Mama Madison: High anxiety, back-to-school style

Parents like a routine. Kids are up for new challenges.

I guess I had gotten a little cocky in my "parent of an elementary school kid"-old age; I didn't even bother to attend formal registration this year. This was my 10-year anniversary, after all, of picking up a K-5 school supply list, double checking all my emergency contact numbers, and revising hospital preferences. I surely had the drill down.

My youngest is now a fifth grader, though -- a Randall Elementary "senior." So, it should have also been the final time I'd receive the fateful folder containing the name of my child's teacher for the year.

In the past, that folder had caused some anxiety. Who would end up being, for at least the next nine months, the adult whose influence on my kid would be second only to my husband's and mine? Would we get a super experienced teacher or a newbie? A man (somewhat rare in the elementary school world) or woman?

But this time around, with a veteran mom's swagger, I just phoned it in from vacation to find out in whose room my 10-year-old daughter would land. I assumed it would be one of the two fifth grade teachers my older sons had been with. Her classroom placements had always echoed her brothers' and that had been just fine with me. It never occurred to me anyone would bother to mix things up in our final year of elementary school.

So when I heard long distance that my daughter would have Ms. Wells (all names have been changed) as her teacher this year, I didn't really know what to say. It's not that I had heard anything less than terrific through the omnipresent "Who'd you get?" grapevine (Bravo could easily launch a Real Moms of Randall Elementary series based on teacher placement gossip). But she was still, nonetheless, a name I merely recognized. I wasn't even sure what she looked like.

And, for a second, I got nervous. Not because of "who we got." But, because now -- in my final round of elementary school parenting -- things were changing.

Now, I'm not against change on principle. I switched my major three times in college and have sported no fewer than four different shades on my toenails this summer. But I guess I was really hoping to coast a bit in my daughter's 5th grade year. I wanted to show up to parent/teacher conferences and talk about the good old days. I'd have liked to "pre-know" how spelling tests were graded and what books the class might be tackling in reading groups. I had looked forward to being the seasoned mom who could advise first-time parents in either Mr. McLellan or Ms. Gelles's classrooms on the best way to ensure the year would be a good one.

And therein lay the rub. I had wanted the "known" for my own sake, not for my daughter's. It's not like she'd ever been in fifth grade before. She has no preconceived notions or expectations of what the year should bring. In fact, as far as she's concerned, it's a very good thing she's getting a "new" teacher. For the first time ever, she feels, she can start out the year as some one other than a little sister.

And when I look at it that way, I am comforted that in this instance change can most certainly be good.

And who knows? If all goes well for one elementary school senior and her formerly cocky mom, change may even be great.

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