An Honest Look at the First Month of School

Just over a month ago Jayce started at his new school.August 1

We attended open house the week before so that he could see his classroom, meet his teacher, drop off his supplies in his cubby, etc.  We met his teacher, the art teacher, and a few other staff members.  We found his desk, he filled out some About Me papers, he plopped down in the reading area and picked up a few books to flip through.  All seemed well.  All has been pretty well.  But unfortunately there have been a few phrases that we are hearing a lot of the last few weeks.
I hate school.
I miss London.

Jayce’s school is great.  It is one of the top rated schools in the city and it’s been obvious to me already several ways that they put in extra effort. 

On the first day of school there were already a few fun traditions taking place.  The school mascot was outside giving the kids hugs and taking pictures with them.  A group of older students and some teachers were lined up outside the front doors and welcoming all of the students into the building.  They had a red carpet rolled out, had big speakers playing music, and were assembled in a cheering receiving line sort of thing.  The students went into the building through the line, where all of the older students were clapping, cheering, and high-fiving them as they went through the doors.  As cheesy as that may sound it was pretty great.  It was a very warm receipt into the building and it temporarily brought my buddy off of my arm and had him smiling and giggling.

We walked him down to his classroom, he plopped down at his seat and started working on the assignment that was in front of him.  Chris met the teacher, we waved goodbye and that was that.

IMG 0574I could not wait to pick him up on that first day, although the same could be said for every day.  I prayed many prayers that day (and the weeks before, if I’m being honest) for friendly kids, warm teachers, and a welcoming environment.

All went well.  He was just as glad to see us at pick up that day and gave a quick report of his day.  His favorite thing was the receiving line at the beginning of the day, his least favorite was the end of play.  He had made two friends that day, Ben and Olivia, who he sat with at lunch and played with outside.  He had a little bit of easy homework.  The teacher was nice.  Pretty standard good first day things.

Every day since then has not been such smooth sailing, although there hasn’t been anything horrible in particular that has happened either.  But it has been a strange adjustment, for all of us, and school isn’t exactly giving Jayce the warm fuzzies.

August 4One reason, which is just a logistical bummer, is the time issue.  Jayce’s school day starts at 7:40, which is a good adjustment from 8:50 when it started in London.  BUT even bigger than that one hour difference, is that we have to leave for school an hour before that.  Yep, we are getting him up at 6:10 every day for school.

Jayce’s school is extremely close to our new home, less than 10 minutes away, but we aren’t living there yet.  While our house is being finished Chris’ parents  are graciously letting us stay with them, but they live about 45-60 minutes away.  If you add in morning traffic, school traffic, and the logistics of getting from the southern part of the city to the northern part, it’s a pretty substantial commute.  We went from never driving in London to having an extensive drive each day.  It’s not great.

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We are hearing “I hate my school” several times a week.  Chris and I always gently press whenever this comes up, and he usually says that it is because he hates having to get up so early, hates having to drive for an hour to get home, that sort of thing.  I totally get it and I don’t disagree: I am no fan of the mornings and the drive sucks.  The first week the kids drifted off to sleep for a little bit, which passed some of the time, but they seem to have gotten used to it now and stay awake just long enough to ask me more than once how much longer until we are home.
We always agree with him, affirm that it is too early, too long in the car, and annoying for us too.  We also remind him that this is only temporary, that we will be in our house soon, that he will get to sleep later, and leave the house later once we are there, but that doesn’t really help him with the now.  Being told that he only has to wake up this early for 7 more weeks doesn’t feel like much of a consolation and I get that.

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Second, and this is the bigger issue, is that school reminds him of his old school, and it makes him miss London and miss his old friends.

Chris and I knew that this was coming.  When we moved to London from Illinois Jayce was four years old and had plenty of friends in our town, but he didn’t have the bonds and attachments that he had with his classmates as a seven year old.  He was in school for three years, for eleven months of the year with those friends.

Even though Jayce has made new friends and will continue to make more new friends, friendships can’t really be replaced.  Even if he has a very best friend or two here it doesn’t take away the sting of not being able to play with his old very best friends.  I totally get that.  I have felt it myself with each move.

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I think that the first few months in the states were a whirlwind for the kids.  For all of us, actually.  We visited family, we went on vacation, we got a car, the kids got toys, they played with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents.  It was almost like an extended vacation and full of highs.  But now things are a little different.  The newness has calmed down and the normal is settling in, and as they adjust to the new normal they are realizing who and what they are missing.  For the last few weeks we have talked about London on a daily basis.  Often there are tears.

This is another thing that I am trying not to panic about.  Jayce had a rough start his first month at Reception in London, and we anticipated that something similar might happen this time.  It is different of course, but change is change.  Kids are resilient but they are still kids.  Sometimes they just want what they want and I don’t blame them.

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I have struggled with some serious mom guilt for Jayce in our last few moves.  Our move to London and away from London were not decisions that Chris and I took lightly.  They were both for the best for our family and for the time.  But I still hate dropping something so big and heavy on the shoulders of a seven year old.

I know that Chris and I are adaptable.  We will figure it out and get there.  Hannah was very young the first time, and is currently in a stage of being very chilled out and up for pretty much anything.  But it’s different for Jayce.  He is our more sensitive kid.  He thinks a lot, he is always asking questions that show me just how much his brain is churning.  He is sentimental and he loves a routine.  He is a homebody.  He is also very sweet, a fiercely loyal friend, and a playful kid who isn’t afraid to join in with kids that he doesn’t know.

I do think that he can handle it.  I have all of the confidence in the world that he will thrive here.  I just know all too well how difficult these sorts of moves can be because you basically leave everything about your old life behind.  New house, church, school, friends, restaurants, tv shows, food, words…it’s a lot to take on.  And there is no way to ease into it.  No going back on the occasional weekend or maintaining some old routines.  He’ll be able to do it, it will just be hard.

Our life here is very different than our life was there.  Even though some of the things that are great here are really great, some things there were really great too.  So we’re letting him mourn that as we mourn it ourselves.  As I’ve said, it’s a lot to take on.

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On the positive side he has made a few good friends.  The same two kids that he became friends with the first day of school are the same two that he plays with most days.  At first I was a little worried about this, thinking that each new day should add new friends to the roster.  But then I remembered how even in grade school I preferred to have a few good friends or a very best friend as opposed to a big group.  Maybe he is this way as well.

And last week he brought this home from school and I almost cried.

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But then last night he cried because he misses London.  He misses his friends, he misses his school, he wants to go back and visit.  We were able to catch a few friends on Skype but of course it’s not the same as playing with them.

He’ll get there.  I’m looking forward to writing an update from the rosier side of things.