First Day of School Photos Or Not

Two of my kids are headed to their second days at school. For the preschooler, half the class went in on Monday, half on Tuesday (she was Tuesday) so today, for her, is the first “full” day, as in the first day with every Thursday Sunnysider. For the fourth, yes fourth grader, yesterday, Wednesday was the first day, but Wednesdays are a half-day until sixth grade so today’s the first full day.

I decided not to spare you these details to say, this is what starting school looks like. In Facebook parlance, “it’s complicated.” And you have to pull your lunch packing in time for school skillz back out. We’re all rusty, Tin Man-grade. But it’s not even Labor Day and two kids haven’t begun yet—and don’t till the day after Labor Day, so I think we’re on track. Besides, with only a few I hate you’s the fourth grader reentered school—and his public—post-enforced haircut from Liceweek July 2012. He seemed okay at drop-off and seemed no worse for wear in the afternoon after that first half-day. Feel free to say phew. I did.

What I notice even more keenly because of social media is that I do not replace lunch boxes or backpacks or shoes every school year start. My kids wear those things out and then we replace them. I got the supplies on the lists, so we did spend oodles of money at the office supply store name of which I will not mention. The little girl’s girl pals were specially dressed for their first days; mine was not. I could have taken her picture but I didn’t. She slept late and we raced to school. I have, yes, taken many of those photos and it is her last year of preschool, but somehow, it didn’t feel necessary and I was glad at how easily she let go. That felt like the image I wanted. The fourth grader doesn’t like photos of him taken on a good day, certainly not on a cover-short-hair-with-baseball-cap first day. I didn’t take one when he started the new school last year, either; that would have been insensitive to his crisis. I do not lack for photos. Few are posed. Fewer and fewer, I realized yesterday, as I saw a stream of first day photos, mark occasions like that. I only take those if it feels comfortable enough to all.

Yet, I’ve really appreciated glimpses into people’s starting up. I feel surrounded, nicely if poorly dressed for the occasion. I’ve watched my friends—ones I run into on the street and ones whose photos I see both—accomplish first-year-college-drop-off. It seems like a blink before we’re loading things up for our kid—and moments later, kids. I wrote about this on Huffington Post, and how the seasoned camp mom stuff prepares me—and doesn’t.


Meantime yesterday Saskia hung with her FBI (or possibly she meant BFF), Addy all day, sometimes with ease other times with tears, mostly of the Saskia meltdown variety. Late in the day I took the pair to Addy’s where they swam until they were blue in the lips. My younger teen came, too and ended up in the water in his clothes, for some of that time hanging so sweetly with the almost three-year-old Millie, a nearly three-year-old we have a total sweet spot for—and honestly, it was as relaxed a late summer afternoon as I could have spent. I define late summer this way for this afternoon: the adults had zip zero desire to get in the water; the water was entirely the kids’ domain.

Unhappy with their porch picnic, they repaired to under the table.

And then in the evening, I processed peaches. I made the prettiest jams, nectarine and white peach. I bagged the peaches I’d frozen the evening before. I cut up more peaches for the dehydrator when I decided the fruit leather recipe seemed just a little unwieldy for the amount of fruit leather I’d actually reap. I did this cooking on summer hours and now it’s fall again—and soon, if they don’t wake themselves up, I’ll have to wake the school kids up. Whatever happened to never wake a sleeping baby? Oh, they are so not babies anymore. That’s right.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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