To The First-Time School Mom

Should I first hand you a Kleenex?

Today’s a big day for you and your child. Five kids ago, when I dropped my first child off at school, my first thought was…

#*$&%. We should’ve left earlier. That’s right, we were nearly half an hour late to our FIRST child’s, FIRST day of school, EVER. Insert #parentingfail here.

In a stroke of genius, I called my own mom through my tears as I sped along the road to get our son to school. Her wisest words to date were these gems, “Mom up, Kathryn. This is not a big deal. It will only BE a big deal if you keep crying.” Spoken like a true former school teacher.

We heeded the advice, took Will to the classroom, skipped the happy first day of school pictures (we took them the next day) and hurriedly rushed to his teacher. He glanced, glanced, back at us and said, “Y’all can go ahead and go. I’ll be fine.”

And he was.

5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known as a First-Time School Mom

That little kindergartner is now a full-fledged seventh grader. I’ll be taking him to middle school today and I’m quite certain I won’t even get the glance as he hurries off to class. It will probably be more like an eye roll.

About one billion moms will tell you:

“Oh, the years go by so fast.”

“Just yesterday we were in kindergarten.”

“They don’t stay little for long.”

“Enjoy the days of no homework, ’cause it’s coming.”

“This is nothing compared to high school/college/marriage/first job/first baby/other life event.”

My advice is simpler and not as patronizing:

“Be proud of your kid.”

That’s it.

You taught them how to eat by themselves so they will totally rock lunch. The yogurt won’t get eaten, but somehow they’ll manage to make it to dismissal without passing out.

You taught them how to pee and poop without assistance, they will own the bathroom. And, if they have an accident they will be fine. Maybe a little wet, but fine.

You taught them how to make friends and in a few days new names will begin to fill their vocabulary. Soon, his buddy Max will be more influential than you are. This is normal, do not panic.

You taught them the love of learning and they will surprise you with what they can fit into that brain of theirs. So if the kid next to them reads chapter books and they can barely sound out “dog” and “cat,” don’t sweat it. It will all level out. Trust me.

You worked hard to get them here, don’t blow it by hovering and telling them how to do it. They’ll find their own way and it will likely not be your way. They do this to prepare you for the teenage years. Again, completely normal. Frustrating as hell, but normal.

As a new school mom, you’ll screw up in carline, forget to turn in the yellow form, send in the wrong snack, pack the wrong change of clothes. You’ll delete the “DO NOT DELETE this email for any reason” email. You’ll forget that it’s class superstar day, mark the supplies wrong and fill out the wrong volunteer form. You’ll volunteer for something you hate, wish for the teacher you don’t have and complain about the things that don’t matter. You’ll get your panties in a twist about where people park, who walks their kids into class and why the no cell phone signs aren’t bigger. And guess what? We all did it. Even that PTA Mom who has makeup on, her hair fixed and does all that volunteering without breaking a sweat, did it.

You’ll be fine. It. Will. Be. Fine.

Your groove is coming. It may take a few more kids, a few more years, a few more teachers, but in a few years you’ll be the mom with many of the answers, holding out the tissues for the rookie moms.

This school thing is pretty awesome. The seeing your kids get smarter, make friends, learn a new skill, problem solve and grow up is a beautiful thing. Beautiful. Don’t waste it wallowing in the corner with tears about what was. THIS is your now and it’s a helluva lot of fun.

Happy first day of school.


  1. verdinalouisa on August 20, 2013 at 9:29 am

    I’ve got to share this one, big-time! It took me a lot longer to realize these things.

    God bless you!

  2. Valerie on August 20, 2013 at 9:46 am

    This was awesome!!! Great post, Kathryn. My very favorite parts…”you’ll forget it’s class superstar day” and “you’ll get your panties in a twist over where people park”!!! LOL Yup…and then you let it all go!!! Hugs. Happy First Day of School!

  3. Alexis D on August 20, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Thanks. I needed this. Especially today!

    • Kathryn on August 20, 2013 at 10:20 am

      I wrote this for you Alexis…often when I write I think of a particular person and today, that was you! Nate will do awesome!

  4. Victoria on August 20, 2013 at 10:19 am

    🙂 Thanks for the virtual tissue K.

  5. Cathy on August 20, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I can say that I have been through almost all of the above – and amazingly my kids seem to have turned out pretty well so far! I have one in grad school, one in college, and the youngest will be a junior, spending his last two years of high school in temporary buildings because our high school was damaged by the fertilizer plant explosion. I will confess that taking the oldest to middle school was harder on me than taking the youngest to his first day of kindergarten. And this last spring, dropping the youngest off to ride a borrowed bus to a neighboring town right after the explosion brought tears to my eyes as well. But we have all survived! And we are fine.

