After 10 weeks of waiting, 10 weeks of planning, and 10 weeks of summer activities it was finally here. The first day of school. Now in our house, the first day of school is a really big deal. There’s always an extra special breakfast, pictures, and basically everything we can do to create a festive atmosphere. The kids look forward to it too, they get to pick out one outfit for school when we get our school supplies and it’s always set aside to be worn for the first time on their first day of school.
Once we get them through the morning, Matt and I take them up to the school together. And every year we line up at the doors with our child and walk him into his classroom for the first time. It’s always been a wonderful experience for us. I don’t know what it is that I’ve done right but my kids have never cried about their first day of school. They might be nervous, but they always greet it openly and with great excitement.
I can still remember Brendan heading off to his first day of pre-school. That year he was being bussed across town to a special education pre-school run by the school district. So every morning a little white van would pull into our driveway to pick him up and take him to school. On the first day, he was beyond excited.
We’d bought donuts and sat on the front porch having a picnic in the cool breeze of that August morning. I’d done all I could to prepare him for the experience, but I still wasn’t sure how he was going to do getting into that van alone and riding to a school so far away. The van finally arrived, and Brendan was so excited to get onto his “bus” that he ran right down the front porch steps toward it. The driver got out, helped him up into his designated car seat, and began adjusting all of the straps to fit Brendan.
Through all of this Brendan was all smiles and kept chatting away with the driver and I about how he got to go to school and ride the bus and anything else that came to mind. Finally, the driver was finished and it was time to say goodbye. I leaned into the van and gave him a hug, a kiss, and told him to have a good day at school. Brendan looked at me very solemnly and said, “but aren’t you coming?” Evidently he thought that I’d be getting into the van with him to go to school. I took a deep breath, willed myself not to cry, and said, “No sweetheart, you’re a big boy now and you get to ride the van to school all by yourself.” He looked confused for just a moment longer, then a smile broke back out onto his face as he shouted, “Okay!”
From that time on we never had any trouble on the first day of school. By the time he started Kindergarten, the whole school thing was old hat to him. In fact we lingered a moment or two longer than he liked, taking pictures of him settling into his little desk. He finally had to tell us that he was fine and we could leave now. For first, second, and third grade we pretty much walked down to his classroom with him, watched him hang up his backpack, gave him big hugs and wished him luck before heading back out of the classroom.
The point is, I know there are some parents and children that don’t handle the separation as well, and that do better saying goodbye at the doors to the school. In fact, this year we saw a little boy so reluctant to start school that the principal was forced to basically restrain him from running back across the school grounds to his mom. Despite that scenario, when we received notice this summer that due to changes in security at the school parents would not be allowed to walk their children inside on the first day I was devastated.
I’m very big into making sure that if I do something with one of my kids that I do it with all of them, and Cameron had seen us walking Brendan into school for his entire life. So when I had to break the news to him that we couldn’t walk down to his classroom with him he was disappointed, and so was I. It’s not that I don’t understand the school’s point of view. With what’s happened in elementary schools all over the country in the past few years it’s not terribly surprising. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still upset that they robbed me of this experience with my middle child. He will never again have a first day of Kindergarten.
Besides, there are other times they will have to let parents come into the school. Things like programs, and the school ball at the end of the year. What are they going to do for security on those occasions? And why couldn’t they just provide that same scenario to the first day of school? We were told that this rule was going into effect district wide, but we have friends who’s little boy started Kindergarten at one of the other elementary schools and they were let inside with him.
I didn’t sleep well on the night before school began. Though I knew I needed to get over it, disappointment and anger over the whole situation kept me from getting a good night’s sleep. The morning routine went as smoothly as it ever does on the first day of school, and we headed out the door about 10 minutes early hoping to beat some of the traffic.
Evidently we didn’t leave soon enough. By the time we got into the neighborhood it was already a zoo. We parked in our friend’s driveway and walked up the street to the school. Arriving on the school grounds we could already see a swarm of parents and students milling about in front of the doors. Teachers were out with signs directing the students into lines.
Knowing that we couldn’t be in two places at once we explained to Brendan that we were going to stay with Cameron since it was his first time going to school. We offered to let Brendan stay with us until it got closer to time to go into school, but he said he’d rather just go talk to his friends. So with a quick hug and one last “have a good day” he was off. It didn’t bother me too much not to be able to walk him down to his classroom. He’s getting old enough that I figured one of these years he was going to tell me not to do it anyway. So I just pretended in my mind that was what he’d done and it helped me get over that aspect of it.
Waiting at the doors, Cameron looked both scared and excited. He kept coming back for more hugs from Matt and I, but didn’t look like he didn’t want to be there. All he’s talked about for the last year was being big enough to go to Brendan’s school, so I knew once the apprehension of being in a new situation wore off he’d be happy to be at school.
And he was. When we picked him up from school that afternoon he was exhausted and pretty much laid his head down onto Matt’s shoulder for the entire walk back to the car, but he said he had fun which, in the scheme of things, is really all that matters.