Cavanaugh started kindergarten yesterday. I have cried all summer in anticipation of this event. For the last couple of weeks, I have read friends’ Facebook posts about their kids’ first days. One friend wrote that she did not want to wake up her daughter to take her to school. I totally understood.
I started getting texts the week before school started with friends asking how I was doing, saying they’d check back in after the first day of school. A friend came by the night before kindergarten and left a package on my door. It contained a package of Kleenex, a Starbucks gift card, an acorn in a box with a quote by D. Everett that read, “Large streams from little fountains flow, Tall oaks from little acorns grow,” and a card wishing me a happy first day of school.
We’d already read a version of The Night Before Kindergarten. It tells the story of kids who are excited to go to school and whose parents stand out in the hallway looking into class, unable to leave their kids. I read the book to Cavanaugh for the first time last week and when we got to the worried parents, I started to cry. He thought it was funny. I managed to say, “Isn’t that crazy? All the kids are so excited and the parents feel worried.”
He said, “Just like you and me.”
I read the book to him again the night before school and cried again as he laughed and kissed my cheek. I asked if he was scared or worried at all. “Nope, just excited.”
Then we woke up for school yesterday morning. He cried and curled up in my lap. I told him it would be an earlier pick-up than at his mother’s day out, 2:45 instead of 3:30. Of course, the MDO had five students while his class has 22 and his new school has over 800. Cavanaugh cried through what was supposed to be breakfast. He stopped and went outside to say goodbye to the cats and couldn’t even wave. His face contorted into a knot of quivering lips, scrunched up eyes, wet cheeks. My first instinct was to blame myself. I had made him worried. I had talked about how our waking and sleeping times would change. I had cried. I had read him that darn book. And maybe some of that contributed to his tears, but really this kid was going into the unknown and it is totally normally for him to feel scared or sad.
When we went to Meet the Teacher day last Friday, he didn’t want to go. Before we left the house, he asked, “Can’t the teacher just give us a little more time?” When we got to the school and the teacher tried to talk to him, he pointed to me to talk. The note on the dry erase board told him how the first day would go:
- Arrive at 7:25.
- Find your name and hang your backpack on the hook.
- Put your name tag on.
- Come into class, find your place, and draw something that you like.
He was worried that he couldn’t draw a cat. He asked if he could just write the word, “Cat.”
He wouldn’t talk to or wave at the teacher on the way out of class. Then he wanted me to carry him to the car while he curled around me.
After two bouts of tears yesterday morning, we got in the car, where he drank part of a smoothie on the way to school–oh, the power of protein–and when we got out of the car, he was psyched to put his backpack on. He was running down the sidewalk pulling me.
I teared up at the crossing guard, then at the mascot, but he didn’t notice. We found his name tag, went into class, and he sat down to draw. He didn’t even look up to wave goodbye. I left the classroom and teared up again. Another mom saw me, handed me a tissue and patted my back. She said, “We do the best we can, teach them all we can, and then we give them to the world.”
What? Already? He’s only five. I don’t feel quite ready to give him to the world.
The PTA knew about all of us not-ready parents. At registration in May, they told us they’d be there so that when we dropped our kids off, we’d have someplace to go, someplace with other parents in tears. I watched them on the way into the building, at the kinder coffee, and leaving the building–red-nosed, shoulder-hunched, and looking backwards as they walked. We really wanted to stand out in the hallway, peeking into the classroom to find out how the kids were doing, what was happening in there, whether everything was okay.
Instead I met the principal and the vice principal and talked to some folks from the PTA. I didn’t feel like crying by the time I left the building. The tears didn’t threaten until I was back to pick him up, waiting for his class to come outside and line up, then found his worried face looking for me. I ate those tears then gave him a huge smile and my hand to hold. I’m not ready to give him to the world, but I’ll share him from 7:45-2:45.
Did you have young ones starting school this year? How are they? How are you?