Barry Lewis: The bittersweet joy of the first day of school

Barry Lewis More Content Now

This is the week I wish I could turn the clock back.

To relive the moment I see, driving around in the early morning hours.

That time, when our three boys were really just boys, wearing first-day clothes, new backpacks and nervous smiles.

Holding each others’ hands tight, looking into our camera, and through clinched teeth with forced smiles, saying “Cheese!” in unison.

It’s a far cry from the three men who live with us today.

Twins trying to make their mark.

My oldest, a first responder who not only saves lives but has helped bring them into the world.

Now I have to tilt my head up in order to look into his eyes.

Twenty years ago, I had to lower my head to look into those eyes, which displayed a fear of the unknown, the common childhood trauma that arrives just before the school bus on that first day of class.

You don’t want them to go.

Not on that school bus.

Not with those older kids.

As you start to convince yourself that home schooling isn’t such a bad idea, the bus doors open and the driver offers an encouraging “Come on in!”

The boys whisper, “Bye.”

They slowly walk up the steps, take a window seat near the front, gently wave and stare at you with a “Why are you doing this to me?” look before the driver closes the door and travels a hundred feet until the next house and more unwilling passengers.

You picture them coming back eight hours later, full of tattoos, pierced lips and a smoker’s hacking cough.

Then you remember that at 7 and 4, they might have a hard time finding a ride to a tattoo shop.

You never think as a parent you’ll miss that moment.

I suppose that’s because when you’re a parent of kids that age, you don’t have the time to think about what you might be missing.

Not when you use so much energy dealing with your kids in the present.

But you do miss it.

Not the guilt. I could do without that.

I also wouldn’t want to go through all those hours of homework.

Each night, I’d wonder how I ever was able to graduate. Did the teachers just take pity on my parents and let me out?

As parents, we often think we have all the answers.

Especially when we talk to our kids.

Let me tell you, one night of helping your fourth-grader with his science, math or even history, and it quickly hits you like an unsuspected foul ball, that you still have a lot to learn.

Especially when it comes to fourth-grade, science, math and even history.

So I’d pass on helping the boys with homework, science projects and research reports.

But I wouldn’t mind watching them get on the school bus.

Just one more time.

For just one more picture.

Barry Lewis is the executive editor of the Times Herald-Record