Pre-K to empty nest: WFAA family shares their back-to-school joys, fears
With the beginning of a new school year, WFAA team members share their personal hopes, fears and excitement.
Anchor Cynthia Izaguirre
A Milestone Moment
It's a milestone moment.
In a couple of weeks, my 5-year-old twins will start kindergarten and be in a class setting for the first time in their lives. They were never in daycare or pre-K. Since I work the night shift, that would've meant not seeing them in the mornings.
My husband and I have enjoyed teaching them a few things daily before I go to work, including Spanish, their ABCs and numbers. They can also recite for you the acceleration of gravity thanks to their architect dad.
But, alas, it's time to turn them over to the real pros.
People keep asking me how I feel. Before I answer, let me rewind a bit.
The last couple of years have been hard grappling with this moment. Here's why. I work night side. When they get off school, mommy will already be at work. I'll only see them in the morning. However, over the last months, I've calmed myself down and reminded myself what my mother has always preached, "it's not the quantity but the quality" of time we spend with our children.
So, how do I feel about this milestone moment truly? I'm EXCITED!
My hope is that they'll learn to read ASAP and love it. Love it as they have when their father and I have read to them every day since they were growing in my belly.
My fear is that I won't see them enough. That the hour-and-a-half I have with them in the mornings will not be enough.
I just have to keep reminding myself, "it's not the quantity but the quality."
We are very blessed and I'm grateful my twins live in a country where they can go to school and become anything they want to in life.
Here's to a new school year for ALL OF OUR BABIES! May it be the best yet.
Producer Melissa Jones
ADHD and the struggle for the right answer
My daughter is a curly-headed, hilarious ball of energy.
"AA," as we’re going to call her, is 10 years old. She’s a tween in every sense of the word, with all the life changes that come with tweenhood.
Last year, school got off to a rocky start. Her grades were down and she seemed to be struggling in every aspect of her life.
I’d suspected for a while that something wasn’t quite right. She’s always been a little motor-mouth but she seemed to be in fast forward. She was struggling with friends, school work and following rules at home. She was miserable. Her father and I weren’t far behind.
But was I being a paranoid mom or just seeing the normal progression of adolescence?
It’s hard to know with a child like mine. Last year, her teacher’s nickname for her was "Broadway." You see, my daughter is very dramatic.
Of course, my husband and I couldn’t agree about any of this. So, I made an appointment with her regular doctor. The doctor had her teachers and her father and I fill out paperwork. That’s all it took to get her original diagnosis of ADHD.
The doctor suggested we wait until she was in her early teens to begin medicating her. That just didn’t sound right to me. My child is struggling but I’m supposed to wait until those awful middle school years to help her?
I went rogue and took AA to a pediatric neurologist. There, she underwent more sophisticated computer testing, which reconfirmed diagnosis.
After some time, we finally found a medication routine that works for her.
Her turnaround at school was remarkable, making all As and one B on her final report card.
Everyone was happy, the sun shone and angels sang!
But then, the doctor said not to give her the medication over the summer.
Wait, what? Why are we suddenly stopping what’s been working so well for months?
Her doctor says Ritalin reduces a child’s appetite and can inhibit their growth.
However, school isn’t the only place where AA needs to be focused to learn.
As an only child, we keep our little, creative ball of energy involved in several activities.
It doesn’t really matter whether it's are piano, violin or cheerleading. (Hint, it isn't piano or violin, but I’m worried you’re going to judge me.)
When I questioned the doctor about stopping the medication, she replied that if I was OK with potentially inhibiting her growth, then by all means, I should allow her to take it over the summer.
I wanted to be a smart aleck and reply, “Yes, I’m fine with that. I don’t want her to be too tall anyway."
But that was only the evil fantasy of a tired and frustrated mother.
In the end, we sent a child with untreated ADHD symptoms into an environment where she needed to concentrate and instead struggled.
Now that school is back in session, she’s once again on her daily medication regimen.
