Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

No first day of school tears here September 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:35 AM
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My oldest daughter and my son in a photo taken in May.

MY YOUNGEST STARTED his first day of his final year of high school this morning.

I feel as if I should be crying or something. But I’m not.

By now, by the third child, after 20 years of first days of school, it’s not such a big deal any more. The excitement and the anticipation just aren’t there.

It’s not that I’m a negligent mom who doesn’t care about her child or her child’s education. Rather, the first day of school novelty wore off long ago.

Last night in our house, there was no last-minute packing of the backpack, no pre-school-day jitters. Rather my concern leaned more toward making sure the 17-year-old got to sleep at a reasonable hour.

He is a night owl. If my teen had his way, classes would start around 11 a.m. So today, really, begins the battle of trying to get him to get enough sleep. This issue causes much strife in our household. Next year, at college, he’s on his own.

My focus right now is directed in guiding my son toward selecting a college. He has the smarts—an ACT test score of 32 and nearly a 4.0 GPA—to get in anywhere. But he certainly doesn’t have the money. However, I’ve encouraged him to apply wherever he wishes because maybe, just maybe, he’ll get a financial aid package that will allow him to afford a school he couldn’t otherwise afford.

I’ve suggested he make two college lists: a dream list and a realistic list.

In the meantime, during the first semester of his senior year of high school, my boy is enrolled in a rigorous course of study: Introduction to Economics, Advanced Placement Calculus, Advanced Chemistry and CIS Anatomy/Physiology. He’s also taking speech and logic at the local community technical college. By graduation in June, my son should have more than a semester of college credits earned.

I’ve encouraged him to pursue these college credits. They’re free, I keep telling him. Why wouldn’t you? He understands.

And so these are my thoughts this morning as my last child, who is eight years younger than his oldest sister and six years younger than his other sister, begins his senior year of high school.

No tears shed in this household. But next year at this time, when my husband and I are dropping our youngest off at his dorm, or seeing him off at the airport—if he manages to get into a college on his dream list—I expect the tears will fall fast and steady.

IF YOU’RE A PARENT with school-age children, how did the first day of school go for you? Share your thoughts and/or experiences in a comment.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Back at school: new bathrooms and new computers September 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:56 PM
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HE’S HOME FROM HIS FIRST DAY of his junior year at Faribault High School.

My 16-year-old doesn’t talk much. Prying information out of him is akin to pulling teeth. So I try really hard not to pepper him with questions. But I can’t help myself as I attempt to phrase questions that don’t require a simple “yes” or “no” answer.

Initially I fail miserably.

“How was your first day of school?” I ask.

“Good,” he says.

I follow him into the kitchen where he is downing a glass of milk. He loves milk, always has.

“What classes are you taking?”

He rattles off a list that includes AP physics, pre-calculus, chemistry, psychology, American government and computer aided drafting.

“You’re taking a lot of hard classes,” I observe.

He shrugs, doesn’t really answer. I know that for him, my scientific, mathematically-inclined, computer-oriented son, who scores way above average on those assessment tests that everyone else whines about, these classes are a perfect fit. I am glad that I am not him; I wouldn’t like, or do well, in most of his classes. I am not the science and math type.

He settles in with his laptop on a corner of the sofa while I continue working on a travel feature in my nearby office.

“They got new bathrooms,” he says, offering his first real take on his first day back at school. “And new computers.”

I rush into the living room. I’m not going to let this moment of conversational opportunity pass.

“What do you mean new bathrooms?” I ask.

“They got new walls, new toilets, doors,” he briefs me.

“They didn’t have doors?” I probe.

Not in one of the bathrooms, the one no one used, he says.

I’m dismayed at the lack of respect for students’ privacy. But I don’t tell my son that, only think it. He doesn’t particularly like his mom to have an opinion on school “stuff.”

Instead, I ask, “What kind of computers did they get?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t been in the computer lab.”

That ends our short exchange. He’s focused now on his computer screen, not really caring if I hear anything more about his first day of his junior year of high school.  After all, he’s told me the important “stuff” about new computers and upgraded bathrooms with new toilets and doors.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling