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Dad's 'First Day of School' Curtain Call

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My inaugural "first day of school" was 19 years ago, when my then-5-year-old son walked into day one of kindergarten. That was the day his world changed forever. So did mine.

Since then, there's been an annual ritual in our house during the waning days of each and every August as we navigate endless school checklists. And over time, those lists expanded to include -- at its peak -- three squeaky-clean kids gearing up for a new school year. Which has made me a connoisseur, of sorts, on the subject.

Well, today marks another "first day of school" in our home. But this is one I'm not prepared for. At all.

That's because it's my last.

The little caboose, the baby of the family, the one who I somehow thought would never grow up, is off to high school, beginning his senior year.

I only know this to be true because I found a crumbled piece of paper on his bed today with his class schedule. Don't get me wrong. We've talked about school in recent weeks. But those talks have been more like a pilot and co-pilot covering their flight checklist.

Have you picked up your parking pass?

Yup.

Do you need new pants?

I can get 'em.

How's your summer reading coming along?

Ha, yeah, right.

It used to be we'd drive to school together a week or so before classes resumed so I could watch him run up to the glass doors to scan the posted rosters. And we'd spend the entire car ride home talking about the pros and cons of who was in his class and who he'd eat lunch with. Year after year. Over and over. This is what we did. Among many other things. They were all traditions -- just like hanging Christmas stockings.

Haircuts. New clothes. Doctor visits.

And then there were forms. An abundance of forms. Forms describing how to fill out forms.

Can't they just assume everything's the same from last year?

Were this my business, I'd likely have the legal department scour every word and statement I was attesting to. But these forms were different. There was no way my kid was ever going to be called out for missing a "form deadline."

I've spent 19 years signing things that haven't fully been read.

The bane of my existence, however, were the supply lists. Why, I always asked myself, did my kid have to bring in five jumbo rolls of paper towels and six boxes of tissue (preferably in the traditional rectangular size boxes)? I would have gladly paid $10 to avoid watching my child navigate the school bus with a shopping bag full of paper products.

I was a "C" parent, at best, when it came to school supply shopping. No matter how early I tried to get ourselves to the local Office Depot, they'd always seem to be out of the cool binders, the specific spiral notebook my child wanted or the newest and greatest backpack to carry 47 pounds of books.

Ironically, I actually haven't dealt with a school supply list for a couple of years. I know we still patronize Office Depot, however. My son's credit card bill says so. I just don't know the color of his favorite spiral notebook.

Maybe he doesn't have a favorite anymore.

Which brings me to the "aha" moment I'm having as I sit here on his bed looking at this crumbled up piece of paper with his senior year schedule.

We spend years dreaming of the day when we can shed some of these draining parental responsibilities. We dream of a world where our kids show signs of independence and maturity. And we sometimes think it will never happen.

But it does.

And then you realize the obvious.

The dreaded parts of parenting. The tiring parts. The frantic parts. The parts where you never felt like you were quite on your "A" game were the good times.

In fact they were the best of times.

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