jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

An Ode to the Second Day of School

kids on porch

Trying to smile on the first day of school
September 2017

The first day of school is a shitstorm of pain.

Is it sunny and hot with a chance of cold rain?

Why is it so damn early, every year such a shock?

The sun’s hardly risen, who set that darn clock?!

Do you need extra gym clothes packed in a bag?

Will your new slip-on Converse All-Stars get a red flag?

(Because suddenly they’ve changed the dress code for play,

Those Converse All-Stars will break your ankle, they say?!!)


That summer reading book, where was the last place you saw it?

In a beach bag? Under a bed? Did a dog gnaw it?

There’s drama, so much drama, over what to wear.

Boots with shorts? Collared shirts! Now what about their hair?

And of course it’s not the clothing nor the shoes that actually brings tears.

It’s first day of school jitters, who-will-I-sit-with fears.

Yes, we’ve been breaking up for weeks, my kids and I.

They’ve been throttling each other, me yelling ‘til I cry,

In turn bored and then hyper, clingy then rage,

Mumbling mean things about Mom, drama fit for a stage.


Sleeping in, lazy beach days, don’t get me wrong.

Summer is beautiful, but it gets rather long.

And late August seems like a drawn out movie where the weak one dies.

Dances With Wolves meets Lord of the Flies.

Smart parents know, it’s just transition, code word for ‘change’.

This ain’t our first rodeo, it’s our home on the range


School pictures on the porch, new shoes a little loose in the toes,

With one of my middle children petulant, teary-eyed, itching for a row.

“I hate these stupid pictures,” she’ll say like clockwork.

“I grew you in my body,” says I, “I get a picture.” [You jerk.]

“She’s got a point,” my oldest says with a shrug.

And they line up on the porch in a first day of school hug.


Load the car, last check, what the hell do they need?

Then tear down the street, laying rubber, Godspeed.

They say, “Don’t come in! A quick drop off is good!”

But when I hit the parking lot someone suggests that I could,

Maybe just walk them in the doors and come see their new desk,

And before you know it, they’re all holding my hands with the grip of grim death.

Until they peel away from me, mom left by the cubbies,

As they see their new classroom, their teacher or buddies.


Then I walk back through the hallways somewhat adrift,

Because as much as we’ve all hungered for this day, still, it’s a rift.

This year I didn’t cry as I drove away, and yet,

There is a rush of emotion that I always get.

You see? It’s all sadness and joy and anxiety and glee.

First day of school is beat. Take it from me.


But the second day of school? It’s as easy as pie.

It’s like we’ve been doing it forever, and I know why.


The second day of school is the gift that arrives each year,

If only we face the first day and persevere .

Books are in bags, water bottles are filled.

We eat a hot breakfast, relaxed and chill.

Expectations are understood, we know the routine.

Transition is over, finally living the dream.

kids back to school

Feeling the second day of school love
September 2017

Like diving in cold water on the first day of summer,

The initial impact, the shock of it, is always a bummer.

But once we kick off from the dock, get used to the water,

We tread on the surface, finally floating, my sons and my daughters.

The second day of school? It’s the best photo op ever.

It’s the memory you’ll want to keep forever.*

goofy kids back to school

So much love
September 2017

(*Also, perfect for the holiday card. You’re welcome.)

3 comments on “An Ode to the Second Day of School

  1. Kelly L McKenzie
    September 11, 2017

    Aw, Jen, those photos! The shoes with room to grow, the crisp haircuts and snappy socks are just the best. And your words! You nailed the first day of school angst beautifully. I have to say I’m very jealous as we usually endured two weeks of first day angst in the elementary school years. Yes, it took two weeks to find out who their teacher was and which class they were in. An absolute nightmare. The bickering went on and on and on …

  2. lafriday
    September 12, 2017

    Oh! Brilliant, m’dear (quite Seussical). This made me laugh out loud: “Dances with Wolves meets Lord of the Flies.” Those faces! Please don’t ever succumb to their entreaties to cease taking photos.

  3. Dawn Quyle Landau
    September 14, 2017

    Well you’re a poet, and I didn’t know it! But I did know you could spin mad, wonderful words…whatever the style! Can. NOT. Believe. The changes from last year to this! The boots are a bit edgier, the faces are still delicious.

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