  6. Randy Loving on August 20, 2013 at 10:56 am

    GrandMothers go thru it too, but in different ways. The one that sticks out most is three days notice to make an Early American dress, shawl and cap for Capstone for middle grand Jillian….three days notice. Just moved had no clue where the fabric store was, wanted to strangle daughter and grand daughter. Turned out fabulous and she was best dressed, had to attend presentation since her Mother was teaching, didn’t have a clue how to get to the school so I went an hour early and sat in parking lot, about ten minute drive. Still pouting because I had to stay home and keep 2 and 3 while number 1 Lauren goes off to A&M accompanied by her parents. Just knew she needed me to take my SUV since they filled two. Kept giving her things for school until her Mother ordered me to stop!
    I so enjoy your blogs, you are a talented woman worth more than Rubies!

  7. Amber Fogarty on August 20, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Sitting here with tears streaming down my face…with a first grader and a little one in PreK-3 this year, I still VERY MUCH feel like a rookie Mom, but I’m starting to see the light, and it seems to be getting a bit easier. One. Day. At. A. Time.

    The weekend before school started, the kids were having some Nana & Pop-Pop time and I was organizing rooms and gearing up for the first week of school. As I was doing some organizing in Grace’s room, the song Cinderella came on the radio, and I flat out lost it. We’re talking full out sobs on her bed as the song says, “And all too soon the clock will strike midnight and she’ll be gone.” My husband came sprinting up the stairs thinking I was injured and found me bawling my eyes out because our kids are growing up so fast. I warned him that we might repeat that same scene at the beginning of every school year and a much worse version when they head off to college. At least he knows what to expect…

    Weeping Moms Unite! Sending love to all of you as the school year gets underway!

    • Spring on August 21, 2013 at 9:27 am

      My husband called me at work 2 weeks ago and said, “Cinderella” through a rough, I’ve been crying voice. Of course, I have no clue why he’s mentioning Cinderella…and then he says, in that straight through the heart voice that only a loved husband can use, “Whenever I tell her no and it’s something that she should do, or something that would be fun for her and I’m being too lazy, just say Cinderella”. And through the tears and the heart that turned to mush I agreed.
      Tomorrow is first day of first grade, without her BFF who is in a different class this year. The tears are close to the rim now. In my heart, I know she’ll be fine, but just as you said, they grow too quickly and every new year is just a reminder.

      ~Spring, Proud member of Weeping Moms! 🙂

  8. janell on August 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    This was written for me. My oldest starts kindergarten in a few weeks and I don’t have a clue what we’re in for. Thank you!

  9. Iris Chavez McDonald on August 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks Kathryn! This post made me smile as I remembered that same day from two years ago. Now he is in second grade and I am so very proud of the little man that he is and is becoming. Next year will be his little sis and my husband may need to be the one reading this!

  10. gina minicozzi on August 20, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    I am smiling! All so true. Miss Y’all.

    • Kathryn on August 20, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Miss you, too, Gina. This photo of Will reminds me of when our boys were just starting out – now look at them!

  11. Dpugh on August 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Just finished back to school night for 240 PK kids–lots of wisdom in your words–might share on Thursday for 270 kinder parents! You impress me, Kathryn!!!

  12. Linda Conner on August 20, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    As I recall. I first met you when you were expecting Will. You were so young and enthusiastic, it was refreshing. I was already a grandma and it seemed the only thing we had in common was our faith and our love of Jesus. I have enjoyed reading about your life journey with five wonderful children a great supportive husband. All I can think of to say is a job well done, Kathryn, a job well done.

    • Kathryn on August 20, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      What we have in common is all that matters, Lynn. Big Texas love to you.

  13. Leanne on August 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    I’m crying already and my oldest goes to kindergarten NEXT year! I will have to remember this next August!

  14. All Bright, Shiny and New on August 23, 2013 at 7:32 am

    […] As fast as the summer went, I know all too well how quickly this school year will fly. To my seventh, fourth, third and first grader, live it up, y’all. Do something without asking and ask for forgiveness later. Forget to turn in a paper and talk to your buddy instead. Enjoy recess like it will last all day. Tell your teacher how much you appreciate her/him. Take some risks. Make some 100s, but don’t let them rule your life. Learn a little, laugh more and love the most. Let’s make the 2013-2014 school year our best ever. And, first-time school moms? I have some advice for you, too. […]

  15. Claire on August 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Thank you for this post. My son is going to start kindergarten in a couple of weeks, and I’m a wreck. Preschool was tough (although I ended up loving it), but this is even harder. And, I won’t feel that you’re being condescending if you tell me that the years go by too fast. I’ve already discovered that they do!

  16. […] Kathryn Whitaker over at Team Whitaker had a post last week called To The First-Time School Mom. She offers some great words of advice/comfort, which can be boiled down to two phrases: “Be […]

  17. Nicole on September 4, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Oh goodness… you nailed it. We just sent our oldest to 2nd grade yesterday. His sister is in her last year of preschool. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry when the bus came. And yes, I have been there with all those things that you mention (forms, car lines, etc.). It will be fine, but it can be hard to recognize in the moment. I love your advice best… Be proud, because really that’s what really matters.

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