The first day of school. I try to look back and remember how I felt entering into another year full of academics, activities, friends, and memories. I recall getting excited to see what teachers I got and if it lined up with my friends I wanted to be near. I remember my Mom and Grandma always taking me shopping in a way that felt like a shopping spree TV show. I will always remember specific teachers leaving an impact on my little soul. I will forever cherish the friendships made along the way within those weird smelling cement walls. Every little kid is so unique in how they feel getting ready for the first day of school. As does every parent. Looking around the chaos of what is now, not just “the first day of school” but a flood of parents bursting with emotions of joy, relief, fear, excitement, and guilt that they feel excitement or maybe no guilt at all. A sea of parents taking pictures that are instantly uploaded to a social media page with proud Mommy and Daddy moments as tears stream down their cheeks with joy and sadness that their little ones are growing all too fast.
Today was year 5 that I followed The Brown’s to another First Day of School. When I started this project, Roz was going into Kindergarten with an envious little sister and a toddler little brother. Year 2 was a chance for Tess to shine as she got her shot at Pre-School and Roz in 1st and Knox still patiently waiting. Year 3… both girls full time, Roz in 2nd and Tess in Kinder and Knox…. Still making grunting sounds and not quite ready yet. Year 4… Roz turning into a young girl instead of a little girl headed into 3rd grade, Tess strutting into 1st grade no problem and Knox finally getting his moment entering Pre-K. Year 5.. today.. Roz, so grown up now, entering into 4th grade with shy resistance that comes in and out while her mom is always there comforting her fears. Tess, first one dressed with a backpack on and ready to go headed into 2nd grade and Knox, fighting his parents every step of the way because he just would really like it if he didn’t have to wear any clothes to school…. hesitantly puts clothes on and runs off into kindergarten leaving Liz and Jeff behind while yelling “Bye Mom!”
Jeffy… such a bear-hugging, fun-loving, hardworking Father that came all the way back from Louisiana, where he is currently working, just to make sure he was there on the kids’ first day. As much as he keeps it together every single year for the back to school day, this year was filled with many more tears the few days before when he arrived home to his family. And it’s a good thing, too, because no one else can convince Knox that he runs with lightning speed if he wears the shoes that he absolutely refuses to put on for anyone else.
My friend Liz… a full-time, loving Mother devoted to always letting her kids know how much she loves them. If you have been following along the last 4 years, then you know that Liz…. has cried…. A lot. Every time a kid walks away into school… Liz feels like a little piece of her heart is growing up and out of her mama bear protection and it floods her with all the feels. So, naturally, we have all been waiting on pins and needles for year 5… when Knox goes in FULL TIME. And Liz then has NO KIDS between the hours of 8am-3pm. This is monumental. We all know Liz is going to be a MESS, a WRECK, all the photos are going to be of Liz just losing it.
Not today. Liz didn’t cry. As her friend, I fully expected her to be very emotional today. So, when I saw that she made it through the entire morning with a brave heart and no tears… I felt proud of her. I mean, she most certainly cried… for a week leading up to this day, but when the day came to watch Knox, her baby, walk into the halls of his future…. She kept it together. A sign that she is not only coming to terms with the joy of her kids growing up but allowing herself to believe that there is room for her to grow as well… a chance of “freedom” during the hours of 8am-3pm Monday – Friday that this young Mother hasn’t had in a very long time. A chance for her to spend time doing things that she forgot how to do… like taking a nap or going to lunch without any tiny humans clinging to her.
As we left the school, the teachers had music playing outside for the parents leaving… a happy farewell to the parents as they left their children with all of the glorious teachers.
As much as this year is focused on Knox starting school full time… Liz and Jeff’s last little one to enter into the full-time world… for me, it was more of watching my friends take a step into the next chapter of their lives. Watching them be parents to 3 small children all that close in age is very often …exhausting. However, together, they did it. They conquered it. They finished their “Three kids all under the age of 5” chapter and life couldn’t look any sweeter.
Brown’s, I love you.
Every year there is a letter, this year, here is Liz’s letter to Knox:
“To my son:
This night is upon us… and I am weak. I have cried silent cries, the past couple weeks, knowing that soon you are no longer just mine. You now belong to a world of decision making and independence, no longer glancing at your mom for the ok. I don’t know if I can bear this tomorrow, but I know that you will. You will with confidence, kindness, and a giggle to make the whole class laugh too.
I love you Knox, my man, with my whole heart. May your first day of kindergarten be the start of your amazing life, for my amazing son.
Ps. I’ll be there at 3:15, waiting for you.
For photographs by Brandy Swartz visit www.brandyswartz.com