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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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First grade, holy crap

Two days ago, my baby started first grade. FIRST GRADE. How the hell did this happen? I remember first grade. I remember it all too well. Eating liverwurst sandwiches in the cafeteria and wondering why my friends moved their seats as soon as I opened my lunch box. Trying to teach the other kids to read, as they ran from my clutches. Wetting my pants with alarming regularity.

I was a weird kid. Are you surprised?

Henry declared before school began that he hated school. He was not even a little excited to go, he claimed. Nor was he nervous. He just wasn’t into it. Couldn't care less. There was a lot of shrugging and eye-rolling. On the walk to his first day, he asked how long college was, and when we told him it was four years, he balked. "No way am I doing that," he said.

"If you want to be an astronaut," Scott pointed out, "you might want to reconsider that."

"I’m not going to work," Henry said. "I'm just going to live with you."

Oh, kids. Kids who think they're going to want to live with their parents once they're grown up. Adorable! Actually I never felt that way. But clearly my son is nothing like me. For one, he has excellent bladder control. And he doesn't know what liverwurst even is. Which is probably for the best.

So we brought him to school with little protest—he wasn't scared or whatever, you'll recall, just so not into it—and when he got to his classroom he saw his friends and his teacher was all smiley and beautiful and full of bubbling positivity and I could see Henry thinking, "Don't act excited. Stay cool, man. STAY COOL." He shook our hands, then saw that his friend Nicky was kissing his parents goodbye so he figured that was okay. No hugs, though, MOM.

We high-tailed it out of there and Scott and I went for a celebratory, our-kid's-in-school-finally breakfast, but as soon as we sat down I abruptly morphed into The Angriest Person in the World. There were these kids (who I guess are in private school, which maybe hasn't yet begun? or they were truants and I should have called the goddamn authorities) who kept running in and out of the café, in and out, in and out, giggling loudly because apparently there was something hilarious and exciting about this journey, and they were wearing flip-flops so their feet were making these slappity slappity noises as they thwapped in and out, back and forth, and their mothers seemed just as delighted by their behavior as they were, for some reason, and I was like, Scott? Is it just me, or should these girls be killed immediately? And then I saw that Scott was on his iPhone posting to Twitter so I muttered angrily at my muffin for a while, which by the way was sub-par. He kept on Twittering, oblivious to my loud and insistent glaring.

Finally I said, "I wish I had that crazy vampire strength they have on True Blood where I could just reach over and crush your phone into bits."

That got him to look up. "What? Why do you want to crush my phone?"

"Don't Twitter when we're having quality time together as a loving couple," I hissed, and he actually said, "I can't imagine why I'd want to be on Twitter when you're such delightful company." Can you believe he said that, Internet? CAN YOU?

Okay, fine, be on his side. Whatever.

After we finished our breakfast—him all irritatingly good-natured, me filled with bile and rancor—Scott headed off to work. I had the whole day to myself! For once! With all this work to do, and stuff, so it was about time. And I got home, and tried to work but there was this pain in my midsection. I couldn't quite figure out where it was. It floated about. Was it my heart? Was I dying? Or was it the muffin? Unclear. The only thing to do was curl up on the couch for an hour or three and think about how much everything was terrible and awful.

That's when it occurred to me, in the fetal position on my couch, feeling the furrows between my eyes deepening as I scowled harder and harder, that I was sad. Because my baby was growing up. Goddamn it all to hell.

I swear I'm usually not this clueless about the workings of my psyche. Usually I am on board with crying right away and getting it all the hell out. It's all right to cry. As we know. Take it, Rosey Grier!

For whatever reason I couldn't get past the discomfort and horror of time passing and just let it all out so I laid there curled up, whimpering and mewling, and I actually tried to squeeze out some tears but could not. So unsatisfying.

Henry's having a great time in school, by the way. It's only been two days and he's already announced that he loves school and can't wait for homework. Today was the first day they all got to walk into the school without their parents. He was so excited to find his classroom all by himself. I tried to catch his eye as he followed his friends into the school, but he didn't look back.

Reader Comments (60)

You are so funny! You really made me laugh today - thank you!Re: the empty nest blues - I have a college sophomore and HS Junior and btw, their 1st days of 1st grade feel like they were 5 minutes ago! I don't think it gets any easier, but I am getting used to it. Although, I am planning a major diversion for myself after I take my baby to college in 2 years!
September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDonna
You know, Zack did not look back, either, on that crazy day he was allowed to walk into school (Henry's very same school) All By Himself. I had had no forewarning that his doing that was going to blow my mind the way it did. I mean, he walked off into a sea of kids and didn't need to see me to give him that reassuring nod and thumbs up? WOAH, man. WOAH. I drank well more than half a bottle of wine with dinner that night (and the next night) and pretended it was unrelated.
September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStacy
I am in denial of first grade's existence in my daughter's life. Join me?
September 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCalamity Jill
"I actually tried to squeeze out some tears but could not. So unsatisfying." OMG - that is sublime and so wonderfully descriptive. Mine just started kindergarten. Then I went home and worked - not nearly as dramatic or touching. It is amazing how the years pass but you have much to be proud of and thankful for. Congrats to Henry and thanks for making me smile deeply.
September 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
That video was just plain creepy. But I'm with you - normally very awesome at crying. I pride myself on that. :) You should too.

September 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBelle
Ugh, I am DREADING THIS. My daughter is only two, and I'm already dreading this. Love to you!
September 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteramanda
Really really great post. That last line is beautiful and one you should have great pride in having written. seriously.
September 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCameron
September 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKAZZ
I feel your pain. My little girl started pre-K this year(all-day universal pre-K through the public schools in our city). No more daycare fees, but also no more 'mama days' as she was part-time before. Two weeks into it, and when we get there, she goes walking right in w/ nary a glance back. And I'm left standing on the sidewalk wondering "how did this happen?" And then going to work and home and taking it out on unsuspecting friends and relatives.. because they don't know what it's like to have time go by this fast....
September 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternina
I feel like I'm going to get blasted for this, but here goes: I love love love that my son is in school now. Prior to him starting kindergarten, every day was an epic shrieking battle between him and his 2-yr old sister. My husband and I both work from home and by 2pm we were both ready to strangle someone. I think him being in kindergarten gave us our family back (if that's not a dramatic statement, I don't know what is) because now evenings and weekends are precious fun times that we all get to be together instead of a continuation of the shrieking angriness. Of course, I was sad and weepy the first day he went to school, but only that first day.
October 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbri

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