I hate September. I hate the tinge of cool in the air that reminds us fall is almost here. I hate the change of routine; from the easy, schedule-free, long summer days to the frantic return to morning alarms, carpool, work and extra-curricular mayhem. I hate that September reminds me of the last days of my father’s life. September, to me, represents endings, not beginnings.
It always feels like I’m trudging through quicksand, desperate to stay afloat and make it to October when the routine settles and I feel like I can breathe again.
This year, my youngest daughter, Sky, the baby of our family, started high school – which somehow made this year’s September transition worse. I was excited for her to start the next chapter in her life, but I struggled with losing my little girl. I worried about how she’d fend for herself; how she’d go from being the big girl on campus at elementary school to the new kid on the block. How would she remember her locker combination? Remember which books to bring home? Get to her classes on time with a mountain of gigantic zippered binders?
Mostly, I worried about her socially. Sky is a pretty remarkable kid who somehow survived 7 years of elementary school without a smidge of drama. She loves sports, is obsessed with basketball, couldn’t care less about what she’s wearing and has to be reminded to brush her hair. She is happy-go-lucky unless she’s hungry in which case you should probably stay out of her way, or offer her a plate of olives with a side of Nutella. She has an amazing sense of humor and the exceptional ability to laugh at herself, especially when she falls or trips, which is fairly often.
I was concerned that my carefree, easy-going tomboy would be eaten up alive in high school. Girls can be awful, especially if you don’t quite fit in the box.
Sky doesn’t have an ounce of self-consciousness in her body and I worried that the new school and the new kids would dampen her spirit and change who she is at her core.
And then, on the first day of school, she sent me this text at recess, which is probably the best message I’ve ever gotten:
Imagine. It was her first day of high school and she wandered around the cafeteria introducing herself to kids she’d never met before. She didn’t care that her older sister (Syd) thought she was crazy. She genuinely wanted to meet new friends.
When I related the story to one of my friends, he said, “She’s my hero”. And I realized she’s mine too.
Because for her, that first day of high school was a new beginning full of wonder and possibility. While I was stressed and anxious about how she’d manage and whether she’d find a place for herself, she jumped right in with both feet, excited by the new challenge. It’s early days still, and she has a lot of high school ahead of her, but my gut tells me she’s going to thrive – and be exactly who she is.
I think I can learn a thing or two from my baby girl. I can choose to be overwhelmed by the changes September brings, relive my dad’s last days and let myself be pulled down by the quicksand – or I can punch it square in the mouth, appreciate the fresh start, embrace the challenges of a new year and think about my father in a cafeteria in the sky, making some new friends.