We had so many great entries and it was incredibly difficult picking the finalists, let alone one winner. So we decided to also put our finalists' essays up on line so that you can enjoy them as well! Thank you again to everyone who entered, and be sure to check out our guidelines for the September issue when we're looking for great stories about your families' experiences with sports.


From Lisa Pettit of New Albany:

Few memories compare with a child's first day of school. September, 1960 - I put on a new brown dress with a big white collar and walked to school with my big sister. Since I was the 8th of 10 children, I treasure the photo that was taken that day. It proves I was special to my mother just as my children are to me.

My oldest daughter, Diana, started Kindergarten when her baby brother, Alex, was only three weeks old. My sister, Linda, had surprised me by sewing a new brown dress with a white collar for Diana to wear on her first day of school. After taking a photo, I watched Diana board a big yellow bus. Three quick hours later, I scooped up Alex, made my way back to the bus stop and began waiting for the bus.

None stopped, though, leaving Alex and me to wait.

And wait.

My excitement turned into nervous anticipation. My nervous anticipation turned into anxiety; and, by late afternoon, I was in a near panic.

The terror on my face was readily apparent as a friend drove by. He stopped to ask what was wrong.

"Diana had been stolen by a big yellow bus and has not been returned," I had to say.

He drove me to the school, newborn in my arms instead of a car seat. (My panic for the safety of one child had clearly affected my judgment for the safety of the other.) The school principal made a few phones calls and the mix-up was resolved: A worn-out Diana had fallen asleep on the ride home. After completing his route, the driver found her slumped over and asleep.

Safe and happy, she was transported back home, none the worse for the experience (unlike me).

Fast forward 6 years to the first day of school for my youngest daughter, Bethany I was no less eager to entrust a child to the stranger driving the yellow bus. However, I dressed her in the same brown dress with the white collar her big sister wore, and took the memorable first day of school photo.

My husband and I had a plan to ease my stress this time. After kissing and hugging our daughter goodbye, we hopped on our bicycles and rode to her school in Minerva Park.

We hid behind some bushes and proceeded to watch our daughter get off the bus and walk into the building.

Satisfied, we returned home.

In just a few days, our first granddaughter will begin kindergarten. She's going to wear the same brown dress with the white collar that her mother and aunt wore. And yes, there will be photos.

However, I'm much older and wiser now.

I've already staked out the bush I'll hide behind. I'll drive a car instead of a bike. And I know to wear long pants to avoid scratching my bare knees. So, if you see a 50-ish woman hiding in some bushes on school property in late August, don't call the Police. It's just me, making a memory.


And from Cheryl Tokasz of Apple Valley:

When my first daughter was getting ready to start kindergarten, I was excited for the both of us. I felt that I had prepared her well and that she was ready to handle the challenges and opportunities that awaited her.

Of course, I was also excited about volunteering at school parties, field trips and making new mommy friends.

This was going to be a new adventure for both of us and my separation issues were mild. I still had my son at home with me and I loved the idea of being able to spend some one on one time with him the way I had with his older sister.

By the time that my son was four and kindergarten was a mere year away, my attitude had completely changed. Over the years, the novelty of volunteering had worn off a bit and the reality of homework and chaotic mornings had set in.

In addition to all of that, we now lived in a school district that had all day kindergarten. This caused me to conjure up images of small children in military boot camp. I simply couldn't fathom that a five year old, specifically my five year old, would be able to handle a full day of school right off the bat.

Nope, my enthusiasm level was definitely not the same the second time around. The truth be told, the real problem was that I wasn't ready for ours to be a kid free house all day.

Luckily, my husband agreed with my reluctance to begin the emptying of the nest and we began trying for our third child. The funny thing was that my son loved kindergarten.

He loved eating lunch at school and he didn't even mind the long bus ride. As a matter of fact, when he came home on the first day of school and I asked him if he missed me, he confidently said no.

After the sting wore off, I realized that he was fine and that I would be fine too. Of course, I only had three weeks of an "empty nest" since I was nine months pregnant at this time.

Now that my youngest daughter is in preschool, my husband and I have discussed that I need a better coping mechanism to deal with MY separation anxiety over the first day of school.

Apparently, having a child every five years to get over the first day of kindergarten is not my husband's idea of family planning. I am fairly confident that I have worked out a new strategy this timeI am going to go with her. I'll let you know how that works out.