Who will open his yogurt?! {and other worries of a rookie back-to-school mom}

I’ve always loved back-to-school time.  The falling leaves, the cool breeze, the school supplies (I’ll admit I have an obsession with new pens and paper…).  I’ve always been a bit of a school-nerd, and the thought of packing up a backpack with all of my new notebooks and folders always made me happy.  After high school, I went straight to college.  After college, I went straight to graduate school. And then I was a teaching assistant.  And then I was a teacher at community college.  And then I was a teacher at a private elementary school. For the past 25 years, I have spent these beautiful fall months amidst stacks of papers, red pens, and the smell of new crayons.

back to school

But this year, my back-to-school world was turned upside down.  As of this spring, I am officially a work-at-home mom, so there was no going back to school for me when the summer ended.  Now it was someone else’s turn:  my son Sam was starting Kindergarten.  I couldn’t believe it.  I just couldn’t.  When Wal-Mart started shelving the notebooks and the colored pencils (normally a happy time for me), I almost threw up.  I couldn’t stand the thought of my (not-so) little five year old picking out all of those things and putting them in a big old backpack and walking away from me forever.  Yes, I am emotional.  And yes, I am dramatic.  But it’s true, isn’t it?!  (Oh and did I mention that my middle son, Cooper, was starting preschool? Double whammy!)

I try my hardest not to be a basket case in front of my kids, so instead of making a big fuss about school shopping, I just randomly said to Sam in the middle of grocery shopping, “Hey, you want to go grab your school supplies?”  We carelessly walked over to the crazy-busy section of the store, and grabbed his list.  He smiled as he picked out the items, and I smiled back.  It was painless. I couldn’t believe it.  Especially since my oldest son is just as emotional and dramatic as his mama (if not more).

Next step: unpack-your-backpack night. 

We filled up his Lightning McQueen backpack with all of his brand new supplies, and walked through the doors of his school for the first time.  We met his teacher, we found his chair, I signed up for the PTA (seriously, who am I now?!), and that was it.  Painless, again.  One more week until the first day!

I knew that it would be rough, that first day.  I’ve heard the stories, I’ve read the blog posts, and I’ve even went through it a little bit with Sam already. (He went to preschool last year and the first few days were pretty rough.)  But this was all day long.  This was leaving him in the morning, and not seeing him again until after lunch and naptime. 

Every night that week, I mentally prepared myself for leaving him that first day, and I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. Not in front of him, at least.

And then, three days before he started school, it hit me. 

He had picked out some new snacks to try, getting ready for packed lunches every day, and one of those snacks was yogurt.  Cookies and cream, his favorite.  I didn’t care that it was loaded with sugar or that it had cookie crumbles on the top.  I just wanted him to open his lunch box and find something that would make him smile.  So we’re sitting at home and he gets out the yogurt and says, “I want to try this today!”.  We sit down for lunch, and I hear him struggling to open it.  He can’t.  And omigosh in that instant I realize, he can’t open his own yogurt!  He can’t open those fruit snacks we got either! Oh no, and the water bottle lids are too hard for him, too!

Cue the panic.  I thought I had three more days until this would start. I thought letting go of his hand on the first day would be the hardest part. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now I had to worry about who the heck was going to help my baby boy open his yogurt, and his water bottle, and his Batman fruit snacks…

And so my friends, today I will share with you a few of my neurotic, over-the-top worries as a rookie school mom.  I will share them with you because I know that you will love me for it (just as I would love to hear your stories), and I know that you have felt this way (to some extent), or will feel this way, at some point in your journey of motherhood.  These are the worries they do not mention in the parenting books (or at least not the ones that we read!), and these are the worries that, in the end, will connect us more than you could ever know.

Who WILL open his yogurt?! 

Well, the truth is he learned how to do it before the day came.  But, he still has some trouble with the fruit snacks.  I told him that there would be helpers in the lunch room (which there are), but I also tried really hard to teach him how to open everything on his own, because I can’t stand the thought of him sitting there waiting and not getting to eat his lunch.  And the water bottle? I open it in the morning to break the seal, then shut it again for him.  It’s working out pretty well.

But will he EAT?! 

Apparently the answer is a big fat NO, and it’s not just my kid (thank goodness).  The first few days, he ate a little bit, but not nearly enough. By the end of the week (which happened to be his 6th birthday), he wouldn’t even eat breakfast.  He was so tired, and I tried so hard to get him to eat ANYTHING before leaving for school.  When I picked him up that day, he hadn’t eaten a single bite of his lunch, either.  When we got home at 3pm and I thought about the fact that he had not eaten a single morsel of food that day, I could barely stand it.  After four weeks now, I’d say he is getting the hang of it.  But thank goodness for my mom-friends, who have told me that their little ones aren’t eating either!  Here’s hoping that they all start gobbling up every bit of their lunch!