Like most parents, we want to make sure our daughter has what she needs to succeed. AA struggles with math, (those are my genes at work) so she had a math tutor all summer. We view the medication in much the same way. Neither her father nor I are completely comfortable giving it to her. We only hope we are making the right decision with the information we have and doing what’s best for her.
I wish I could say Ritalin was also a magic pill that also lessened the drama of tweenhood. It doesn't. Apparently, my husband and I are “fun-haters” who actively work at keeping her from being cool. Who knew we had the time or energy to plot such dastardly deeds?
The tween years aren't for the weak!
Investigative Reporter Brett Shipp
Off To College But Still At Home
I have a confession.
I love my job. I really, really love my work, but it's not the most important thing in my life. My children are.
Katherine, 18, and Harrison, 24, are my true passions and joy. And by the grace of the good Lord, they're somehow still co-existing at home with me and my cooking and sharing a tiny Jack-n-Jill bathroom meant for children as we enter another school year.
Pray for them.
Be happy for me.
This was to be the fall of my first "empty-nest" experience. The first time in my life with both my children gone.
Me alone in an empty house. Apologies to Sailor, our cat, but cats are too snarky and aloof to fill such a massive void in one's existence.
Having graduated from Texas Tech in 2016, Harrison has finished school. But rather than rush out and seek his independence, he has moved back home to: A) start his career, B) help repopulate the household man-cave and C) help his old man with his Fantasy Football draft.
Katherine, while eventually headed to the University of Oklahoma, is sparing me a certain emotional meltdown and staying home her fall semester to knock out some basic courses at community college. You may remember the story I did a few months back documenting Katherine's "last day of school." How I reluctantly woke her from a blissful slumber just as I had done on her first day of school 14 years ago.
Many of you parents sent warm compliments on that story, telling me how many memories it rekindled as well as the emotions and dread of the prospect of an empty nest.
I feared that same fate as I wrote the "Katherine's last day" story early one morning here at my work desk. Very early, as to avoid anyone seeing me nearly short-out my keyboard with a river of daddy tears.
Since that time, my little girl has been recruited and signed by a modeling agency and experienced her first two photo shoots. Talk about watching her grow up.
"Daddy, do you think this shot is a little too provocative?"
My response, "Ummmm, no Sweet, you're an adult now with a modeling career."
But for now, I feel so lucky to know I have her at home for another semester.
I will cherish every one of those days. Because I know in the blink of an eye, just like her first 18 years, she'll be an a OU student living in a dorm, then an apartment, then her own house with a husband and her own children and... dammit, I just shorted out my keyboard again.
News Director Carolyn Mungo
Last Days Before Empty Nest
Right now, my daughter is saying goodbye to her high school friends as they leave, one by one, for college.
Morgan will attend school on the East Coast, so she has a much later start date. I have a few more days than most and I am thankful.
We are both keeping busy, knowing in the back of our minds, things will soon be so different. It’s just been the two of us ever since she started the third grade. That’s when her older sister went off to college. Now it is her turn.
I am proud of her intelligence, her independence and her spirit. I have no doubt she'll do the very best she can to be the very best person she can be. AND: Life moments are life moments.
I remember being surprisingly emotional at her high school graduation in May. When I saw her outside at the end of the ceremony, I sort of lost it. I hugged her tight, not wanting to let go. We of course had all summer. Why the sad face? I really didn’t expect to have that kind of reaction. But I did.
As parents, all you can do is prepare them for life the best you can. And then it’s on them. I know my time as a parent will not end when I board that plane back to Texas. And sure, FaceTime, Skype and cellphones are at our fingertips. But my plan is not to be a hovering mom. I really want her to have the freedom to navigate this new chapter in her life as I work hard to find mine.
She knows I'll always be there. That bond will not go away. But boy did this child-raising thing go fast. How did that happen? Darn, I wanted it to last a little longer. It reminds me of the quote I see sometimes in my Facebook feed: “The trouble is, you think you have time.”
