A Fresh Start

This week, my oldest Smartling went back to school. We've been excited—and nervous—all summer about this year and the possibilities of a new beginning. But when it finally came... the reality hit me. He had a really rough year last year—rough enough that he had awful anxiety and physical responses to it—and the night before school started, I found myself in a total panic.

Xena understands. (Image source)

The thought that he might have another teacher who doesn't give him what he needs and another year solidifying the idea that school is something to dread was just... it was too much. I was overwhelmed with worry for my kid. So, in my panic I posted about my fears.

Smarties understand even better.

And what I received in return was an outpouring of love and reassurance that instantly made me feel so much better. My Smarties told me it would be okay. They assured me that this year was different. They reminded me that it was a fresh start and a new year. That we had done the hard work last year of giving him tools to take care of himself and manage his anxiety. That we had taught him how to advocate for himself.

But they also gently reminded me that my fears were my fears. And that my fears didn't need to be his fears. Which was exactly what I needed to hear and is so very true.

Just as someone had told me right before my oldest Smartling was born and I was panicking in much the same way, his experience is his experience. It isn't going to be like anyone else's. And this year isn't going to be like last year.

Of course they were right. When I stopped and stepped back from my worries, I saw that my son wasn't afraid. He was excited. He was looking forward to this fresh start. Sure, I'd been talking up his new teacher, but he was also old enough to know that he'd made it through a shit year, and he'd come out the other side with new skills and a new understanding of himself. He wasn't worried because he knew he'd been through the worst of it last year. He knew he could do this.

My 7.5 year old is wiser than me, it turns out.

After I reached out and my friends helped me stop my panic spiral in its tracks, I saw that I was putting my own crap on him. I was piling my own anxiety—my own parental worries—onto my kiddo, when he was just feeling the usual excited, day-before-school jitters. He wasn't terrified. I was. And that's fair. I watched him suffer last year. I watched him curl into himself and fight his own demons. And my Smartner and I had to teach him to crawl back out of those dark, scary places and fend those demons off even as things continued to be really hard for him. It was hard. It was heartbreaking. And I never want to have to see him go through that again. That is what I was afraid of. But he wasn't.

So, I shook it off. I listened to my Smarties and bucked up and I took lots of deep breaths and I took my cues from my son. My son who was authentically thrilled to step into his new classroom. My son who greeted his new teacher and took in the new room and sat in his new desk and breathed deeply and smiled a real smile. A smile that showed real joy.

And even as I watched his smile waver as we started to leave the room, I also saw that he was resolute in his composure. He was ready for this. He was prepared. Even if I wasn't.

At the end of the day, he came strutting out of that school with his class and he was beaming. He greeted me with a huge hug and a smile so brilliant, I knew it was going to be okay. And when I asked how his day was, he looked up at me, eyes sparkling, and said, "Awesome." It's a fresh start. A new year. And he's not afraid. So I don't have to be either. His experience is his experience. And it isn't going to be like any other.

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