Like kids all across this great nation, mine recently went back to school, and I find myself thinking about all the stuff that nobody ever told me about how their school would matter – to me.

I mean, sure, I knew I would be buying school supplies, and we would pick out a special outfit, and I would make sure they were clean and brushed and all. But what about this ginormous zit on my cheek?

When I was childless, I had no idea I would be worried about me and what I look like at summer’s end. But there I was the other day, age 45, peering into the mirror, considering how best to conceal the drying remains of a huge pimple on the first day of school. Thinking about how to wear my hair. Mentally choosing an outfit. You know — not too fancy, not too sloppy. Cute! Who doesn’t want to look cute the first day back?

And the homework! No one ever told me, not once, that having kids meant you would be doing first grade math again. And again! Once again for every child! That until a certain age, their homework is your homework, and if the six year old forgets her homework? You cannot blame the six year old. Because she’s six.

Oh and mean kids! Means kids, like the poor, you will always have with you. I mean always: That kid who snubbed yours, or said that nasty thing, or those parents who apparently decided apropos of nothing (as far as you can tell) that no, in fact, they don’t want their kid playing with your kid because their kid keeps asking for playdates but they stop actually returning phone calls and you finally have to explain to their kid (who is all of 8 years old) that her parents aren’t calling — those people? They don’t go anywhere after the unpleasant occurrence! The awkward irritation just goes on and on!

It’s not like an adult situation where you can arrange to simply not cross paths with the jerk — the jerk is a second-grader! Who sits in your kid’s class everyday! Or they’re her parents! And every time you see that jerky kid, or unthinking adults, you feel another little twinge in your heart for your child — because, in fact, you would spare your baby any pain on this earth, if only you could, and yet you can’t even guarantee basic decency from the people around him.

And speaking of your heart, no one ever tells you that you will find yourself in an actual, living-breathing emotional relationship with your children’s teachers. That it will hit you like a ton of bricks one day that the teachers spend more hours of the day with your children than you do. That the teacher is, in fact, a co-raiser of your child — particularly if, as is the case in our school, the kids generally have the same teacher for two or even three years in a row. And that furthermore, if those teachers are deeply wonderful, as our kids’ teachers are, you will come to love them, truly.

I choke up a little bit just thinking about Ms. D–, teacher of the girl, and Ms. W–, teacher of the boy, because I know the love and respect they have for my babies, and all the other parents’ babies who pass through their doors, and can’t begin to express what that love and respect and effort and professionalism — in the best, warmest, highest-calling sense of the word — mean to me. It’s a kind of relationship, a kind of love, that nobody ever told me I would have, but it’s bone-deep, and very real.

And I’m grateful for it, because that love, those teachers, that school – all have made my own life a bigger, wider, broader place to be.

And the kids are doing great.

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