Crime Reporter Tanya Eiserer
Can He Really Be Starting Kindergarten?
Five-and-half-years ago, my life changed irrevocably when my son, Aidan, entered the world. He captured my heart the moment I saw his face.
That little boy is the love of my life. When I get home from covering some awful crime, he doesn’t care about all that nor does he even have any comprehension about it. His innocence helps keep me grounded.
And now, he starts kindergarten Monday. They say time flies fast when you have kids. I found that to be oh-so true. Can he really be starting kindergarten? Weren’t we just sleep-deprived new parents?
People keep asking me if I’m feeling nostalgic or sad as that day approaches. I can’t say that I feel that way. Maybe I will feel it on that first day as he enters school.
Still, I do wonder how long my little boy will still want to cuddle with me or continue our nightly ritual of telling once-upon-a-time stories involving Elliott the dragon killing the zombies?
We’ve spent all summer – well, actually my husband has – making sure he can recognize the letters of the alphabet. We felt that the child of journalists should at a minimum be able to recognize his letters. It’s been a battle, but finally I think we’ve gotten them all down.
I must say I was a bit shocked by the long list of school supplies he needs. I mean, does he really need five boxes of crayons? Apparently so.
Producer Sandra Turner
Middle School Mom
Middle school mom. Wow, those words sure make me pause. I remember walking into WFAA pretty soon out of college, a single lady with a drive for my career.
In the time since, I’ve gotten engaged, married and welcomed a wonderful son, who's now in double digits!
Allen is a bit different. My son is considered middle school and has the curriculum and choices to prove it. But he gets one more year, sixth grade, on his elementary campus. So this year will be full of “last firsts” and “first firsts."
Monday is the last first day of school on his elementary campus. But this is already the first time he gets to choose part of his curriculum. This is the year to savor with friends we’ve seen daily for going on seven years -- kindergarten through 6th grade -- while looking forward to a future where he gets a chance to soar.
Soar. How’d I do for a future Allen Eagle?
This is the year where I learn to let go. It's the last year I'll be driving him to school. Next year, it’s time for the school bus. This is the last year I can probably convince my son to let mom come to school for lunch. This is the last year I'll be on the PTA board and a volunteer inside his school on a weekly, and at times over the years, daily basis.
I know his teachers. Some have become friends after he graduated from their class. Middle school. It’s a whole new unknown for both of us.
Will is my “only." So every milestone for us is huge. There's no “do over” with another child. Once we hit it, it’s gone. Elementary school seems to have flown by. But when you look back, he’s spent years at one school, with one group of friends, with one group of teachers. And I’ve spent years with the same group of moms, the same group of fellow PTA members.
Middle school. It’s so much shorter! Only two to three years. I know the people at elementary and know the routine. As soon as we learn the middle school routine, it'll be on to the freshman center and then to Allen High School. So many changes coming, so quickly.
Do I have any advice for other middle school moms? Trust in yourself. Trust that you helped create a solid foundation for your child. Savor every moment. Allow yourself to laugh and cry. Make sure you’re at each of those milestones this year.
I’ve already plotted a lot of my vacation days at work based on the school calendar. Usually there’s one or two things where I think, 'Oh, if we don’t make it this year, we can attend that school event next year.' That time is over. Middle school is short. Don’t miss out.
Am I prepared? No. Who is? Have I done everything I can to make sure my son is ready? I hope so. My husband and I sure tried. But only time will tell.
Crime Reporter Rebecca Lopez
A new journey, new school
It is hard to believe that my son is about to enter high school. It seems like just yesterday I was taking him to his kindergarten class.
For 10 years he attended a small private school in DeSoto, but this year we decided to move to Arlington so he could attended The Oakridge School.
He will be the new kid embarking on a new journey. We're both excited at the opportunities he'll have, including taking Chinese.
