When you have a child starting Kindergarten, the first day of school can be rough…for both of you. In the case of my son and me last year, it wasn’t just the first day that left us emotionally raw. The first month or so was a delicate balance of getting him pumped for school while also honoring his feelings of trepidation, all the while disguising my own sadness. I lamented about the experience being like A Tale of Two Kindergarteners, where I wished for the confident little boy he was at home to trade places with the quiet, unsure student he was at school. Eventually, that did happen in most respects, though tears found their way to the surface at various points throughout the year.
So I wasn’t sure what to expect on Michael’s first day of school this year. Due to being a summer baby, he is entering Kindergarten again…or what we are calling Kindergarten 2.0 at our house. He is at a different school this year, though it is one he is very familiar with, as it is the one his big sister has attended for the last four years. I was hoping that fact alone might be enough to make him feel more confident going into this school year, but I felt certain of nothing. This is a kid who has cried over getting dropped off every year since he began preschool at the age of two.
But this year when the first day rolled around, not one tear was shed. Not one hint of hesitation made itself known. The minivan door slid open, and he popped out with little attention to the fact that I was sitting in the driver’s seat, holding my breath. In fact, I’m not even sure he told me goodbye.
Who’s kid is this? Well, I’ll be. That’s MY kid! Finally, that same boy I live with at home, who has no qualms about going over to the neighbor’s house without telling me first, has shown up for the first day of school. And I am very proud of him.
I can’t help but wonder what made the difference for him this year. I have a few hypotheses:
1. Maturity. He is clearly more mature than he was last year. I know this because instead of quietly whispering, “I want that,” about every.single.toy advertised during a commercial break (even J·Animals, The Wearable Stuffed Animals), he only wants two-thirds of them. Such discrimination and restraint shows great cognitive development.
2. Uniforms. Now that he is going to Catholic school, he doesn’t have to worry about having the latest movie character on his apparel, because he never does. This year all the cool kids are wearing white polos and navy shorts. Did I say all the cool kids? Because I meant just all the kids. All of them. Fashion crisis averted.
3. The Guardians of the Galaxy Soundtrack. My husband and I tempered Michael’s disappointment in being too young to see the movie (and not getting a Guardians of the Galaxy tee shirt…see #2) by getting him the soundtrack. It is an “Awesome Mix, Vol. 1” of kick ass 70’s music, and it has been on almost constant repeat play in our minivan. My kids have taken a special liking to the song “I’m Not In Love” by 10cc, mostly because of the weird interlude where a lady starts whispering, “big boys don’t cry.” Well, maybe that was just the kind of subliminal message he needed right before school started.
4. His Own Personal Sherpa. Last year, my little guy was navigating a new experience all on his own, something he rarely has to do as the second child. But this year, he has a lifeline in his sister. That lifeline may argue with him in the car all the way to school over who ate the last Pop Tart. But suddenly, when faced with joining the chaos and uncertainties of a new school year, this happens:
Now what about me? How did momma fare on her son’s second first day of Kindergarten? Well, we know how it went last year. I was a mess. But this year I followed Michael’s lead: not one tear. I have my hypothesis about that, too:
1. I Get to Pretend He’s Not Growing Up. Yes, he may have actually turned another year older. But sending him to Kindergarten again lets me pretend that didn’t happen. This is likely the only time that the beginning of a school year doesn’t mark the advancement towards one of my kids leaving the nest. I can’t stop my daughter, who is now officially halfway through grade school. (Gulp.) But Michael? I get one more chance to have a “first” with him. Last year, Michael starting Kindergarten hit me hard. I suddenly felt like the childhoods of my children were slipping through my fingers…and I had been stupid, wishing their little years away. But now I have another chance to hang up a few more hand print paintings, to get report cards without real letter grades, to pick him up from a classroom that still has play centers…to cherish his little.
Consequently, I will probably be the only mom crying next year, when I drop him off for first grade. But I have a feeling he will be just fine.