our plans for a smooth first morning disappear in a cloud of chaotic smoke, crying, and a mass gathering at the bus stop. It is a routine we are all too familiar with. Yet, this year is going to different. My oldest daughter’s entry through the doorways of Intermediate learning means for us, a whole new routine.
Sure my wife and I have packed the lunches, made sure the kids were bathed, loaded up their school bags, and set together an outline of how the morning needs to run, but this year, Hannah needs to get up earlier. Her bus, which had up until this point, arrived at 8:30am, will now be arriving at 7:30am. There are also new things she needs to have ready for school. There are new schedules to follow.
But our 5th grade routine is going to be more than that.
As a newly crowned 5th grader, Hannah has shed the little girl exterior that had blanketed her for so many years. She has been liberated from eating lunch with Kindergartners. She is now going to be among only her peers and older kids. She is going to be a part of a school that is almost double the size of the school she finished in June. It is more important than ever before for my wife and I to be prepared for what this year could potentially entail.
I have good reason for feeling this way. I have seen Hannah grow up in front of my eyes this summer. Not in that she grew out of her jeans or sneakers but has shown a new level of maturity (far surpassing her father’s). She has pushed for personal independence and has proved she deserved it. This year, Hannah will be carrying a key to our house with her in her backpack. She has taken on more responsibilities outside of school, has been more vocal about what she wants to wear, eat, and how she wants to be treated. She has also been quicker to speak her mind. And while she isn’t writing a resume’ quite yet, she has still left behind the more “childish” aspects of her life. What my daughter hasn’t grown in measurable inches over the summer she has more than made up for it with the growth of her attitude and her maturity.
She has prepared herself admirably to catch the proverbial worm of 5th grade. To be the early bird.
It is now up to her mom and I to do the same.
Except, in years past, I had a decent idea about the routine of the school year, now I’m at a loss. Even when I thought I “knew” about the school routine, I really didn’t. I was just able to keep my kids close to me. I was able to have a better view of what was going on to be better prepared. Now, I have my little girl who is pulling away, as she should do and as I would expect her to do. As I am not surprised by all of this, it still scares the hell out of me. I have begun to think about peer pressure. I have put serious thought in to the cruelty kids can both dish out and be recipients of. I stay awake at night hoping she will be a part of neither. I worry about her fitting in and doing well and handling all that this school year will throw at her.
Yet despite my uneasiness, my fears, and the unknowns about this new routine of 5th grade, if ten years and two kids worth of parenting have taught me anything, it’s that all we can do is be prepared. Every day can bring fear, uneasiness, and the unknown with kids. I have all of those feelings about Hannah starting 5th grade but I know that preparing for them is my best defense against them. I also know that starting tomorrow and continuing on throughout the year; Hannah’s alarm clock is going to be set early. My job as Dad is to make sure mine will be set for just a little bit earlier.