I still remember the excitement of the first day of school, and I’m old. The smell of newly-sharpened pencils and the tower of new books stacked on top of our desks was mesmerizing.

It was also fun because my early September birthday coincided with the beginning of school and the Miss America pageant, which I was confident I would win someday.

(Spoiler alert: I didn’t.)

Finding my friends and comparing summer adventures and the latest shoe styles was uppermost in my mind. We wore uniforms, so the only way to be unique was with a great pair of shoes.

(Another spoiler alert: shoes all looked pretty much the same, too.)

The first days of school were really something to look forward to; the problem was we eventually came to the realization that the tower of books was actually going to have to be read and mastered and that there was no do-over and suggesting maybe October would be a better time to start the new school year once we had actually started didn’t change a thing.

I remember our oldest child, Christopher, on his first day of kindergarten. There was never a child more prepared, more excited about what he was going to learn in kindergarten, more fresh-faced and eager and ready to march down the hallway to his classroom.

We had been talking for weeks about this day, picking his outfit, his backpack, his new shoes, practicing the spelling of his name. It was not to be shortened to Chris, under any circumstance.

(Third spoiler alert: that delusion lasted until about Halloween. There were five other boys named Christopher, and they all went by Chris. End of story.)

When I went to pick him up from his first day of school, he was exhausted, cranky and incredulous. “The teacher said we all have to come back tomorrow. I didn’t even learn how to read or write. I hate kindergarten.”

Yep. We had prepared him very well for the first day of school. Problem was, our literal five-year-old thought the first day was the only day he would be required to attend kindergarten.

Back to the drawing board.

That required some fancy explaining, back-pedaling and tons of face stretching to prove by our smiles just how fun the rest of the school year was going to be.

My guess is that a lot of you are now in the same boat we were with Chris. The first days of excitement and exploration are over, the classroom smells are stale, the new shoes are scuffed. Time for the face stretching to begin.

How do you keep the mornings fun, the lunches eaten, the homework finished, day after day, until the school district says the year is officially over?

The good news is you have Pinterest these days; the bad news is you have Pinterest these days. You feeling pressured to make radish rosettes for the kids’ lunchboxes is counterproductive.

No one knows her child better than you do. If he needs a visual representation of how many days it will be until Saturday, you use stickers.

Buy child-sized marker boards and let your child be the teacher and you be the student when it’s time for homework. Great practice for them and great fun when you “accidentally” make mistakes they can correct for you.

Keep the conversation going—about school and new friends and the teacher and the janitor and the funny things that happen and how the bulletin boards look and what new word she learned that day.  

Set up a card table on the front porch or the back patio for homework, record their reading and let them listen to how wonderfully they’re doing.  

Your child is learning and growing and stretching horizons. Pretty exciting, even when it does require more than one day of kindergarten.  

Final spoiler alert: it gets even better with some creative tweaking to keep things fresh and fun.

(And you’re doing great, Mom and Dad.)

Vicki Bahr

I'm a mother of four, grandmother of seven, wife of John for forty five years and incurable optimist, word lover, and story sharer. I've worked and played at many careers, from proofreader to preschool teacher, human interest newspaper columnist to medical records clerk. Each path has afforded me the opportunity to appreciate the warmth of humanity and to hopefully spread a lifetime of smiles, empathy, and God's inspiration along the way. My life continues to be one of delight. With experience comes understanding, with understanding comes peace.