The time of year when kids swap out inflatable rafts and sunscreen for pencils and notebook paper is upon us once again. For many people, kids and parents alike, this year is like so many years before, a regular occurrence that marks the passing of another summer and the coming of another period of growth and learning. For others, this year may mark the final chapter in a long and memorable journey through academia. And for others still, this year is just the beginning, the very first time someone’s baby will step on the school bus and wave goodbye to early childhood.

When I was a kid—nothing makes you feel older than starting a sentence like that—this time of year brought with it the anticipation and anxiety of potential. There were new friends to make, old friends to reconnect with after months of separation and countless other opportunities. Oh yeah, and there was something about learning wrapped up in there. It also brought an end to the freedom of staying up until midnight, sleeping until noon and playing video games or baseball during all hours in between. In short, there was some excitement, but it was mostly just the end of summer and the start of nine months of obligation.

Now that I’m a father, my view of school has changed. Boo is just eighteen months old at this point, so school is still a distant concept for him. But Bubby is four. This week marks the first day of pre-K classes at his daycare. While that is really just a minor milestone, it represents something monumental to Wife and me: One year from now, our first child will enter kindergarten.

Our baby will start school.

The anticipation and anxiety are still there. What will the teachers be like? Will he get along with the other kids? What will his favorite subject be? But for Wife and me as parents, it runs so much deeper than just kindergarten, or even high school. This is where his future starts. The habits he forms and lessons he learns now will pave the road to anywhere he chooses to go. And it is our job to ensure he makes the most of it and chooses the right road.

No pressure, right?

So what does back to school mean to you since becoming a parent? That’s the question I asked earlier this month. Big thanks to all who shared thoughts and stories.

My son just started going to playgroup and I know technically it’s not even a school, but yeah, he was going to stay away from home for a couple of hours for first time, so it was a biiiig transition for himself as well as us. I was both excited to see that cute guy in a uniform as well as anxious about how he will manage to survive without any familiar face around. Fortunately, his playschool had this arrangement where for the first week parents had to attend the school with kids for one hour. From next week onwards, kid’s were on their own and they also increased the timings gradually, like for first month it was only for 1.5 hours, then 2 hours, and now he attends school for 2.5 hours. He loves school and his teacher and all the activities in the school and sings rhymes all the time at home. Yesterday night he brought his backpack and was urging me to put on shoes and take him to school, AT 9 PM. That that’s how much he loves going there and having fun. I know, of course, this might not last once he starts the actual school when he is older. But right now it’s fun to see him so enthusiastic about school. Oh, by the way he’s 2 years old currently. 

Comment provided by the author of Making Peace With Life.

The whole idea of “Back to School” is so complicated for me – mother AND teacher. Needless to say, I can’t really remember a time in my life when fall didn’t represent a transition back to the school environment. For myself, it now feels a bit more tense, more stressful. The weight of all the decisions has made this time of year less carefree: Where will the kids go to school? Will they adjust well? What if there is a bully in their classroom(s)? And, perhaps most importantly, how will I adjust? When you are the learner (or even the teacher), the world feels so bright and full of opportunity when school begins. Now, on this side of parenthood, I see how complex the whole system is. But not all is lost. I tell myself that my children stand to learn so much: overcoming adversity, discovering their learning style, and understanding their passions. And, let’s be honest, they have so much left still to teach me. 

Lauren is the author of Unlearning: Confessions of a Scholar Mom.

I’m terrified of school now!

Our little one is not even three yet and every September since she’s been born I cry my heart out at the pictures in the newspapers and on the evening news of the little kids starting school for the very first time.

I never thought much of the back to school ads on tv, uniforms in the shop windows and packets of ten copybooks in plastic wrap. The idea of school was far behind behind me. But now the older my daughter gets the more and more I fear everything associated with back to school.

The reason being, when my daughter finally does start primary school… in 2019 no less… it means my baby is well and truly gone, my toddler has disappeared, and the little girl who I want to need me so much will have a sudden freedom and independence.

There will be hours of the day when I don’t know what she has done, what new things she has learned, who she’s talked to or how she’s felt. It’ll be as much of a learning curve for Momma and Papa Bear as much as it will be for her.

The idea of her starting school is well and truly on my mind so I have another two years to prepare myself 🙂

There will be tears and a lot of them will be mine.

Geraldine is the owner and sole author of Over Heaven’s Hill, a family and parenting blog.

The line between encouraging your children’s learning and clinging to their childhoods is one that gets thinner and thinner with the beginning of each new year. Regardless of what chapter of life you and your kids are on, be sure to bookmark all your favorite memories. Try as you might, your babies won’t stay babies forever. And that can be a difficult lesson for parents to learn.