My Nest May be Empty, But My Kid Still Calls Me Mom

The Last First Day of School

By on Aug 13, 2013 in Mom Life | 14 comments

English: A small box of Kleenex.

English: A small box of Kleenex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband leaves for work really early every morning, so I’m used to sleeping through the 5:00 a.m. alarm. But today was different: School has started and once again, my daughter must begin her day with a cruel 7:00 a.m. 0 period. She instructed her dad to make sure she got out of bed at 5:30, which he did. Then he tried to do the same to me.

“I’ve got another half hour,” I mumbled.

This was true. Yesterday, my daughter noted that she would rather not lug a full lunchbox around school until they issue her a new locker — and that may not be for a couple of days. So freed of the responsibility of making her lunch, I made an executive decision to postpone my shower until after I drop her off… which allowed me to stay in bed an extra 30 minutes.

She spent most of Monday finishing up her summer assignments. I remembered that the light was still on in her room when I went to bed.

“How late were you up last night?” I asked.

No answer. That means she only slept for a handful of hours. I have stopped nagging her about this. Of course, she needs more sleep — but between her studies and assignments and that dreadful early period, it’s not possible. That’s why I also took it so easy on her over the summer, when she stayed in bed past noon nearly every day, as if she could bank all those extra hours of sleep for the Fall.

At 6:30, we were backing out of the driveway.

“Did you ever read The Crucible?” she asked.

No. Death of a Salesman is the only Arthur Miller play I’m familiar with, and it’s been a couple of decades since I gave it a good read.

“The first thing we’re doing is taking a test on it,” she explained, “and I’m having trouble keeping track of Putnam, Parris and Proctor. Too many characters beginning with ‘P.'”

So we drove to school in near silence while she tried to create a mental cheat sheet on which character was which.

We arrived at our destination at 6:50 — right on time. There were already several students milling about.

“I will see you at 3:00,” I said before she slammed the door shut and began her senior year of high school.

I drove away, feeling sad that I had not taken a photo of her to commemorate this occasion. I didn’t even try; she put the kibosh on first day pictures years ago. The only photographic remembrance I will have is the senior portrait she posed for last week, and she was not all that happy about doing that. I’m pretty sure the only reason she went along with it is that it was required for the yearbook, and her father and I insisted. We were happy to receive framed senior photos as gifts from each of her older cousins as they finished 12th grade and we plan to do the same.

“I think it’s weird to give people a photo of yourself as a gift,” she said.

Not if those people are your family and friends who love you.

I got home and fired up Facebook and saw all the updates from my friends with kids who will be graduating this year, and I was reminded of the day I walked her into school for the first time, 12 years ago. The PTA at our elementary school had a tradition of hosting the mothers of the new students with a reception they called the “Tissue Tea,” where the party favors were be-ribboned purse-size packets of Kleenex.

I could use one of those right now. I have a feeling I will need a case of them this year.


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  1. You know *I* feel your pain. This year is going to fly by for both of you (all of you). The good news is, things are happening exactly the way they are supposed to. Sending many hugs to you today!


    August 13, 2013

    • Thanks, Melisa. I may be crying on your shoulder this year (virtually, of course).

      Donna Schwartz Mills

      August 13, 2013

  2. You know I’m feeling your pain…:-) those memories are only two years past for me and you still made me cry.

    Megan may not think pictures are a big deal now, but a day will come when she does. We have 2 pics I’ve come to love. One is a family portrait we had taken in KKs junior year. It’s all of us in one place and captures a moment gone and not to return. The other is a family portrait we had taken just after she was born. Two moments froze. in time of a family together and yet moving in inexorable directions.

    Keep insisting on those photos. And I’m sure she will do fine on her test. She’ll probably come home and tell you she was one of only a few who actually took the test seriously. That’s what happened to Kk every time.


    August 13, 2013

    • Thanks, Karoli. I did try to tell her that some day she’ll WANT to see old photos of herself in high school. But that may not be something you understand when you’re just 17.

      Donna Schwartz Mills

      August 13, 2013

  3. Oh man! Senior year! I have a Freshman who just started today and I can barely envision the day, 4 years from now, when it’s my Last First day for him. Bittersweet, for sure, Donna.

    Sarah Auerswald

    August 13, 2013

  4. I can’t imagine! My second grader ran away from me this morning when I was in the middle of telling him to have a good day. He wouldn’t pose for a picture and the older one had gone in before I had remembered to ask him. It seems like time is passing so quickly these days.

    Yvonne Condes

    August 16, 2013

    • It is way too fast, Yvonne. Megan’s 2nd grade feels like a couple of years ago instead of a decade. Enjoy this time with them!

      Donna Schwartz Mills

      August 16, 2013

  5. I have 4 more days of sleeping in, and then I will remember to cherish each day as much as I can. Thank you for everything you share as both a reminder and a warning.

    Kim Tracy Prince

    August 16, 2013

    • You make me feel a little like the canary in the coalmine, @Kim! LOL Have fun starting school next week.

      Donna Schwartz Mills

      August 16, 2013

  6. I’m in the same boat, Donna. Hard to believe we have a couple of seniors on our hands! I like the idea of the Tissue Tea. Maybe we need to have our own Tissue Tequila.

    (My kids refuse to do the first-day-of-school pics now, too. Can I ground them for that?)

    Marsha Takeda-Morrison

    August 16, 2013

    • I am actually so glad to have friends who are dealing with the same thing, Marsha (I especially like the idea of a tequila tea — there might be a cocktail in that). And you make me feel better knowing that even your girls balk at the first day of school photo.

      Donna Schwartz Mills

      August 16, 2013

  7. I can barely stand my son is starting Middle School Monday – I’ll need a lot of tissues senior year for sure – they grow up too and we become embarrassing and annoying too fast!!!


    August 16, 2013

  8. This is the first year (8th grade) that we didn’t get the 1st day photo. I told my kid that I am going to make him stand in front of the sign after school this weekend and pretend it’s a first day photo.

    Great post, Donna. It’s all so fleeting.


    August 16, 2013


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