The buses keep on coming

As my daughter starts middle school, it doesn’t get easier

I thought parenting would be easy by now, but then another bus came.

When our daughter was born, I had a list of what I thought the biggest challenges would be: Getting her to sleep through the night, diaper changing, teething, potty training and making sure she didn't end up a Montreal Canadiens fan. That was pretty much my entire list.

Then it came time to send her to kindergarten.

For years our little girl ran around the house not sleeping, filling diapers and teething – as kids will do. Now the house would be quiet during the day. Driving her to school that first morning wasn't a big deal, walking out the classroom door and leaving her there was. But as every parent learns, that's just what you do. You leave and she becomes someone else's kid for part of the day.

By day three it had become routine. I got through it, and thankfully the hardest part of parenting was over.

First grade started, and she'd actually be getting on a bus to go to school. This, I quickly learned, was much worse than kindergarten. We had this tiny little girl whose Dora the Explorer backpack was almost as big as she was, and we'd be sending her off on her own. This definitely had to be the hardest part of parenting, I thought.

We waited with her at the end of the driveway. When the bus came her mom held her hand and walked her across the street. The steps seemed absolutely huge, but she got up them and made her way to her assigned seat. I think. She was so small we couldn't see her head above the seats. I watched from the safety of our Jeep, where I searched for whoever it was that was chopping onions.

Again, after a few days it all became routine. Finally, the hardest part of parenting was over.

This went on for approximately five grades. I was lulled into thinking that this parenting thing was pretty easy. Granted, my now-11-year-old has been pretty easy-going all along. She's an only child, so it's almost like having a short adult living with us. We watch many of the same shows (though my tastes tend to include “Phineas and Ferb” anyway), she almost always has had the vocabulary of someone much older and she knows that a Habs sweater is about the worst thing a person can wear.

But something was laying in wait to pounce upon our comfortable routine. That something? Middle school. There would be no Dora the Explorer backpacks, no sneakers that light up and no crayons in her school supplies. Of course, these things slowly disappeared over the past few years anyway, but keep in mind that I'm not always in the right frame of mind when I think about my daughter getting older.

As we approach the start of another school year, knowing she is excited to head off to middle school makes things better. The day will come when we put her on the bus to the next big phase of her life. It won’t be easy, but at least the hardest part of parenting will be over, right?

Bill Burke is a writer who lives in southern N.H. with his wife and daughter and is happy that parenting must get easier from now on.

Categories: Dad on Board