2019. The new year. A chance to reinvent yourself, a chance to worry about reinventing yourself – and if you’re an elementary school-aged kid, a chance to pay no attention at all to the adult pressures of self-improvement. Now there’s a resolution to add to the list next year!

While we did make resolutions (these were their own offerings: Girl said she would practice violin once a week without being asked – figuring we’ll encourage her the other times – and Boy suggested he could eat more – meal time is often spent pestering him to put food into his mouth), the new year also presents the opportunity to return to some of the challenges of the start of school.

As a kindergartener, Boy gets a weekly behavior report, given in a series of five faces, either smiling, straight-lipped, or frowning (one of the categories is “Keep your Friends and Your Teacher Happy”). He hasn’t gotten a frowning face yet, but for the past two weeks (and for the first two times ever), he’s gotten all straight-lipped faces. For him, it seems, the pressure of returning to school, of being on someone else’s time, doing work, and following someone else’s direction nearly all the time, is too much. He missed part of recess today, and earlier this week, he would not, apparently, do his work (“I couldn’t get him to pick up a pencil,” his teacher said). His teacher wrote “a very difficult day” on his calendar, which made me think of Kevin Henkes’s Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, in which Mr. Slinger, Lily’s teacher, tells her, “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” There’s always that hope, but sometimes, it’s hard to know what your child’s sense of that is, whether tomorrow will be better or the same.

And yet. Tonight, in his prayers, the thing he said he was grateful for was school. He talked joyously of the things they’d done today, and he’s excited about next week, especially Tuesday, the hundredth day of school.

I flashed him my own smiley face, and he snuggled up and went to sleep. Tomorrow will be better – and if not the next tomorrow, then the tomorrow after that.

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