Bare feet and sandals will soon be replaced with socks and sneakers, beach towels with backpacks, the smell of sweat with pumpkin spice. The freedom of a summer day will be lost in the routine of back to school affairs as a new school year begins. My mind is reeling with to-dos and to-buys at home and in my class room. For my children, new shoes, school supplies, socks & underwear, lunchboxes, and backpacks are essential. For my students, folders, sharpies, and name tags are a must. The lists go on and on. And on.
But no matter how much I buy this year, it will never be enough.
There should be one more pair of shoes to size. One more school supply list to check off. One more backpack to buy. You see, I have four school aged children, but only need to buy backpacks for three. I find myself avoiding the backpacks, shielding my eyes from their display, as though I can protect my heart from any more hurt. As if I avoided them I wouldn’t remember that this year my son should be picking out his first backpack. He should have a backpack. His name should be written on a box of crayons. He should have a class.
No matter how much I want to avoid it, the school year will begin.
More than one hundred Kindergarten students will pass by my Second Grade classroom on the first day of school. They will tote new lunchboxes, new shoes, new haircuts. New backpacks. The past sixteen years I have welcomed the freshness of a new school year, but not this year. You see, this year I have a Kindergartener, but he does not have a class. This year there should be one more teacher to meet, one more labeled chair. One more name tag. There should be “Donuts with Dad”, “Muffins with Mom”, lunch with grandparents, and sight words to learn. There should be one more Kindergarten kid walking past my door, my kid.
No matter how much time passes, I will wonder who he would have become.
The milestones come and go, the days drag and the years pass quickly. Grief ebbs and flows, drowns and propels, and all the while my child remains a constant beat in my heart, thought on my mind. I wondered who he would have been at age one, and continue to wonder four years later. I wonder who he would be today. He should have hobbies. He should have interests. I wonder who he would have become, which teachers would have impacted him, which Kindergarten buddies would have become lifetime brothers.
Before the school year begins, there is one more to-do list to compile.
“Things to-do to survive the school year without my child”:
- Celebrate the milestones anyway.
- Cry, cry, cry.
- Connect with a teacher.
- Communicate with other parents “like me”.
- Create or join a program which incorporates numbers 1-4.
This year, I will buy three backpacks rather than four, and plan for the inevitable pain of this first school year without my child. I will smile through the tears, find heart in the hurt, and celebrate the would-be’s despite the what-are’s . I will prepare my heart for two classes this year rather than one, my 2nd grade class and the KinderCares © class of 2017. Will your child be on my role?
The KinderCares © program is with you through the first year of school without your child. Parents will receive monthly certificates for universal milestones that are celebrated within a child’s Kindergarten year, inspirational and encouraging messages, and family activities that will become treasured keepsakes. Most importantly, each child will belong to a class, their names will be included on a class role, and your child will have a teacher. Angela Riggs is the talented artist creating the KinderCares milestone certificates. She is a night-time letterer, wife and bereaved mama from California. For more information about this creative grief initiative visit www.scaredsidless.com
A Letter to My Child’s Teacher,
It is nice to meet you, teacher, and your classroom looks great. The centers look so organized, each student has a place. But there’s a kid you cannot see, within this empty space. And when you check the role this year, you will not see his name. You will not see his backpack but, he is there just the same.
It is now the first day of school, he’s sitting over there. He is biting his new pencil, wiggling in his chair. He is coloring a picture, for everyone to see. Be sure that you look close enough, to see what I can see. He can print and say his letters, knows every single sound. He’s wild and free, and loves to read. And write and run around. He celebrates 100 days, and Valentines exchange. He is ready to move along, and walk across the stage.
I know you must be confused, because I’m speaking like he’s here. I’m speaking like he will start school, and be with you this year. I’m speaking like he will start school, like he is supposed to. But since he can’t, I will pretend, that he is here with you.
Please don’t worry, about these tears. They come from time to time. Because there is not one reason, to any of my why’s. Yes, there’s something that you can do, for my son and my soul. Teach as though he is here with you, like he is on your role.
Ginny Limer is a mother of five, teacher, and adventurer from Fort Worth, Texas. She founded Scared Sidless, a 501(c)3 nonprofit in order to support bereaved families, unite grieving siblings, and promote a lifestyle of creative, healthy grieving. Just as you exhale grief, Ginny encourages you to inhale hope.