One and a half weeks ago I wrote about a “bit” of a transition happening in our household and a realization that my kids aren’t babies anymore. I wrote about how Kindergarten for Julianna was, at that time, less than a week away, with some subtext about how I was essentially a “bit” freaked out.
That was then. This is now. Things have happened. It is time for an update.
I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog that the Kindergarten transition for me was not an overly smooth one. Most recently, in May, if you’ve been following the run-up to Kindergarten, I documented some of the orientation types of activities setup to prepare both the parents and the kids for this milestone. I shall now quote for you a few pieces of important background information from that post:
See what you have to understand is, I had a really, really difficult time with drop-off in Kindergarten. I remember this part of this time of my life vividly. It is possible I’ve skewed it a bit in the 30 or so years since it happened but I remember being miserable and not allowing my parents to leave. I remember crying endlessly and inconsolably in the elementary school hallway. I don’t remember much else.
I also wrote this which took place immediately after Julianna started crying during the final orientation:
I watched the Guidance Counselor, an angel, offer to hold her hand, and then, use the magic words to get her “on board” with the program: “Would you like to hold my clipboard?”
So as the days went by, leading up to THE day, I stopped sleeping, aged about 10 years, started talking to myself (out loud), had some back issues, grew more grey hair, ate gallons of icecream, and became a “cat lady”; all the while trying to keep a happy face on and talking with Julianna about how much fun Kindergarten was going to be. We talked about all the great friends she’d make and all the great things she’d learn. Generally speaking, she seemed rather pleased by the whole prospect but I’m no dope…I’ve heard this tune before…
THE day rolls around and the plan is set. School started on a Thursday for Julianna. There are multiple kindergarten classes in her school and the school splits the start up into 2 days, with half of the kids in each class going each day. This is a nice way, so they say, for the kids to get to meet the teachers and some of the other kids without quite as much craziness. There are 4 other girls from Julianna’s previous school who will attend the same school but only 1 in her actual class. 2 of those girls went on Wednesday, 3 would be there on Thursday, including Julianna. We are hopeful that seeing familiar faces might help. Thursday is also a day when our nanny comes over to spend the day with Chloe so that freed up my wife and I to both go to school and not have to worry about Chloe. Also, hopefully working in our favor, is Julianna’s cousin, who had just started 1st grade in the same school.
The school’s plan is that on day 1, you arrive with your kids and wait in a courtyard in front of the school. The courtyard is filled with more nervous energy than Fenway Park would have before a World Series Game 7. There is lots of side swaying and sweaty palms and me crying. There are also plenty of teachers and the aforementioned Guidance Counselor who saved the day last time. Interestingly enough, she came over to say hi. She remembered us. Swell. I tell her that I might embarrass myself today but one day I was likely to be the president of the PTO so she shouldn’t hold it against me…and also we might need her help. She tells us she will be standing by. The Principal then comes out and tells some jokes and tries to warm up the crowd and does all this while I pee in my pants in “anticipation”.
Then for the fun…he’s going to say the name of a teacher and then all the boys and girls in that teacher’s class should line up and “head on in! YEE HAW!” And Julianna starts crying but I’m holding it together. Stay strong Matt.
“Please don’t leave me mommy.”
“Don’t leave me daddy. I don’t want to go in.”
Another teacher is called and another group of kids make their way in; most reasonably cooperative.
The crying and grasping persist. I try to figure out in my head what’s going to happen next. I can tell that Julianna’s teacher is going to be last. Finally, they call “our” teacher and most of the kids line up and get going. Julianna, still less than enthusiastic about the whole thing, refuses. The Guidance Counselor comes over for the assist and together we decide that one parent at a time, we will hand off. As the class heads in (apparently there is an understanding that this one time, its better for everyone if a “child is left behind”), most of the parents are now starting to leave, their children having crossed the education threshold. My wife and I decide that its best if I break off first. I gave Julianna a hug, told her I loved her, and held myself together as she told me during the hug that she loved me, and I walked away.
I didn’t look back. Eye contact would have been a disaster. I went straight to the car and hoped for the best. What felt like an hour but was probably just a minute later, my wife got in the car and I decided it was then safe for me to look to the courtyard in the distance. It was empty. Apparently, Julianna had gone in.
We headed home. About 3 minutes after we got home, my cell phone rang. Here we go…
Sidebar: My mother would tell you that when I was in Kindergarten, she waited outside in her car, once I let her leave, because back then there were no cell phones and what if they needed her and what if I refused to cooperate?
So my cell phone rings and I’m about to get my car keys to head back but rather than do that I answer. Of course, its the Guidance Counselor. She is calling to tell me that Julianna is smiling and in her classroom. They walked together past her cousin’s 1st grade class and she got a wave and that made her feel good. The Guidance Counselor gave her a book to deliver to her teacher so she could feel like a helper and that made her even happier. Yada yada, she’s fine and sitting in class.
Next. Moms and Dads are invited to come into class for the last 30 minutes of the first day. We can meet the teachers and have our kids show us around the room. I figure she’ll be in tears but instead she runs over, ear to ear smiling and extremely excited to show us all the things: where her backpack goes (which is slightly bigger than her), her coat hook, the listening station, the sink, the rug for circle time, her desk, and even where the bathroom is. She drags us over to introduce us to her teacher and even tells us she made a friend that day.
So that’s it? She loves it all. She is very excited to come back tomorrow (she says).
Of course, it gets more complicated tomorrow…because tomorrow there is no courtyard nonsense. Tomorrow isn’t a dress rehearsal. Tomorrow is a drive-up-to-the-dropoff-circle-and-she-jumps-out day.
Tomorrow arrives, and the plan today is that it will just be Julianna and I. The day before, after Day 1, we worked on learning how to unbuckle herself and how to open her own car door. She seemed excited to try it out. I don’t fully understand how this is supposed to work at drop-off but there is a very tight and specific window when kids who aren’t arriving via bus are dropped off. We head out and on the ride over, I’m trying to keep the conversation lite. I’m hoping that the Guidance Counselor will be in the area to help. I’m hoping that there won’t be other cars in the dop-off circle that beep or try to hurry us if we run into any problems. I’m hoping that it won’t be quite as bad as the day before. I’m hoping that she’ll see a friend she recognizes heading in and that will make it easier.
We turn into the school area and find ourselves in the line of cars waiting to drop their kids off. I tell her that, truthfully, I’m not exactly sure where I’m supposed to drive to and how it will work but I’m sure it will be another fun day.
We see the circle and I figure out how I think it works. We happen to see some buses pull in and across the way, in one of the buses, Julianna sees her cousin again. This is a good sign. My niece gets off the bus and heads on with the stream of kids. Slowly but surely we make our way up the line…
And then we start to enter the circle…here we go…deep breath Matt…
“Ok Julianna, when I stop the car ahead, you can unbuckle.”
Our turn. I put the car in park and look back.
“Okie dokie, time to go.”
She looks at me. Unbuckles. Hops out of her seat, and starts to work the door. I have her school bag in the front with me so I lean over and push the passenger side front door open. She gets her door open, looks back at me with a big “I did it” smile and gets out.
She closes her door and moves to the front.
I hand her the backpack and lean over for a kiss.
I say, “Have a great day. I love you.”
She says, “Love you too daddy.”
She puts her backpack on, waves, and starts to walk off with “the stream”.
There is pressure to keep the cars moving so I start to slowly move.
She looks back, smiles ear-to-ear, waves, and turns to go in.
And just like that, I have a Kindergartener.