A Mother's Confession: The First Day of School
Bright Smiles and Backpacks
The Big Day Comes
The day had come when a parent experiences a small breaking away from their child. All the wonderful years of raising up the baby to boyhood had led to this one special day; the day my first son went to school. My greatest question was, how would it go?
All the preparations had been made. The shopping was all done. We had several sets of school uniforms in his dresser. Not a very strict uniform policy as it happened. He had a choice of long pants or shorts and three or four different colors for shirts. The school supplies had been dropped off ahead, as had been instructed. They had been bought at a local store already bundled up in a set by school name and grade. School shots and registration paperwork had been completed, or at least the first phase of it, as I found out later. It was amazing what went into getting a child into school.
We rose early that morning. He was all excited. He got dressed in his uniform; a dark green polo shirt almost the color of his eyes and khaki pants. I made him a simple breakfast, put his new backpack on his shoulders and took a picture of him on the front porch steps behind the railing I wound climbing roses into. The leaves were a bit lighter than his shirt. He smiled big to me with green eyes twinkling.
School Craft Poem
That First Walk to School
We then walked together to the large brick building down the street. He was still all excitement and anticipation as we went. As we passed the other houses in the neighborhood, I wondered how he would handle our parting. I’d been warned not to linger. Some said lead him to the door, but don’t go in. Don’t give him the time to realize you weren’t staying. That seemed silly to me as he knew full well I wouldn’t be staying in class with him. We had already gone through that. I would leave and pick him up at the appointed time in the playground. Yes, some kids got clingy at that final moment when the teacher they have known all their lives gets replaced with a stranger. However, this really wasn’t the first time I had left him in the care of someone else. He had done a few short stays in day care and had done just fine.
Then I remembered the time he had refused to leave the car when I tried to drop him once. That day he had to be coaxed out to his car seat and into his sitter’s house and I had to sit with him for half an hour to get him to let go and settle in.
I banished that thought. It had only happened that one time. There was no reason to think there would be a repeat of that today. I never found out what had gotten into him that morning either. He was just fine and happy as could be when I picked him up later.
Years Flying By
Letting Go of His Hand
We reached the school yard with its surrounding playgrounds and circled to the front of the building joined by a parade of other families. We passed through the front doors that faced the offices and then turned left into the new Kindergarten wing. The hall was narrow and crowded with parents and children. I held his hand until we reached his classroom . . . and then defiantly walked him in rather than just dropping him off.
The teacher stood by the door talking to another parent. She frowned at me as I passed like a guard about to challenge a trespasser, but I ignored her. This was my moment as well as his. I suddenly needed, needed to know how it would turn out. How would he handle this new world? Would he make friends easily? Would he see all the strangers and cry? Would he run back to me? I needed to know. It was purely instinct. I knew I was the one becoming clingy at this moment, but didn't care. I couldn’t leave before I was sure it would be alright.
He walked in ahead of me and didn’t seemed to notice that I had let go of his hand. The classroom was a big open vision of contrasting colors and shapes with posters on the walls and toys and pillows in one corner, books in shelves and tables set up with miniature chairs set around them instead of traditional desks. It was chaotic with tiny children roaming here and there looking over everything and talking to each other in a noisy babble.
It was loud and vibrant with all the excitement that a room full of five and six year olds can create. I suddenly remembered an old Sunday School teacher commenting that such atmospheres were akin to letting a sack of squirrels lose in a room. I laughed to myself as my fertile imagination converted these new school children into speedy grey squirrels running from attraction to attraction in different directions.
However, the squirrel I was most interested in was the one in the hunter green polo directly in front of me. He had stopped in place taking in the whole of it. His back was to me so I couldn’t see what impression the chaos was having on him. It took a life time, a few precious seconds . . . and then he turned to me. His eyes were bright with happiness. He had a big grin on his face. He just looked at me for a second and said, “Bye mommy,” and then ran to join the other squirrels. Without another glance he blended into the chaos and I was left standing there, realizing I didn’t need to be there anymore.
Yesterday. my youngest gave me the same smile as he drove off to college; another letting go.
© 2015 Sherry Thornburg