The last couple weeks have been pretty crazy. I always try to cram as much fun as I can into those last few days off. Then there's all the school shopping and preparing. Today they are off to school for their third day of school (the second full day.) And after they go off this morning, I'll finally breath a little sigh.
This year, I had four heading off to school - 8th grade, 5th grade, 4th grade and 2nd grade. My oldest, now a high school graduate started his first night at the fire academy this week and he'll continue his part time job at Subway and his other side job mowing lawns.
The other night as I was scrambling to get supplies together, I thought back on the first day of school for my first son. Although he had been in preschool for two years, it seemed so much harder dropping him off for kindergarten. Preschool, after all, is optional. Kindergarten is mandatory and permanent and every day of the week and symbolizes over a decade of the same to come.
I recall bringing him to classroom and doing a puzzle with him and exploring the classroom. I knew it was time to go when the last of the other moms disappeared and it was just me. He was in a small, private school with the kindergarten class separate from the rest of the upper grades and with a separate entrance in the preschool wing. So, out the door I went to the tiny parking lot on the quiet street. I pulled up in front of the school to take a picture for my scrapbook and I remember that I couldn't focus. I was sobbing and my eyes were filled with tears and I couldn't see through the viewfinder. I had just left my baby in the care of someone else - something that so rarely happened when he was that age - and I was so apprehensive. It was an afternoon half-day class that lasted about 2 1/2 hours. Of course, he did fine and went on to have a wonderful year with his teacher (a male kindergarten teacher!) and his classmates.
Fast forward about 13 years and I'm sending all his brothers off for their first day of school. It's not quite as hard as it used to be. In fact, I was always a mom who's heart sank when I heard others moms talk about how they couldn't wait to send their kids back to school and couldn't wait for summer to be over. To me, I cherished that time when they were all home during the summer and there were long carefree days together. The past couple years, though, I started to get it. While I still would never say I couldn't stand having them at home, like I've heard some moms say, I can understand the anticipation in getting back into a routine and after weeks of hearing them bicker over silly stuff, I have even come to enjoy that quiet time when the house is empty.
My last one going off to his first day of kindergarten two years ago was so much different. At the school he attends, parents aren't even permitted to be in the school on the first day of school. It's a policy I am still very opposed to and I'm not afraid to say so. To me, it gives a feeling of distrust and a need for control and it offends me to be shut out of an important day in my child's life -- and in some cases I think it toughens the transition for everyone. It makes it feel like an inner city school that is run like a juvenile detention center, not a suburban school. But, that's a topic for another day.
So, on his first day, I packed up his supplies and took a picture. His dad was off work that morning, so we all went to take them for the first day of school. My little guy looked so little with so many older kids wandering around. We found his line and he got in the back behind kids he had never met, going into a place that was unfamiliar. It was hard to watch him walk away from me, following the line into the building, but I held it together.
This year, he was off to second grade. I still can't wrap my head around it. It feels like I should still be walking him into his preschool class and doing finger paints and dress up with him on the first day. But, it's not that way anymore. The night before, I was scrounging up school supplies and sloppily marking names on boxes. I used to neatly print names on every pencil. The next morning, I didn't even go to school drop off. I let dad do the deed on his own. I waved to them as they got into the car and then headed off. Unlike when I sent them off to school in previous years, there was no Oprah to tune in to and I had a job outside of the home to get off to.
It all goes by so quickly and so much of their childhood is a blur, but those first days stick with me...and I'm sure they stick with them as well.