Saathi parks the car in the grass lawn that abuts the school and we walk back in the damp grass joining the throngs who are headed inside. Saathi and Pattu head to her class with Laddu while Ammu and I head to hers. There are quite a few familiar faces. I smile, nod and take a seat next to my daughter. The home room teacher plays a couple of videos which I barely pay attention to. I skim through the sheaf of papers on the desk Ammu selected for herself at the very back of the class.
“Don’t you want to be up front where you can actually see and focus?” I ask only half teasing. She shakes her head resolutely and takes her seat. I shrug and sit next to her. I fill in surveys, write a letter to the teacher, fill in forms offering to volunteer my time at school and take in the amount of work that third grade seems to encompass. I feel a rush of pity and affection for my child who seems to be leaning on me for the same reason.
The teacher goes into detail about how the school year is structured. She touches on clustering of students for Math, the semester system where Social Studies and Science will be swapped. She talks about the dreaded PSSAs. She then pauses dramatically and announces there will be no snacks in class.
I inhale sharply, the enormity of it all hinging on that one statement. If the previous years had been marginally difficult from Kindergarten, third grade seems to be a steep incline. I think of my poor children rushing from class to class, answering tests, keeping tabs on many different things, squeezing in a mini recess after lunch before they are done for the day. I imagine them home laboring over homework that should take about 40 minutes according to their teacher.
For a moment I wish the school year was a distant thought and that we were trapped in perpetual summer. I shake my head and snap out of it. The session ends and I walk up to the teacher, Ammu in tow and introduce myself. We exchange pleasantries and she promises a fabulous third grade. I will myself to believe her as I walk towards Saathi who is heading out of Pattu’s class with a similar dazed look on his face.
We make our way home after a detour to grab a pizza. The children seem to be excited about school. I look back on my childhood and realize I really looked forward to school. To the newness, the adventure that came from beginning something fresh.
This morning I call the doctor’s office to make sure we have the necessary immunizations in place for all our children. The nurse assures me we are up to date. I run through my mental checklist and realize I am as ready as can be.
The bags are ready, the school supplies bought, divvied and bagged. The clothes are still in their original packaging from the stores I ordered online. Shoes still fit and I have new sets of colorful socks on my dresser. The rest of the week will see me purge their closets, get rid of old moldy shoes and ill-fitting sandals. It will see me apply online for clearances and correspond with other parents like me.
On Monday, I will stand outside my home clicking a few thousand pictures as my children spread their wings and fly. Then I will walk back home and relish a peace that I have earned.