I tried very hard to act as calm and collected as I could as we got dressed and headed out the door. Today, I dressed you in your turtle pants, and matching green turtle shirt, and we put a green ribbon in your hair. You had milk and a banana in your favorite chair, and watched Pinky Dinky Doo while I got ready for work. I took a picture of you in your car seat as we got ready to go, and you gave me a smile, which you hardly ever do these days when there is a camera around. I told you to say “I’m going to SCHOOL TODAY!” and you repeated it back to me with a big, huge grin. We will save that picture forever.
We have been talking school up for about a month now. We took you for a visit last week so you could meet your teachers and get used to the new room and the playground where you will spend two long days a week. I was so worried that you would cry when I left, so I made sure you knew what the drill would be. We talked over and over again about how Mommy would bring you to school and play for a little while until I had to go to work, and you would stay with your teacher and the other children. Then you would play, and have lunch, and take a rest, and play some more, and then Mommy and Daddy would come and bring you home.
While you got situated, I filled out some paperwork about what you like and don’t like, and made sure to write down that you are left handed. They asked about behavior issues, and I wrote that you have the occasional temper tantrum, whining, and the rate episode of hitting. I broke out sweating as I wrote, and had to wipe my forehead under my nose several times, which means I was feeling more than a little panicky.
I wanted to get there early while it was still calm, and there were two other kids there. The entire class had been hearing about Maggie, the new kid, for over a week, and they have been very excited to meet you. Your first day was supposed to be a week ago, but you had a fever so we kept you home. I was secretly relieved that we had a little more time, because frankly, I wasn’t quite ready yet. So everyone knew you were coming, and every time a kid was brought in by there parents, the teachers, Jenny and Erika, said “Hello (so and so)! Maggie is here today? Remember how we talked about Maggie?”. I asked if you could say “Hi” to your new class mates and you simply replied “No” and went about your business.
You immediately found a box of dinosaurs and asked if you could dump them out and play with them. You got right down to business. Then you asked if you could play with the bugs, and the teacher told you that you could, as soon as you put the dinosaurs away.
And I started to sweat some more, and had to wipe my upper lip again, because I got so worried about leaving you in a place with all these new rules that you didn’t even know yet. And what if you no one understood that in big groups of kids, you really like to play by yourself, and what if they thought that was rude? And what if they thought that meant you didn’t like them, and what if then they weren’t nice to you? And what if they didn’t understand how sweet you are underneath it all, and how unabashedly loving you can be? What if you don’t speak all day, and they have no idea how smart and funny and wonderful you are?
And of course you simply put the dinosaurs away, and then took out the box of bugs like it was no big deal at all. Like you learned new rules every day, and learning the ropes was no biggie.
My plan was to stay until they served breakfast and help you get situated. I wanted to ease you in to the day, without making things harder by staying too long. That is a very faint line as a parent, and it’s so hard to know if you are doing the right thing. I worried that the teachers would think I was a nervous Nellie. Most of all I worried about whether me sticking around was making things easier for you or harder for you.
We sat you in a chair, and the teacher poured you some cereal in a bowl, and some yogurt in one cup, and milk in another, and you dug right in, like you had been going to school for ages.
My heart pounded as I got ready to say goodbye. I was as jumpy as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, and I didn’t want my nervous energy making you nervous. I don’t think you noticed at all. At least I hope you didn’t. I knelt down, and kissed you on the cheek, and I said “Mommy’s going to work now! You are going to stay here and play with the teachers and all the kids!” in a cheery voice that masked the fact that I wanted to sit right down and cry and about to have a full fledged panic attack.
You kept right on eating your cereal and nodded. “I love you!” I said as I started walking away. I blew you a kiss. “Do you want to blow me a kiss?” I asked.
“No.” you replied. And kept right on eating.
I turned and picked up your paperwork with shaky hands. I walked out the door, and to the car. I shed a few tears in the car on the way to my meeting.
I called an hour and a half later to ask the teachers how you were doing, and they said that you were fine. You hadn’t cried at all yet. And that the other kids were VERY interested in you, but you weren’t so interested in them. Which didn’t surprise me, because that’s just the way you tend to be in large groups of kids. You like to find some toys and a quiet corner, and stay out of the fray.
Your Grandma Vi called me at work to ask about how things went, and your dad called to check in this morning too.
I am biting my fingernails, and about to call again, because it’s nap time right now, and I am worried you won’t be able to sleep in a strange place, without your usual blankie and bed.
This really hard.
But you seem to be fine.
And that makes me very very proud, and very very happy, and more than just a little bit sad. All at the same time.
You are doing great. And I am so proud of you.