I know that this year is going to be amazing for Noah. And I know that you are going to be an amazing teacher. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not scared to death of all the changes coming our way.
So this year I have a few special requests of you.
Please foster his empathetic nature. He is so kind and sensitive to other people’s emotions. This can be seen as being too emotional or struggling to pay attention if you don’t take a minute to acknowledge the sensitivity. Please take that extra minute.
Please hold him accountable for his actions and his decisions. Like most 5 year olds, he can be impulsive and self absorbed. Call him out on it. Don’t let him get away with not following the rules. He will test every boundary so consistency is key. Please be consistent.
Please keep an eye out for peer pressure. He wants to be liked so badly. He thrives on friendship and attention. This is a dangerous combination if he chooses the wrong friends. Please help him choose kids that like him for him.
Please be patient with me. While I will try my very best to not be a helicopter mom (as my husband makes hovering, helicopter noises behind me), he’s my first baby in school and this is really hard. I’m going to ask a lot of questions. I’m also going to do my best to let my son use his own voice. Please listen to his voice so that I can do a better job at not hovering. And just know that I’m going to cry. Probably a lot.
Noah is sweet and silly. He goofs off and gets frustrated. He gets really excited when he does well and throws a mean tantrum when he fails. Please guide him in the right direction. You’re in charge of setting the stage for the rest of his academic career. Please help him and me to get off to the right start. I’m scared and excited. I can only assume you are too.
I have a thing with milestones. I allow myself to get all jacked up around Noah’s “firsts.” Like every other parent, I celebrated and documented the first steps, the first words, and the first tooth. But, because (as I mentioned before) I have a thing with milestones and to be honest, because I am probably a little bit crazy, I tend to take it to the next level.
This being said, last week, Noah’s preschool class went on a field trip to a local pumpkin patch. I paid the $9 admission. And we signed the permission slip. It was then that I noticed a weird feeling in my throat and a tiny hint of a lip quiver like I was about to cry.
As a counselor, I constantly remind my clients to listen to their bodies and take note when something triggers a somatic response. I do my best to practice what I preach and I could tell this might be one of those moments that I would need to do some serious self-assessment.
The field trip was on a Tuesday. The Thursday before, I started asking about logisitics (trying to appear calm and inquisitive and not crazy and stalker-like). I fixated on the fact that Noah didn’t have a class t-shirt.
For the summer field trips that they went on (this was before Noah moved up to the preschool class), all of the kids wore matching neon green t-shirts. This made sense to me, seemed safe, great policy. Well, Noah didn’t have a shirt. Obviously this means that the field trip shouldn’t happen, no one is prepared for my kid, the world is over (cue the dramatic music).
After asking several times (again, trying not to seem crazy), everyone determined that the matching t-shirts would not be worn because the kids would have their jackets on the whole time. Fine.
The night before the field trip, I took a minute to reassess how I was feeling about tomorrow’s adventure. My determination: I was not okay. That night, I think I did about 4 loads of laundry, cleaned every surface of the house, and organized 3 or 4 different rooms.
I posted on Facebook that I was having a “helicopter mom moment” about all of my anxiety about Noah’s first field trip (I also may have included the hashtags #iwillnotgetonthebuswithhim and #iwillnotcallhisteacher). The comments poured in and included the following encouraging and supportive thoughts:
- “He will be fine. And cared for.”
- “He’ll be great! Our son has gone on several field trips with their class and the kids always have a good time. It’ll be OK!”
- “He will be safe.”
- “I promise you, he will be fine! Trust me! I’ve done a few of these field trips. He is going to show mama that he’s a big boy.”
While all of the support and encouragement is so appreciated and I am blessed to know that so many people care about me and my kid, none of this helped. Sorry.
The reason none of this helped was because I knew all of these things. My anxiety had absolutely nothing to do with worries about his safety or whether or not he would have fun. My kid will have fun no matter what. He gets excited about everything and soaks up life like a sponge. Plus, I love Noah’s preschool and his teacher. I have no concerns about his safety or his care.
The problem is me.
It is no secret that I am a control freak. I have rules for days. I make lists, I color code, and I know that if I need something done correctly, I do it myself.
The problem is me.
Noah’s first field trip was a formal notice that I am not in control. I had to recognize and accept that someone other than me is going to put him on a bus and take him to have an experience that I have absolutely nothing to do with. I will not be there to take pictures. I will not be there to tell him to be careful. And I will not be a part of this memory for him.
The only thing I can control is me.
So, I controlled the things that I could control.
I talked to him about listening to his teachers and following directions. I dressed him in a brightly colored shirt and made sure he had his jacket and hat. And I took a picture of him to document the morning of his first field trip. (I also may have checked Facebook close to 37 times that day to see when his school posted pictures from the trip, but that doesn’t count as crazy.)
He had a blast. He came home that day exploding with excitement and he was beyond eager to tell me all about the pumpkin patch. I took a minute to reassess my emotions.
I was not sad that I was not there. I was not anxious that I was not in control. I was happy.