The First Day

For Ethan, it was Tuesday. Parents are allowed to walk children into their classrooms on the first day. Crossing the room threshold was like watching Clark Kent go into a phone booth and come out as Superman. The child I knew at home that I have to repeat instructions to until my voice is as hoarse as a lifetime chain smoker suddenly became the most responsible 2nd grader, almost unrecognizable to his Mama. After putting his backpack into his cubby, approximately 2 seconds into the day, he forced his busy teacher to accept the paperwork I had instructed him to give her. He looked for where his lunchbox should go and got settled at his desk. It was refreshing to see that one year later he had enough familiarity with the school to establish himself immediately. He had a kind of independence that almost shot me a decade into the future to his college drop-off. Before that image could threaten my composure, I turned my relieved attention to the fact that he still started his day with circle time on a rug.

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Six hours later, the bright orange shirt (“I like bright colors!”) came in handy when I was trying to find him in the sea of students swarming the courtyard. His teacher tried to give me the lunchbox of the other student of Korean descent. 🙂 How was his day? Did he make friends? What did he learn? My round of questions were all answered with the usual monosyllabic, “Good.” And as vague as it was, it was better than “Bad” so I took it with gratitude.

The kindergarteners started today. Speaking of Superman, I had always been the Mom of Steel. For me, dropping my kids off was a happy occasion worthy of a celebratory mimosa. Rather than spill tears, I would hear Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Cause I’m as free as a bird now” as I raced out the door. Even though this was the baby’s turn, I was ready. Even though my Mama’s boy was feeling nervous enough to pray that God would help him not be scared, I had no lump in my throat. Instead, I was looking forward to Mike and my first FULL (not half) Fun Friday this week. While Connor was doing his best to muster up a smile for his obligatory first-day-of-school picture, I was coldly wondering what the husband and I should eat for our leisurely lunch tomorrow.

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We filed in the room and did the same drill as Ethan. This time instead of exiting during circle time, we were asked to stay longer. Connor went to the rug on his own and looked my way a few times. Of course, my big smile and thumbs up were to encourage him, not just because Lynyrd Skynyrd was warming up in my mind. Then the teacher started reading “The Kissing Hand.” It was total ambush by the kindergarten teachers who must have conspired to undo the parents with this children’s book. Perhaps it was written to help children face separation, but it felt like it was written to create anxiety in us otherwise secure attachment figures. Skynyrd’s warm up screeched to a halt and in its place came a totally foreign object in my throat. I felt bad for those parents with warm, beating hearts because at this point they were absolutely ruined. I was simply baffled by the rush of emotion previously unknown to Mom of Steel. 

After the book was read (and some parents dried their ambushed eyes), the kids traced their hands, cut them out and gave them to us to remember our unexpected torture as our cue to leave. Before I could smother my baby with hugs and kisses, he had turned and made his way back to the rug as though he were in on the conspiracy. Formerly nervous boy had left my arms empty. I slowly made my way to the door as if I did not understand the simple, repeated instructions that we were to leave after receiving our hand cut-out. Even in the hallway, I kept looking back into the classroom only to be greeted by the back of his head every time.

I made my way to the recovery room nicely known as “Coffee for Kinder Parents.” I chugged the hot caffeine as if it were a double Scotch on the rocks. I plopped myself down at a table with some other moms. I joined in their banter of how our kids did and how we were coping. After the caffeine kicked in and my catharsis ended, I realized all of them sitting there knew one another previously. They were connected through play dates or church or something consistent enough for their younger children to act like siblings and had kindly let this total unfortunately sober stranger convert them into a short-term support group. I finally left the school an hour later than the usual race to the door of years past.

As unexpectedly different as this year was for me, it was sort of nice to know that I was a part of the human race. Now where should we eat on our FULL SUPER FUN Friday?!?! Cause I’m as free as a bird now…

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