Will the teacher let them have a snack?!

Yes, many of my worries have been food-related. I swear, I have never thought so much about my kids’ food intake as I have in the last four weeks!  After about two weeks of school, the teacher sent a note home that said the kids are getting hungry around 9ish (lunch is after 11), and that we could pack them a healthy snack if we wanted.  Of course I was happy to send him a snack, but then the worries came up again.  Is this considered healthy?  Sam, don’t put this in your lunchbox, keep it separate because if it’s in your lunchbox they won’t let you eat it for snack!  And a whole NEW ROUND of worries when I saw the part of the note that said “those who don’t bring a snack will not be provided with one”.  Oh my goodness, those poor little things!  I can NOT forget to pack him a snack!  As soon as I told this tidbit to my mother-in-law, she quickly ran to Sams Club and bought two big bags of pretzels.  Sam now comes home and tells me how some kids have pretzels if they don’t remember to bring a snack that day.

heart melting

This kid did WHAT to you on the playground?! 

About the fourth or fifth day of school, Sam came home and told us that a 2nd grader was mean to him on the playground.  I tell you what, I have never felt such a mama-bear instinct as I did at that very moment.  I wanted that kid’s parents’ names, and I wanted their phone number, and I wanted it now.  But, I kept calm, and we asked him what had happened. “Well, he said bad words to me”.  “Well, I guess maybe he didn’t say them to me, maybe just in front of me”.  Turns out the words were stupid and butt, and he had not said them to Sam, just in front of him.  Alas, too late to stop all of the new worries from running through my brain!!

Rain, rain go away

At Sam’s school, we are able to park our car, get out, and walk him up to his line.  We knew from the beginning that this would not last all year, considering the “W” word (winter) is coming eventually.  When that happens, we will drop him off to one of the staff or crossing guards, and they will walk him inside.  However, I thought we had months to figure that out, to prepare him, to calm his anxieties about getting out of the car and walking with a “stranger” (not a real stranger, but you know what I mean!).  But no, it decided to rain.  A lot. 

Last week, there were a few days where we had no idea which door he was going to be dropped off at, who would walk him in, or who/where we would pick him up.  This does not go well for my son, and I’m assuming many of the kids are the same way.  One of the afternoons it was pouring down rain, and with my two littles in the van, I just couldn’t get out to walk up to the door.  I got there super early, and was about the fourth car in line, but his class was the first to come out.  I could see him standing there, looking around, and yet I couldn’t do anything about it.  (Please note: the teachers were right there with him, covering all the kids with umbrellas, but I still couldn’t stand watching him look around for me!)  Seriously rain, go away.  Who ever thought that so much worry could come from WHICH DOOR we are going in or coming out?!

I will spare you from a longer list today, but I just want all of you school-moms (especially the Kindergarten ones) to know:

I hear you.  I feel for you.  I will cry with you if you want. 

And I know this:  letting go of their hand on the first day is not the hardest part (although it was just as awful as I expected it to be). 

If you’re wondering, Cooper’s preschool experience has been no less stressful than Sam at Kindergarten; lots of tears, lots of am-I-doing-the-right-things from Mommy, and lots of exhausted people in this house.  But, as with anything, things are looking up, my friends.  There is a light, and I think I might be starting to see a glimpse of it.  I still tear up a bit when I get out two kid plates for lunch instead of three.  I still have a lump in my throat when I think about him on the playground and the possibility that someone might not be nice to him.  And when he gets in the van after school and devours his entire sandwich on our three-minute drive home, I scream in my head why doesn’t he eat this at lunchtime?!

But, at least he can open his yogurt.


Sara and her husband Matt (sweethearts since they were just 16) got married in 2007, and since then have welcomed four beautiful children (Sam in 2008, Cooper in 2010, Nora in 2012, and Adam James in December 2015). A born-and-raised Iowan, Sara received both her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees (in Spanish Literature) from the University of Iowa. She's still teaching Spanish wherever and whenever she can, but her true passion is owning Iowa City Moms and building this community alongside her amazing team. Sara is also the Community Engagement Coordinator for City Mom Collective, and the owner of Cowork Collective downtown Iowa City. Common denominator in all of these jobs: community, community, community.


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