Just back from a whirlwind tour of the East Coast of the U.S. and still a bit jet-lagged. But I wanted to jump on RealDelia for a moment to say hello and let you know that I’m back in action. I’ll post tomorrow about some thoughts I had about my home country while on vacation. But given that millions of children the world over return to school this week, I thought I’d post on that time-honored topic: back to school jitters.
We all know that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling you get when you go back to school following a long summer vacation. You wonder what your new classroom will look like, whether your friends will have changed at all, and if you’ll get that part in the school play.
But it isn’t just kids who get the jitters. Parents get them too. A colleague of mine over at Politics Daily, Michelle Brafman, has even coined a term for this phenomenon. She calls it Placement Anxiety Disorder. It encompasses “all that stuff parents worry about when confronted with the reality that another school year is about to begin: is this teacher a good fit for my child? Will the class jell?” Or in my case: do I really have to pack another school lunch?
I’m having these jitters in spades this year because my son is starting a new school tomorrow. And – as with so many things once you’re a parent – he’s fine and I’m a wreck.
Why is it that anything to do with our children’s schools brings out our inner 15-year-old?
Take clothing. I don’t think I’ve agonized so much over what to wear to an event in the past five years. And by “event,” allow me to clarify that I’m talking about the five minutes it takes to deposit my son at the front gate of his new school, at which point he will no doubt distance himself from my clinging arms as fast as he possibly can. It’s not like anyone knows who I am, so why should I possibly care what I wear? (Especially given that, for the past three years, I’ve shown up at most drop-offs in some version of my pajamas?)
Still, for the last week or so I’ve repeatedly stewed over the *right* outfit for this occasion. Will a jacket look too professional? A tee-shirt too casual? A skirt too severe?
I finally settled on a white cable-knit sweater set – I believe that “twin set” is the technical term – that my mother gave me when I was back in the States. I guess I figued that, when in doubt, it’s always a plus to look like you’ve just returned from Centre Court at Wimbledon. (Sadly – according to Wikipedia, at least – the twin set denotes “frumpiness” or “conservatism.” Darn.)
But clothes, of course, are just a reflection of a deeper set of anxieties about fitting in. When I first moved to London three years ago and enrolled my son in his previous school, I gazed at the sea of unfamiliar faces and wondered how on earth I’d ever cut it in this new crowd. The answer turned out to be joining the PTA, which conferred an instant legitimacy.
This time, I’ve decided – for the moment, at least – to eschew all voluntary parental activities and just stay on the sidelines and watch. My hope is that at one of the zillion parent events scheduled this Fall, some poor soul will pick me out of the crowd and say “Hey, that new girl, she’s not so bad.”
I just hope that when, as and if that does happen, I’m wearing the right shoes…
Image: Back to School 2008 004 by Tom H. Jones via Flickr under a Creative Commons License