At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I had Kenny Chesney’s song “There Goes My Life” in the back of my mind for weeks as we made preps to send our son Timothy to kindergarten. I kept telling myself ‘It’s only kindergarten, for pete’s sake, you’re not sending him to college, Afghanistan, or Mars or anything’, but the anxiety was still there.
In the weeks before school, I had plenty to keep me busy. We went to several doctor appointments, and a pool party for incoming kindergarten students so he could meet the other kids. We went shopping for school clothes and went on a tour of the school, and even did a trial run on the school bus. We went to student and parent orientations and met all of the teachers. I was fine through all of that, until my mind rehashed all of the news stories that week about young students in another school district getting off at the wrong bus stops and being missing for a few hours until their parents could locate them. And then I realized I was at the mercy of a network of school professionals to take over the care of my child. It was up to them to care every single minute of the school day about him and his whereabouts, and I wept uncontrollably for about 20 minutes. My being 6 months pregnant likely contributed to some of that, but it is a legit concern nonetheless.
We are in a great school district and I talked to parents that have older children that attend his school, and was reassured that he is in great hands, and that the bus drivers and teachers keep an extra close eye on the youngest ones to make sure they are delivered safe and sound where they need to be.
On day one, we got his backpack ready and took his ‘first day of school’ pics after breakfast, and and loaded up in the car. He was a chatterbox all the way to the school parking lot. We got out of the car and held hands, walking up to the school. We wound up being extra early, and they told us to go to the gym, where he would wait with the other students until the bell rings. We went by his classroom first so he could remember where it was, and then we walked back to the gym.
He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw all of the kids in the gym. He was used to being one of the oldest kids at his daycare, and now as a kindergartner he was one of the youngest. He shrunk down and said “I don’t want to go in there, mama”, and he held my hand tighter. “I don’t want you to leave”.
… And my heart cried out, I don’t want to leave either. I want to explain all of the new things to you, and be there to help you if you make a mistake. I want to hug and comfort you if you are scared to try something new or if you have a hard first day. I want to help you make friends and make sure you remember where your lunch money is. I want to help you pick up your food if you drop your lunch tray. I want to help you remember the difference between M and N. I want to be there if anyone teases you and help shield you from the mean kid. I hardly slept at all last night, worrying that you would be okay on your own in a big school, and I prayed over you at the breakfast table this morning for extra protection.
I crouched down and gave him a big long hug, and told him “I am so proud of you, this is your first day of kindergarten! You are a big boy now and that means that you’ll get to do a lot of new things, and even though they might be scary, you have to try. And that means walking into the gym right now. See if you can find out what those boys’ names are that are sitting over there.”
“Okay” he said slowly, his big brown eyes full of doubt. He gave me another hug and slowly walked in. A teacher waved and smiled, and pointed to the Kindergarten area where the boys were. He sat down, took off his backpack and nervously looked around.
I turned and walked back to my car, with anvils in my shoes. I hated that I made him go in there on his own. I barely made it to my car, I closed the door and just let the tears flow. Amidst the sea of other parents taking their ‘first day of school pics’, I sat there in my car and cried and thought to myself, there goes my life.
But a flower won’t bloom under constant shelter. It has to have to have room to grow.
And it turns out, the boys in the gym all like Spiderman.