Our orientation guide took a look at my daughter’s schedule.
“Oh, this is really bad,” she said in the sort of understated-means-it’s-terrible tone that teenagers use when surveying car damage. Or a hastily inked tattoo.
Apparently Leeannah has homeroom and her first class on the fourth floor. There are only two classrooms on the fourth floor, so not all the stairwells lead to this level.
“It can be really hard to find the right stairs.” Molly – that was our guide’s name – was concerned.
Is there signage, I wondered. A wall map? A special train at Platform 9 ¾?
From the fourth floor, Leeannah has to walk all the way to a trailer in the back of the school for math class. After that, it’s inside the main building and off to the second floor, to the auditorium, for drama.
“I’ll show you,” Molly offered, still shaking her head. “I’m going to show her where all these classes are,” she told me.
Oh, I wanted to hug this plucky kid. And then buy her a caramel macchiato every day for the rest of the school year. Instead I walked behind her as she led my daughter on this maze, which gave me a chance to watch how easily and unaffectedly Leeannah, a lowly freshman, could talk to a junior.
Her schedule rattled her, but making a connection didn’t. I had my fingers crossed.
High school. I mean, it had to happen. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.
But that was definitely her and her cousin Amelia, the two freshmen in the family, that I dropped off on Monday morning. And it was definitely high school – as Doyle and I pulled away, we saw two upperclassmen just off school property getting in their last puff of cigarette before the first bell.
Yep, high school.
Not the only newbie
At the same time Leeannah was making this big move, Doyle moved on to middle school. Two kids in two new schools. What a week.
His orientation was the day after Leeannah’s and the only thing I can say about this back-to-back exposure to two new schools is … well, really nothing. I was incapable of any complex thoughts after two orientations in a 24-hour period, and I fully expect to experience a similar stupor in two weeks’ time when I will attend their back-to-school nights two nights in a row. (Guaranteed, I will sit next to the mother who interrupts the teacher, “Yes, my kid is gifted and …”)
But I shouldn’t complain. In two days’ time, my sister Amy went to high school orientation for her freshman, middle school orientation for her new 6th grader, and then elementary school Sneak-a-Peak for her 1st grader.
New schools. New teachers. New locker combinations to remember. New friends to make.
And a new routine. Leeannah and I are now up around 6 and Doyle at 6:30 so we can shower and grab breakfast before we drive Leeannah and Amelia to school. For the first time in six years, I am driving kids to school. Wow.
It’s nice to be with them in the morning, but I have lost some writing time. This would explain why I irritably looked at my schedule throughout the week trying to figure out where I could squeeze in a half hour here or there. It was a little bit like looking at one’s savings account and magically waiting for money to appear. No matter how often I looked, I never found that elusive hour.
And yet – “This week is going by so slowly,” Doyle complained on Thursday. It was true. The first week of school is always the slowest and the most draining. It takes a while to get back into the routine, even when you’re not at a new school.
Roses and thorns
Adjustments. The emotions have been high – at dinner on Monday, L and D went through their day class by class. Then before bed, Doyle still wanted to talk. Typical middle school external processing. And typical of him. He was at my elbow every minute, telling me some detail, while Leeannah was buried in a book, tuning out the rest of the world and decompressing.
To ease my little chatterer and soothe the teenager, I broke out a perennial conversation starter from my school, and they named three “roses” for the day and three “thorns.”
There weren’t too many thorns this week — apparently there’s a 6th grader who doesn’t wear underwear, which was revealed when everyone changed for gym.
But there’s also an 8th grader who has a mustache. As in his own facial hair above his lip.
“Wow.” Leeannah and I were impressed.
Pantomimes from theater class were described — although curiously not reenacted – and the geometry class full of sophomores and juniors lamented.
Other details emerged: The great reading teacher. The boring math teacher. The various musical instruments played by every member of past baseball teams. Lunch details.
Oh, and locker success stories — open in one try!
There were buds, too – things anticipated: A spring break trip to Disney World with the concert band to consider. And morning announcements to try out for. Cheerleading tryouts still haven’t happened. The first Friday night football game.
The year has begun. And we have survived the most difficult week! Caffeine helped. So did a Saturday trip to the pool with my sister Gilly and her preschooler. There were some sibling squabbles, some minor meltdowns – from me and from them. And a few tears were shed after both of them were safely in their new schools on Monday, and I really let myself consider the milestones they have reached.
My fingers are still crossed, but slowly and surely I am beginning to unclench them.