Buzz Lightyear definitely had the right idea.

The Toy Story hero’s motto was “To infinity and beyond!” That’s how I like to think about the start of a new school year. So many possibilities. So many opportunities. On the other hand, I know my daughters may be thinking more like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home!”

Remember those highly charged first days? They were full of “real life” tests where there was always something novel to learn, and not always from a book. One of my first lessons occurred on my first day of kindergarten, when I got on the wrong bus—as my older sister still likes to remind me.

Life’s minor embarrassments do happen, and I know I can’t protect my own children from them. I just try to teach them to laugh at theirs like I do at mine. After all, it’s hard to get excited about what lies ahead when you’re worried about how you look while you’re getting there.

My daughter Erin started on the wrong foot in 1st grade, at a brand new school where she knew no one. All the other 1st graders couldn’t resist opening and closing, closing and opening their new desks. Wouldn’t you know Erin’s would neither open nor close? Came to find out she was sitting on the wrong side!

For older kids, decoding the mystery of a combination locker can set them spinning. Even getting around in a new school can be a challenge. Erin’s older sister, Molly, almost missed her first lunch in junior high. The school secretary came to her rescue, arming her with the knowledge that while the gym and flex space were next door to each other and there was indeed some flexing in the former, lunch was served only in the latter.

The first day sometimes has pitfalls for Mom and Dad, too. Once, I managed to stockpile Molly and Erin’s school supplies as they went on sale the previous year. I think we had to go out and buy maybe two things—oh, yeah! My victory dance was short-lived, however, when my ladies rushed off the bus after day one, both in a tizzy because “Mom, we need wide-rule not college-rule paper, and three 2-inch notebooks instead of two 3-inch ones!” And for standardized testing, standardized No. 2 pencils only, please. Moms can be so lame!

Perhaps my favorite first-day memory happened the first time my two daughters went to full-day public school together, when I was understandably emotional. Erin noticed my red eyes and white smile. “You are happy and sad, huh, Mommy?” Such a perceptive girl! She added, “Just like the time when you were crying and laughing after the car stopped spinning on the ice and we were OK.” Well, at least I could laugh!

Now it’s time to take a new year for a spin. I’m confident my children have everything they need for going back to school this year simply because they have the right attitude. No doubt many memories will be made this school year that my kids and yours will write about when they’re moms and dads, even if those days are light-years away. Here’s to the buzz we parents get learning and laughing along with them!