How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

The Third First Day at School

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My youngest son just had his first day at school. As it turned out, it was so much easier for him than it was for us.

You’d think it’d be no big deal, Lucas being my third son, with my two older boys having been in school for nearly a decade. Nope. You’d be wrong. Maybe this third First Day at School still cut deep because the blade was razor-sharpened on the fact that he’ll probably be our last.

Lizze has been homeschooling the little 4.5-year-old Spazmanian Devil for a while now to great success, but after weighing everything, we decided to look for a school. Nothing against homeschooling (put down your pitchforks and rulers, please), we figured in our life situation we’d be shortchanging him in a way if we didn’t.

So, after exhaustive research, approaching home-buying mental anguish, we finally made a choice. He’d visited the place twice and liked the school. We held our breath and set a calendar date a couple of months out for him to start.

Now, there’s a mental trick I play on myself to keep my mind from pooping its pants about some upcoming event. I use my incompetence with clocks and calendars to put myself in an “out of sight, out of mind” state of awareness. My internal progression goes something like this. Phhhht, a month away is practically forever. / It’s next week, whatevs. / Huh, it’s in a few days. / Wow, it’s tomorrow? / OH MY GOD IT’S TODAY!


When it did finally come, like so many momentous days, it began just like any other. I didn’t do anything different from any other morning and simply “acted normal” as I watched them drive off. He was calm as a lazy shrug.

I busied my anxious self with work and didn’t get a call from my wife or the school. I knew that no news was good news.

When she did finally call on the way home, I asked with how it went with an eagerness that bordered on squeally and she relayed what he’d answered to the same question…



We shared a laugh and might have said something about how apples don’t fall far from the tree. I hated school. I didn’t have any expectations with my boys about this, though. I never assume my kids would “be like me” in any way. My own dad excelled in school, even graduating Yale. In my case, the apple hit the ground, rolled down a hill, plopped into a river and floated a few miles away.

Later, when I asked him myself how it’d gone, he said…

“Gweat. I pwayed wiv my new fwiends.”


My heart fought between freezing and melting. I was thrilled on one hand, but honestly on the other there was this stupid stabbing twinge that made me want to ask if I was still his friend, too.

I knew the question would instantly make me the more childish participant in the conversation, so instead I smiled big, scrubbed his hair and played with him for a couple of hours, using my tools to “fix” a scooter that wasn’t broken. I admit I needed to reassure myself that I hadn’t been completely replaced in a day by smaller, unbearded companions.

Our kids growing up is exactly what our job is as parents, but it never gets easy, really. It’s just different each time they do.



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One Response to “The Third First Day at School”

  1. Laurie says:

    Aww big step! Whoa your wife just became even more of a rock star after reading she was homeschooling him! I hope he thrives!

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