That photo of you on your first day of school – A poem on growing up

THAT PHOTO OF YOU ON YOUR FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL

When I look at that photo of you
on your first day at school;
I mean, really look at it;
I see myself.

I see
A young
Wide-eyed
Slightly-scared
Smiling-for-the-photo
Knot-in-my-stomach
No-idea-on-what’s-coming
Part of me
That has never really disappeared.

Sure, I may be projecting.
It may even be misplaced empathy.

But THAT look!

I’ve seen it in the mirror.
I’ve felt it
Moved with it
Fought it
And I still do.

Still, today
Those same eyes look back at me
Before presentations
Before plane flights
Before tough conversations
In fact..
I saw those eyes in my own reflection
When I left your classroom
And peered back through the window
To see if you were OK.
If WE were OK.

Like you, I tried my darnedest
To be brave
Be strong
Not cry too much
And keep going.

I tried, anyway.

Because
I hate to be a bother
To those who love me
Because
What can they do?
There is no simple fix.
No pep-talk platitude.
No magic kiss.
No satisfying distraction.
Not much other than
Hugs
Time
And permission
To be myself.

So perhaps,
Perhaps,
As your parent
I could just
Let you
Be your self.

Perhaps
I could just
Give you the gift
Of my adult presence
To let you know
That ‘you got this’
And ‘it’s gonna be OK’.

And at the same time
Perhaps I could learn
To allow the child in me
To hold your hand
On the way to class
To let you know
That I REALLY DO know
What it’s like
To be where you are.

And maybe,
Just maybe,
After many walks to class
And uniformed farewells;
The child in me
Will find their peace.
And the adult in you
Will emerge.

‘That photo of you on your first day at school.’
By David Tensen
Jan 2020

Background: Last week, across Australia, millions of children returned to school to start a new year. With them, millions of parents made the journey to new class rooms, new schools and new experiences.  With three children of my own, I’ve done my fair share of classroom drop-offs. Some have been easy, other’s very difficult.  I’ve found, in myself and what I’ve observed in others, that much of the battle is an internal one.
An opportunity we have in raising children (and grandchildren), is to pay attention to the parts of us that relate and react rather strongly to our children’s school experiences, and allow those parts to make the journey to maturity through the process also.
Here’s the piece I wrote. Perhaps you can relate.

pic: An older picture of my eldest son in his first day.  Last week, he started high school.

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