Wonder Boi Writes

First Day Of School

My son went back to school this week. He’s in the first grade and he’s super cute about it. See?

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I know he was a little nervous, especially since his best friend moved over the summer and it was the first “first day” without him since pre-school. Still, he smiled and walked off with an I-got-this look. Never mind he’d only seen the teacher once before or that none of his close friends from last year were in the class. He bought school lunch too, something I always found a little nerve-wracking (still do).  I know he wished for more friends around hime, but he seemed confident he would make them. I know he wasn’t sure what kind of work first grade would require, but he told me he was confident in his ability to learn it. And I know he misses his teacher from last year, but he seems so sure he’ll be fine with this new teacher’s way of doing things. It’s not perfect, it’s not what he had before, it’s not even what he knows, and yet with a quick hug, he said, “Bye, Mom.” And off he ran.

It’s disorienting for me, probably much more so than it is for him, to leave him there and come home to…what? I just sent a completed manuscript to my editor. Won’t have edits to do for a while now. There’s housework of course, and believe me I fell into that trap last year (Here’s the terrible secret: It’s never done). No, I’m not really a housewife. I’m a writer. I have to write. It’s not a conventional job, but it is my job just as much as being a first grader is Jackie’s job. And really those jobs feel pretty similar right now.

No one is making me a lunch to take with me or packing my backpack in the morning, but I am meeting new friends. My characters have just barely introduced themselves to me. I don’t even know their last names yet, but I do know we’re going to be working very closely over the next six months or more. What if they don’t want to talk to me? What if I don’t like them as much as I liked my last set of characters? I’m feeling those subtle pains of loneliness for my old friends. Remember how easy things were with them? Well, they weren’t always easy. My first days with them were just as awkward and nervous, but it doesn’t feel that way now.

I’m going into a new classroom of sorts, too, in that I’m working with a new setting. I don’t know all the rules and constraints of the places and spaces I’m writing about. Like my son who has to find a new cubby and new backpack hook, and learn a whole new set of classroom norms, I’m hanging back a little bit. I’m watching, I’m asking questions, and I’m making tentative moves to test the waters. Even with all that, some things will never be perfect, and no one likes to be corrected. Even at 31, I’m nervous about hearing, “You can’t do that,” from an editor or reader instead of a teacher. And sometimes there’s no way of learning but to mess up first.

How do little kids do it? At least I get to pick what I write about. At least this is a job that I chose. At least I can walk away when things bother me too badly. Little Jackie boy and his friends are stuck at school with a teacher they didn’t chose and a set of rules they have no say in. And yet, off he goes into the great unknown, happily smiling, Minion backpack in tow, as he greets his new adventure. And it is a new adventure, for both us, and for all of you following along.

I always thought maybe this guy would grow up to me like me, but maybe it’s just time for me to grow up and be a little more like him.

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September 4, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. Those first days of school, in a new situation, are more nerve racking for the parents than most of the kids. You and Susie have given Jackson such a solid base to work from that he is a confident young boy eager to explore a new world. Listening to the pre and post first day interview, you can see and hear that Jackson is pretty comfortable in new situations. Think of all the travel adventures that young child has experienced and how his family were there to make it fun and interesting. You shared your learning with him, asked lots of questions and listened, really listened to his answers. Jackson is a kind, polite, thoughtful, fun loving child…..he’s going to do great!

    As for you….you’ll develop your routine and, just like Jackson, you’ll meet new people and spend getting to know them. The difference being…..Jackson has real people to play with and you have a talented imagination to play with. Just like you encourage him, I know you can do it.

    Comment by Beth | September 4, 2014 | Reply

  2. I really enjoyed your analysis of your job as writer going into a new work in progress as compared to Jackson’s return to school. I’ve never made that comparison, not having kids probably didn’t help, but it seems it really fits. It gave me something to think about with my own writing. Another thoughtful post. Thoughtful posts are good for the blog and good for postponing housework!

    Comment by onamarae | September 4, 2014 | Reply


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