First Daze of School

It’s back-to-school time: do you love the start of school or dread it?

Living, as I do, in a family with no school-aged children, no children at all and no one attending school, my feelings at best are mired in nostalgia and too many hours on Facebook.


My original thought was to make a list of things I do like and don’t like about the start of school, BUT this is supposed to be a writing exercise so I’m gonna dig deeper than that.

Like many adults with traumatic childhoods, there are many things I simply don’t remember. This includes the first days of school. I have lots of memories of school in various years, but the only first day I recall is kindergarten and that was because I was devastated that my father drove away and left me there. Actually, that’s a pretty typical kindergarten experience. I started kindergarten at the age of four because of my birthday so I probably wasn’t anywhere near emotionally ready for the transition.  Neither was he.

Significant transitions were always anxiety causing for me, especially when I didn’t realize that I was living with anxiety. Still, I loved to learn. so the first day of school was a source of anticipation and dread. Not understanding that tug-of-war was a tremendous problem and no class offered me a solution or the tools to understand what was happening. I simply struggled through, hoping it would get better.

I do remember being enchanted with the newness of things – the lined school tablets, the pencils, the crayons (provided by the school back then) and the new-to-me text books which held the most magical thing of all – words. The newness was overwhelming and exhilerating, but quickly swept up into the chaos of my life leaving me with a messy desk and lots of angst. I was relieved when my tablet had a little tear or a mark on it. No more worrying about trying to keep it tidy. Tidy was not part of my DNA.

It is easy to reduce childhood school experiences to simple terms – I was a smart kid and a natural-born test-taker so my academic experiences were generally positive. That was a genuine blessing that protected me or perhaps buffered me from some of the crueler aspects of the public education system. I was also poor, undiagnosed and scrawny. I didn’t fit in to my own skin, much less the general student body. But I was also part of a neighborhood and the kids pretty much stuck together. Until they didn’t.

There was nothing simple about those experiences. For a long time, I just didn’t talk about it in hopes that I would eventually just completely forget it. That’s my family’s approach to life. Instead, I try to look at it in manageable chunks, to find some peace and reconciliation. Writing is a useful tool.

If I could return to first day of school daze, I would tell myself two things – you’ll survive and you should keep asking for help, over and over and over, until someone listens.

Pittsburgh Elementary School
6th Grade New England Elementary





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  • This is a beautiful post. I don’t really have any clear memories of my first days of school either, but I do recall loving the newness of books and notebooks too – to this day I love the potential that a blank notebook holds. Though I have no connection to school-age kids any more either, I do get a ‘new year’ sense around this time of year, even more so than in January – I guess old habits die hard!

  • Your story reminds me a bit of my husband’s kindy experience. He was also 4 y.o., and spent the first three days hiding under a bush because he was too scared to actually enter the building. I always wondered why the school never called his mother to find out why he was absent…

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