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Get your juices flowing. (Back-to-School: best getting-ready-for-school books)

By Melissa Summers

Do you remember an orange juice commercial from the late 80’s where a family was getting ready to rush out on their day? Kids for school, parents for work all gathered around the table frantically eating breakfast?
I have a vivid memory from the summer before eight grade, that Citrus Hill Select commercial seemed to play on an endless loop and made me cry. I don’t know why exactly it made me cry, maybe because it was the end of August and that commercial was a constant reminder that school was starting again and summer was ending and another year of my life was passing by. (Also, maybe because I was a pretty unhappy kid.)
The chorus always got me: “Citrus Hill Suh-Lect gets your juices flowing! [A little faster] Citrus Hill Suh-Lect gets your juices FLOWING!”
I’d sing along and cry. It really does get your juices flowing. You know? *sniff, sniff*
I’d like to say this happened because I was 13 and being poisoned by hormones but, honestly, there’s are a lot of stupid things that make me cry at 32. Either I’m still living through the hormonal hell of being 13 or I’m an emotional freak of nature.

I bring this up because, even though I’m filled with giddy joy about the first day of school, I have a keen understanding of how hard it can be for kids and parents. Because, as a teenager, I cried at an orange juice commercial for a month before school started. But also because my daughter cried for the first three months of school for the first four years she went to school without me.

Madison believed after I dropped her off at preschool (and kindergarten and first grade) I was planning to run away to Mexico. At least that’s what it seemed she must be thinking when she firmly attached herself to my leg at drop off each day. We read a few books which helped her understand it’s normal to be wary of new situations but, uh, you have to do it anyway. (Which to be fair, I’m only starting to learn at 32.)

TheKissingHand.jpgThe Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a cute story about a raccoon who’s nervous about school, but, when his mother kisses his hand he carries the warmth of that kiss all day as he faces his fears. It would be nice if I could tell you Madison and I read this book and I kissed her hand and she marched into school without tears. It’s true, I kissed her hand but then she attached herself to my leg, ironically, a lot like a rabid raccoon with less biting and frothing, but more tears and drippy nose. Still, sometimes when she’s struggling, she’ll ask me to put lipstick on and kiss an index card and tuck it in her lunchbox.

WemberlyWorried.jpgThis family loves all of Kevin Henkes books, but Wemberly Worries holds a special place in our hearts. Sometimes, when Maddie is feeling tense about something (PS: I worry all the time. My poor, poor daughter has inherited this trait from me) she’ll say, “I’m feeling sort of Wemberly.” Wemberly worries about a lot of things, but especially about her first day of school. (Spoiler! It’s not as bad as Wemberly Worried.)

MyFirstdayofSchool.jpgMax and I have been enjoying My First Day Of School by Ricki Booker. Max is a little different than Madison in that on his first day of preschool he ran in the room and didn’t even say goodbye to me. He loves school and playing with his friends. I think he loves it so much he hasn’t given much thought to how different school will be now that he’s starting kindergarten without his best buddies he’s been in preschool with for the last two years. Today we went to visit his teacher and the classroom and this book has taken on a new, more significant meaning for him. I think it’s helping him define the uncertainty he’s feeling and he’s asking me questions while we read.

My method of handling my daughter’s separation anxiety was to feel incredibly guilty for giving her my temperament and to call my mother everyday asking her how long I cried at drop-off. Since neither of these methods was very effective, I thought I’d point you to Dr. Cindy Nurik’s advice to help make the transition to school more smooth.

She suggests settling into the school routine, bedtime especially, the week before the big day. She also suggests touring the school during the week or so before school, showing your child where the bathrooms are, where you’ll pick him up and where they’ll eat lunch. Hopefully you’ll also get to meet your child’s teacher and view the classroom during this visit. The doctor also suggests buying a new outfit for the first day of school, allowing your child to pick it out herself to bolster self esteem and independence. Doctor mandated shopping? Perfect.

tissues.jpgI almost forgot about your emotions as a parent taking your child to school, watching time pass and your child growing up and away from you. Maybe while you’re out buying backpacks, you’ll want to pick up a pack of tissues for yourself. If you must cry, at least cry with style.

Then again maybe you’ll invite your friends over to celebrate the beginning of the end of the daily question: “What are we doing today?” Because now we’ll all know what we’re doing today: “You’re going to school, and I’ll be doing…something else!” I predict I won’t be crying but I will be toasting to my freedom and new adventures for my kids. Cheers!

Next week marks the beginning of September and there are a lot of things to buzz about in September. Like, for example, Fall Hat Month or National Coupon Month and, fittingly, National Honey Month. Who knows what we’ll be buzzing about next week.

Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • My anxiety over the transition from daycare to preschool (notice I said mine, affected child seems just fine!) is manifesting itself by hunting down the perfect cereal/granola bar for my kid’s lunch. Seriously, I have apx. 10 different kinds in the pantry. Maybe you should review those next?!

  • momdotcom

    Dear Melissa, I have been reading SB for about 2 years now, and I feel I know you! Congrats on this new job. Love the “Buzz Off” banner–Logan did a great job. We, too, LOVE Wemberly Worried, at our house, as well as Henkes’ Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse. This new column is perfect for you–love the shopping tips. Best of luck!

  • Oh! The Kissing Hand! My husband gave this to Molly when she was six as a gift. We weren’t married yet and my kid was a little leary of this guy who was dating her Mom. But, this tender and sweet book became one of Moll’s favorites.
    Thanks for this reminder. I’ll have to get it out of Molly’s bookshelf, alongside the CS Lewis novels she’s become so fond of and take it out to show both Molly and my husband, her stepdad.

  • Gosh, I must be a freak because I always loved the first week or so of school. Lining up my new saddle shoes (yes I went to Catholic School)right next to my new school bag with all the new books and pens. I guess I just like new stuff. My oldest son just started 2nd grade and he was up at 5:00 asking if it was time to get up. My middle son is in his 2nd year of pre-k and he did great also (compared to last year’s crying fest, great was easy to get to). My baby will start next year. I think that is when I’ll fall apart.

  • Great book suggestions – I’ll be buying The Kissing Hand for sure for my oldest son, (and I guess for me, too!) The First Day of School looks like a great read, too. Thanks! I am having some serious anxiety over the fact that my boy is starting SCHOOL soon.