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1. Brigitte Quinn, author of Anchored
When I left my morning anchor job at the Fox News Channel to take care of my family, I was delighted at the prospect of being able to escort my daughters, then 8 and 5, to their 8 o'clock bus on the first day of school.
This was harder than it seemed.
Turns out, I was much better at having my hair styled than doing anyone’s hair myself. While my daughters’ babysitter whipped their hair into elaborate braids or buns, adorned with sparkling “pretties,” I barely managed to give them straight-up ponytails. Wardrobe, for them, was easy: They’d confirmed their first-day outfit selections the night before. But for me, it was tricky. I didn’t want to scare anyone, so I needed a little makeup to go with an outfit that said, "Yeah, I’m home now, but I’m not ready for shorts with a 14-inch zipper."
After strapping their baby brother into his stroller, my girls and I arrived at the stop at 8:02, just as the bus was pulling away and the “together” moms were wiping tears, or, in one mom’s case, kicking her feet in the air in the manner of a leprechaun who’s just scored a box of Lucky Charms.
I guided my kids to the mini-van, sniffling, clearly a failure at this stay-at-home-mom thing.
2. Lene Fogelberg, author of Beautiful Affliction
My two small daughters’ hands clung to mine as the yellow school bus approached. Seven and nine years old, and not yet speaking English, they were starting school in the US. We had recently moved from Sweden, but had already declared this country the Promised Land of Chocolate Chip Cookies, and marveled at strange new creatures; fireflies glimmering in the garden, cicadas buzzing above us in the huge maple tree by the bus stop.
“Mamma, can’t you come with us?” My girls looked up at me with their worried eyes.
“I wish I could.” My heart swelled as I watched them climb aboard the school bus.
The lady driver greeted them with a wide smile: “Hello, pumpkins!” The girls hesitated and wrinkled their noses, trying to figure out the meaning of this strange language. The driver fell into a booming laugh and my girls giggled. As the bus pulled away I could see their pale faces behind the bus window, smiling at me. I waved and smiled back, holding back the tears and grateful for the unexpected gift of laughter, taking the edge off the boundless bravery it takes to be a kid.
3. Leanna Lehman, author of Vote for Remi
For over a decade, the first day of school for my sons came and went like the tide, steady and inevitable. There were no false starts, tears or desperate tugs on my pant leg. That was, until 11th grade, when my youngest son announced he intended to graduate a year early (and the tears were mine). No one tells us when we have our children that someday we will have to let them go.
My saving grace was that he would be attending the alternative high school where I worked. On his last “first day,” we entered the building together, his arm casually flung over my shoulder. Unabashed even in the presence of his peers, he was letting me know that it would be okay. And it was. He easily fell into the ranks of the other students, both the under and overachievers, misfits and mavericks, who ultimately became the inspiration for my recently released novel, Vote for Remi.
4. Kathleen Shoop, author of The Road Home
First days of school for my children are always fantastic. Beth and Jake both meet each first with enthusiasm and smiles. But last year marked Jake moving onto 7th grade, which is located in our high school. Waving to him as he practically ran out of the house that day was exciting, but later that morning, when I walked Beth to the 6th grade first day of school photo shoot, it really hit me. I’m always pleased to see my children move up and on, so I wasn’t expecting to suddenly feel it—an unsavory pang.
With dozens of younger children milling around, eager about their next year in elementary school, I realized that the first day of school that year was truly an exercise in letting go. The goal of parenting is to create fully realized people who can and want to function independently and it was in that moment that I understood my discomfort didn’t stem from fear of letting him go on to do better things; it was the sting of being left behind that suddenly took my breath away.