Driving my car past my son’s future elementary school the other day, I was reminded of Meet the Teacher night which was coming up. Through my head ran thoughts of my little guy as he tried on his new school uniforms and practiced his Spiderman web shooting in the dressing room at Target. I see him playing with his new Spiderman backpack, it’s as big as he is and he’s so excited to be packing his toys into its many new pockets. He suckered a new pair of light-up Spiderman sneakers out of my mom and they’re two sizes bigger than the frayed and busted ones we exchanged them for.
Then my mind abandons the reveries for future imaginings. I see him on his first day, dressed in his slightly oversized blue polo and navy shorts with extra room around his waist. I can see him standing tall with his arms straight at his sides the way he does anytime we’re taking pictures of him. He’ll ask me on repeat when are we leaving, is today the day he’s going to his new school, is his friend next door going to be there, can he bring his toys, when are we leaving, how will we get there, what’s in his lunchbox, when are we leaving, and so on and so on. I see him bounding ahead of us as we walk. I imagine the shuffle of little bodies in blue, white, and navy milling around the front of the building amidst their parents, all of us as lost and unsure as the others. I’m kneeling down to give him a hug in a classroom with tables that come to my knees and tiny chairs, alphabet carpet squares, and hooks on the wall at hip level for them to hang their backpacks. And as I see myself turn to leave my baby that’s when the flood gates open and in the middle of a Tuesday six days before he’s due to start, I’m a wreck.
This is so silly. I thought. Why am I crying? He’s been in daycare since he was two, he went to VPK (voluntary pre-kindergarten). This isn’t technically his first year of school.
But it is. This is his first day of big kid school.
Today, the tears are hiding behind my eyes. The morning was almost as imagined. Navy and khaki clad, his running mantra was, “Mama don’t forget to pack my lunch.” Laden with a PB&J, an applesauce, some cut strawberries, and one of those juices with a Michelangelo head on it, plus all the school supplies his backpack could hold, we were ready to go. We drove rather than walk (of all mornings for us to be out of coffee and need to go to 7-11 so mama could face what was coming). I forgot his name tag, of course – you know the one with his teacher’s name and room number on it that’s supposed to identify him as a kindergartener so all faculty and staff know to give him extra help and make sure he gets to where he needs to be. Yeah, that one. But hey, he has lunch!
At each desk, sat a new Play-doh. That was all he needed (bravo to his teacher, genius incentive/distraction for the kiddos). When it came time to leave, he waved us goodbye and we were out the door before it sank in. My tears, not wanting to make witnesses of my husband and step-son, remained trapped.
From day to night, the first-day experience for my little kindergartner couldn’t be more different than my big high schooler. Grunting his way into our room this morning, he notified us of his dissatisfaction with the early hour of his rising. Despite this, his resistance was less than expected. Like accepting a prison sentence, he seems to have come to terms with his fate. If he must go, he’s decided to give up the fight (for now), but he’s not giving more than the bare minimum. As a step-mom doing her best with his father to help him navigate these last couple of years until he hits adulthood, I’ll take what I can get.
I can’t help but to pause though and ask, how do we get from the bouncing excitement of Kindergarten’s first day to defeated acquiescence?
I have many answers. I have many opinions and soapbox rants about the public education system. And I might share them in a future blog title School Sucks or something along those lines, but not today. Today I want to bask in my little one’s enthusiasm and be happy my oldest is being agreeable. I want to savor these rites of passage moments and commit them to memory. Becuase as much as kids suck, I love all three of our boys more than the words in this blog can ever say.
In the modified words of Scarlett O’Hara, I won’t bitch about that today, I’ll bitch about that tomorrow.
In the meantime, the tears made their eventual escape after dropping my second back-to-schooler off. I won’t feel silly. I won’t tell myself not to cry. Because as happy as I am to watch them grow up, I’m sad to see the years pass by. And the first day of kindergarten feels like I blinked and my baby grew up. And for that reason, the first day of kindergarten sucks.