I'm emotional because I know that, three years from now, he'll graduate and move away, but for now I plan to enjoy every single moment with him.
He's an amazing child filled with compassion and love for others. He's a member of the teen youth group called Fire House at the Potter's House in Dallas.
He's a leader who puts God first and leads by example.
I know there will be new challenges as he goes to a bigger school and as he gets older and there are more temptations. But there's a proverb I often refer to when I think about his upbringing. Proverbs 22:6:
“Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Already he's becoming a successful photographer and graphic designer. He's creative and has a passion for it.
I have taught him that whatever he chooses to do in life he should love it!
My prayer for him is that he follows his heart and that will lead him to his true purpose.
Best of luck, Jacob, in high school.
Assistant News Director Leslie McCardel
From stay-at-home mom to working mom
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I hate to steal a line, but it was the one thing that came to mind every time I thought about back-to-school.
I am a tale of two women as I gear up for a new school.
My oldest is 9, going into fourth grade. He’s known me as a working mom until he was 7. The last two years I was his stay-at-home mommy.
My twin girls are 6. Their minds really only know me as stay-at-home mommy.
Now I’m back at work. In a job I love.
After two years of magic being just a mom. Always knowing the journalist in me was simply in hibernation because I love the biz. And here is where the tale splits.
I’ve missed this summer. I’ve been at work since May. Loving every minute, but missing so many minutes with my babies.
I didn’t know how much I didn’t notice the minutes until the minutes suddenly turned to counting down to school.
Poof, summer is gone.
I slept peacefully on the foundation my husband got more time with the kids. There was peace in my soul that they got more time with the grandparents.
But I missed it.
Days away, I realize I haven’t planned a playdate for my kids to meet some new friends before school starts. I’ve always done that.
I just now carved out time to meet their teacher. Tomorrow.
So I’m worried the over-crafting I tend to do that shapes their happiness and reduces the discomfort in change hasn’t been done.
I tell myself that’s good. I don’t want a kid who can’t accept change and adversity. But it still makes me sad.
My son broke down in my arms the other day worried no one will like him. Fourth grade sucks. I remember.
I feel like my girls will be fine. They have each other. I’m also better equipped to handle female warfare because I survived it. Despite having five older brothers, I don’t know how boys deal with boys at school.
I’m worried who he will play with at this new school. I envision him sitting alone under a tree wondering what happened to his perfect life last year when he had great friends and a mom around every day.
I’m worried my girls won’t be challenged like they were in their last school, where they were in a Chinese immersion program. Am I really challenging them now?
I never asked myself if I was excited about school. Now I know I’m kind of just scared.
I am excited to see how they grow from this. I am excited to see how my family team survives all this and comes out on the other side. I’m most excited to live what I learned while being just a mom.
I was a good mom when I worked. I am still a good mom while I work. I will be good mom and still work. I never knew that before.
I always knew I was failing at something. That is how I looked at it every minute of every day. Now I know I was doing a pretty damn good job with family and friends. I was doing a damn good job.
So, for the sadness and fear that a type-A mom like me feels when I stare into the abyss of childhood ending one school year at a time, I’m cautiously optimistic with low expectations and high hopes these messy moments will create a fantastic man and two fantastic women. I know I have to embrace the lows and cherish the highs because one day it’ll be totally gone
I won’t lie. I did cry in the dark last night while I slept with my kids. Staring at their sweet faces knowing another year older is another year closer to college, hoping they can stare down the scary encounters with bullies and battles with insecurities.
They’re sweet, funny, smart, confident kids
I’ll be paralyzed that first week of school waiting to hear who they played with, who they ate lunch with, but I’ve got a plan. I’ll get them off to school every morning. In my previous working life I was gone every morning before they woke up.
I’ll FaceTime with them after school. I’ll climb into bed with them and read them a book before they pretend to go to sleep.
Hopefully they’ll remember that quality time and know I was the best mom I could be every day, even when I was sucking.