Trapper Keepers, First Days, and Walking through the Doorway

Today is the first day “back to school” for my two boys, Felix and Oliver.  Though they are only 4 and 2, their “First Day of School” conjured up powerful emotions in me – and also taught me a lesson by experiencing the day through the lens of a parent.

During grade school years, I remember vividly the annual trip with my mom to K-Mart or one of the big stores to purchase pencils, notebooks, folders…and if I was lucky: a Trapper Keeper! There was something so magical about choosing bright-colored papers, perfectly sharpened pencils, and unblemished erasers…. almost anything seemed possible for the year ahead with fresh school supplies.

Every year there was also the anticipation of sharing the adventures and the “news” of the summer with friends. Today Oliver’s big news was “no more pacifier!” and Felix’s was “I got my first real haircut!” (Certainly over the years these news items will change dramatically.) But along with excitement there is also some anxiety around what changes might occur in the coming year – from new faces to new activities and subjects.

Felix and Oliver both woke up eager to get to school – quickly packing bags with their snacks, racing to get dressed, and running to the tram to reunite with their friends, teachers, and beloved classroom toys.  As we approached the school however– the excitement turned quickly (and visibly) to fear.  Sure, the classroom was appealing with fun toys and crafts and friendly faces; but it was also scary to enter a new stage…even at the age of 2. Or 4. New lesson plans and announcements welcoming new students were hung outside the various doors – all signs of the changes ahead for the boys. Summer had been fun, free, and comfortable – and while today was exciting – change is not easy.

Now we were heading to a new beginning – time to take the next step into an unknown.

Both boys cried, both boys needed extra hugs and kisses, and both boys reluctantly – and fearfully entered their respective classrooms.  They walked through the doorways and after a few minutes, forgot the fears that had grounded them on the other side of the door.  I could hear them both engaged in play and music before I had left the building – fully present and in the moment. Hours later at pick-up time, both boys ran into my arms bursting with “news” and reports on the day and questions about what was for dinner tonight.

I learned something in the short span of hours today…the lessons of the “first day of school” still have resonance.  It’s time for me to walk through a doorway. I admire Felix and Oliver’s steps and their ability to dive into these new environments, even after short-lived moments of crying.   Watching Felix, Oliver and their classmates this morning, and even more so this afternoon – I realized that I have allowed my own self-doubt and anxiety to keep me from leaping into a new stage of life in this new city of Berlin.

I believe parenting involves steadily letting go of one’s children so they can dive in and become the people they are meant to be in the world. Today as a parent I again loosened my grip ever so slightly on these two little boys.  They need to grow, they need to make mistakes, they need to fall down and keep on going – and so do I.  It’s time to let go of my own fears – and walk through a new doorway.