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  • Writer's pictureKristin Woodward

Back-to-School Jitters On 10

We have survived the first week of fourth grade. End of post.

LOL, JK. While announcing that achievement seems like enough in itself, there’s a story behind the anticipation and execution of this week that underscores why it was so important. And it all starts with Mom borderline freaking out.

To give a little background, Miss Girl goes to our local public elementary, which is an up-and-coming gem that is pretty racially and economically diverse. We like it that way, as it reflects the real world. This is her sixth year there and she has absolutely thrived academically and socially, despite bumps in the road like her second-grade teacher ghosting after a couple months and her third-grade teacher never showing up at all.

Last year, she ended up being moved into the “best” class in third grade. It was known as the smart kids class because it was packed with all the “gifted” kids. And though she hasn’t officially tested into the program, she had been receiving services as “talent development.” So this was a good thing. And her year was EPIC. She became even closer with a group of about six girls she’d already been friends with for years. They’d done Girl Scouts and sleep-away camp together, and were besties in every way.

So when we learned that everyone except Miss Girl and one of the others would be moving together into the “best” class in fourth grade, I felt like the world might end. How could they possibly split up the squad? Why was my daughter being singled out?

Totally, irrational, right? Yeah. I know. I tried to reach back into my childhood years to figure out why I was so worried about her feeling excluded. It’s something that has come up previously with the occasional missing birthday party invitation and the ebbs and flows of the neighborhood girls’ alliances. And it always gives me a knot in my stomach. I remember being a pretty popular kid. I always had friends to play with, got invited to the parties and random roller skating and don’t remember any dramatic episodes where I got mean girled. So I have no explanation for this gut reaction other than my maternal instinct to defend my daughter and protect her from even perceived slights kicking in.

On a more rational-things-to-actually-be-upset-about note, this year’s teacher (who seemed lovely when I met her) had had mostly ESL students last year. With no class list posted to determine the make-up, I was worried that my brilliant daughter had been placed in a class where things would be moving a bit slower to accommodate for the language barrier. I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t mix things up more so that advanced students and less advanced students were more evenly distributed.

I tried to keep my cool between Thursday, when we got class assignments, and Monday, when school actually started. We learned that two of her neighborhood friends, whom she has had plenty of hang time with, even if they aren’t in her core group, would be in her class. Whatever happened, at least they’d be in it together. Outwardly, I painted the picture of how cool it was going to be to get to know some new friends. Inwardly, that knot in my stomach stayed put, exacerbated by all the regular back-to-school pressures of making sure she had something to wear, wondering if could we possibly get up and make the 7:20 school bus after months of sleeping until 8:00 and making that damn first day sign for the social media pics.

That first morning went off without a hitch. As she bounced down the steps to meet the bus, she was excited. I thought about her all day long and wondered how it was going. And I couldn’t wait to pick her up and hear all about everything.

I breathed a sigh of relief when she came out of aftercare smiling with her usual air of confidence and cool. So, how was it? I asked, trying not to explode. And she responded with the only words I needed to hear: It was good!

Over the course of the ride home and walking the dogs, I got all the scoop on who is in the class, which seems like a mix of children she knows and a few she doesn’t with a couple new kids, as well. There are probably more Hispanic kids than she has ever had in class before, but it doesn’t seem to be the majority. And she seemed excited about being around some new faces. She got to see her besties at lunch and recess. And she was pumped that on Friday, she would get her very first book report assignment. All seemed right in the world.

On the second day, I learned that she was in the advanced Spanish class! Guess what else. She told me with great pride that none of the kids from the “good” class were in advanced Spanish. I beamed. She then started to complain that none of her people were in that class, but caught herself midway as she realized it was actually okay that they weren’t because she was having fun making new friends.

During the course of the week, I heard from two moms how much their daughters love hanging out with mine because she is so funny and makes everything so fun, which just made my heart full. And the teacher posted pictures from class that had Miss Girl looking engaged and like she was having fun.

Whew. So we did it. The rest of the week was totally business as usual, except that instead of having to drag her out of bed in the mornings like last year, she is waking to her own alarm, getting dressed and coming downstairs all by herself. Bedtime seems to be happening without any prodding to get ready and she’s suddenly doing all the showering and skincare all on her own. She’s even traded in watching TikTok in bed for trying to finish whichever Harry Potter she’s on so she can nail that first book report. Now I just have to deal with the knot in my stomach about my little girl growing up so fast.

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