In previous years I used to make this a special sort of day. Sometimes I'd take a picture, other times I'd have little gifts or things to dole out, solemnly.
This year I said "Let's meet in the Family Room to discuss school stuff." My intention was to have some kind of meeting where we would detail things like breakfast duties, dish duties, cleaning bathrooms duties, helping with garden duties, and so on. Now that they are all getting older and more competent (and I am feeling less inclined to micromanage) I figure they can help more. And I wanted to arrange the non-school scenarios a bit so they weren't sitting there like big messy elephants when Richard came home from work. But when we sat down the kids all looked quite expectantly at me.
"What are we going to start with?" said FDPG. She looked very pleased.
"We haven't done our read aloud yet," sighed Dominic (aka: the Boy Who Doesn't Transition Well).
"I haven't finished my math from last year," said Max, pulling out his Singapore books.
And I hadn't even opened my mouth.
"Um," I said, "how about we see what we haven't finished and see if we need to finish it before we start the new stuff?"
And so we did. While I went over Max's math with him, FDPG decided that the blank pages in the back of her Spelling Workout book were intended as space for an essay so she wrote an essay about the book Journey to the Centre of the Earth. She took the "Writing and Proofreading Guide" page to mean that she was supposed to make some mistakes and correct them afterwards, but given her spelling prowess and youthful earnestness, the best she could come up with was to reverse her Bs and Ps. Deliberately. Kind of cute in a weird FDPG sort of way.
" There was once a book that told you how to get to the Center of the Earth. But the Entrance was in Greenland. They were fearless and travelled to Greenland. One of them found a hole. They lowered themselves down through a dark deep deep deep Hole. One of them fell. He landed at the Bottom. It seemed safe until rumbling rock opened up and they fell down through a deep hole..."
After 20 minutes she took a break. "I'll work on it tomorrow," she told me, "I might just finish it. I have a lot to say."
The boys are less in your face than she is. They do their work in quiet, twitchy ways, fiddling with erasers and dropping pencils and scratching their heads every 2 minutes. Max used to have a fake sniff which Dominic tried to affect but couldn't quite manage. Instead of Max's furtive "sssnn!" Dominic would HORK and SNORK and NGGGGHHH! loudly. It was almost funny, if I hadn't been so weirded out by the fact that one kid had a fake sniff and the other was trying to imitate it.
And so, instead of doling out bathroom duty days and breakfast making days and dealing with library books days, I sit and watch my kids work on their various projects. I watch FDPG's head bent over her essay, wondering what she'll be like when she's all grown up - if I will be there to see it. I look at Dominic, drawing on Max's eraser with his pencil (uh oh) and saying "Sid slides on the snow," and wonder if he'll be as quirky as an adult. Then I look at Max and think what a truly nice kid he is and how much I genuinely like him, even if he does twitch a lot. Moments like these are lovely but oh-so-painful. I certainly wasn't expecting these bursts of sentiment when I had kids, but now they crowd around me, shoving aside thoughts of cleaning toilets and making oatmeal. I think, rather morbidly and suddenly, please don't let any of them die before me.
You know, typical first day of school stuff.