Monday night, I could not sleep. I lay in bed tossing and turning. I turned my pillow numerous times trying to find the cool spot that would lull my thoughts and quicken my dreams. I covered my feet and then I uncovered them. I moved a pillow between me knees and switched my head to the base board, hoping that the change in air flow and position would bring on REM. To no avail.
I was nervous. Anxious. Afraid.
You see, Tuesday morning was the start of school– not for me but for my three children. My three children would awake Tuesday morning (and I checked on them at 2AM, they were all sleeping!), and they would, for the first time in their lives, go to public schools.
Public schools do not frighten me. I am a high school public school teacher and I know what public schools have to offer. I know that in any public school, no matter what district, some students are academic and others are not; some students are social and others are not; some students make poor choices and are in trouble often, and others do not. I have raised responsible and smart girls; they are strong-willed and confident. My anxiety did not lie in the fear that any of my girls would get in with “the wrong crowd.” (Catholic and Private schools have their fair share of wrong crowds– if they are ever going to make this life-choice, I don’t think location is relevant.)
My fear stemmed from other pressing factors:
- They have always gone to school together in the same building. This year, they will be in three separate buildings.
- They have always had each other to rely on for help. This year, they were on their own, having to trouble shoot a situation without sisterly advice.
- They have been in the same small school with the same classes for their entire educational careers. This year, they will not be sheltered by the unpretentious environment of Catholic school.
My worst fear for them was the fear of the unknown, the moment when they each would walk into their respective buildings and realize that they did not know anyone, that they had no safety net, that they had no one to share a comforting smile. Personally, I have experience with this apprehension. I chose a high school that no one in my eighth grade class attended. I remember walking into the building the very first day and walking into a hall with a swarm of girls talking and laughing. My stomach dropped through my large intestine and lodged into the small one. I felt like a spectator looking in on a secret society that I did not belong. I felt totally alone. I traversed up the steps to my homeroom worried that I had missed something. How did everyone know each other? Why had I made this choice?
But something happened. I walked into homeroom and found my seat, and I turned to the girl next to me and she smiled. “Hi,” she said, “I’m Meredith. Who are you?” Miraculously, my stomach dislodged from my intestines and I felt like I could breathe. I introduced myself, and then another girl joined in on the conversation, and then another and another. Within ten minutes, I had met at least ten people, and I knew in my heart of hearts I would figure out how to maneuver my way through high school.
However, my girls were not entering high school. They were entering schools that had established classes and established social groups. My girls were going to need to be more outgoing and less afraid, and I worried that they would spend their days alone, missing their little Catholic school.
I spent my work day feeling nauseated. I stared at the clock waiting for the minutes to pass into hours, waiting for the day to end.
As soon as I was allowed, I ran out of the building and jumped in my car. I drove faster than the speed limit the whole way home, thinking that surely if a police officer pulled me over, he would commiserate with the anxiety of a caring mother! I pulled in my driveway twenty minutes later, and I ran into the house.
“Girls!” I yelled. Maggie and Carson entered the kitchen, bright eyes illuminating over warm smiles. ” How was it?” I asked, although their countenances said it all.
“Awesome,” they said, and then they spent the better part of an hour telling me every detail of their days. Lizzie got home last, and although she was tired, she had the same reaction: she was happy with her new school and the adventures that lie ahead.
So I tossed and I turned for nothing. As much as it may have been wasted worriment, I can breathe easy and rest peacefully knowing that the girls are open to this new chapter of their lives.