Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Not-Quite Typical First Day with my Not-Quite Typical Boy

I knew there would be tears, Ethan's first day of (full day!) kindergarten. No question about it. Not his, mind you. Mine.

No, this wasn't something I'd be able to blame on pregnancy hormones. I am, no doubt about it, a Crier. I cry watching veterans march in parades. I cry when I'm mad, when I'm scared, and yeah, sometimes when I'm happy. I cry at commercials and melancholy melodies.

So of course I was going to get weepy, sending Ethan off to school. I just didn't think it would be other kids, perfect strangers, rather than my own son, who would get the waterworks running.

We were ready to go a little after 8 a.m. Ethan wanted to bring his (foam) sword. The compromise was that he bring it in the car and leave it there. By 8:15 we were driving the long way to school, since Ethan said he wanted to go by the fountain in the center of town.

"I'm nervous," he confided. For a few moments I was thrown by the awesome fact that he understands what the word means. I told him it was okay to be nervous. I told him everyone felt a little scared the first day of school. That's when I started noticing the other kids on the side of the road, waiting with squeaky new backpacks and their moms and dads for the bus to arrive.

"See those kids?" I pointed out. "I bet they are nervous too. And those ones...and this one." As we drove, I looked more closely. The kids were so small. Some of them seemed to wear backpacks nearly half their height. Everywhere I looked, there were kids, parents, savoring the last few moments before goodbye. Summer was truly over.

I could feel that tingly sensation in my nose. My eyes were watering. Don't do it, I told myself. Lose it now and you won't be able to stop.

The classical music station on XM radio was whispering in the background. Lately Ethan has been asking for what he calls "the peaceful music." Whatever sonata was playing sounded like some kind of soundtrack to a depressing movie.

We stopped for a bus that had its flashers going. I saw one mom see her child up the bus stairs, looking to keep her in her line of sight for as long as possible. Another stood across from the bus, blowing kisses to her daughter who was hanging her head halfway out the window.

Full-out tears started. Sniffles. Choked down sobs. You know, I thought when I dropped Ethan off on his first day I'd be living some sort of 80's sitcom flashback montage. You remember? Where his past five years would flash before my eyes, starting with the moment of his birth and various stages of his development? You know, sort of like that episode of Growing Pains (yeah, I know I'm dating myself here) when Mike graduates from high school and his pregnant mom sits there reliving cutsey moments from his early years? I thought it'd be like that...but instead I was crying as I watched other people's children.

Ethan was the one who pulled it together. "I know what will cheer me up. I have my friend E.," he said, speaking of his buddy from last year who is once again in his class.

"You're right buddy. You are right," I replied, driving and sniffling.

At the school there were cars and parents everywhere. About 132 of them were standing outside of the unloading school buses, which they had just chased with their cars so they could snap a picture of their children disembarking. I snickered while simultaneously acknowledging that if Ethan had taken the bus I so would have been there clicking away with them.

Ethan didn't want to get out of the car. A promise of Spiderman episodes on Netflix after school helped fix that.

We pushed our way through the crowds of parents, siblings, teachers and paraprofessionals, and little students with big eyes who were already lost. In the classroom I snapped one last picture, managed to back up and trip over two chairs, and gave Ethan a high-five. Here we were, saying goodbye, and bizarrely, everything felt absolutely fine.

Man, now I feel like singing R.E.M. (it's the end of the world as we know it). Yeah, I'm in a punchy mood tonight.

So we lived out our day, and at sometime past 3:15 Ethan came barreling out of the building and...not straight into my arms, but directly past me to the playground. I begged for details and was relieved to get a few. They read I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Book. He swung on swings next to a boy and a girl. And amazingly, his fear of the raucous cafeteria has been assuaged by something one of his teachers said (they did a "dry run" at snack time in there).

Ethan survived the evils of the lunchroom. I made it through day one without being too much of a helicopter mom. Tomorrow we do it all over again. There's no guarantee that it will be tear free. I am a Crier. This isn't an 80s sitcom. Nothing wraps up this neatly. Especially not a school year.

1 comment:

Orli D said...

I cry every year. My son will start year 4 at school in two days, and I will cry again. My youngest will go to Reception (like kindergarden, but in the UK), and I will cry.
I find it hard leaving them in school every single day. Don't even ask what happens when we have a school trip.
THat is why I never ever do the first day alone, and to be honest for years I made my husband drop them off because I couldn't bear it...
So you see, you are in a better shape than me!
Hope the rest of the year goes smoothly :)

* Got here through Love That Max