Violet was so ready for school when she started kindergarten. She had been ready for years. As Rob is fond of saying, “She would move out and get her own apartment if we let her.” I had no qualms dropping her off that day, except an overwhelming curiosity to see how she went about taking over the classroom.
Graham, on the other hand, I was not so sure about. Although at the end of our last year home together he mentioned, apologetically, “Mom, I’m getting a little tired of just you and me”, I know that he is, at heart, a home-body. He needs some lay-on-the-floor-playing-pretend time, or some jump-on-the-couch-talking-to-himself time, or some follow-mommy-around time. So I was worried about how he would react to the move from 3 mornings of preschool a week to five 8 hour days a week. That’s a full time job. Kindergarteners didn’t have this rigorous schedule when I was five. We had 1/2 days, which included nap-time and a snack. Not so anymore.
We tried to get him ready for this experience over the summer by enrolling him in a couple weeks of Spanish immersion camp, six hours a day. Then we met his teacher and visited his classroom. I think it helped a bit. I don’t know if it helped me, though. The first morning, Graham put on a brave face. But when he got to his classroom, it disappeared. He hid behind me and didn’t want to go in. When he finally found his seat and started chatting with a couple of friendly boys, things started to look up. Then another boy came in, sat down next to Graham, and started to sob. This undid Graham, because it was so obviously what he was feeling too. I kept waiting for the teacher to shoo us out of the room, but she didn’t. So all of the parents stood around, repeating encouraging phrases and glancing helplessly at the door. It was torture. But no one wanted to be the first to leave. (“Wow, my parents couldn’t wait to get out of here and abandon me. “)
FInally, it was time to go. I crowbarred Graham’s arms from my waist, set him down next to the wailing boy, cheerfully said good-bye and walked out. Of course, that is when I completely fell apart. We stayed long enough to see them sitting down in circle time. Graham seemed nervous, but steady enough. I went home and cried for a few hours. (I had scheduled a day for that kind of thing.)
At pick up that week he was very subdued. Didn’t crack a smile when I arrived. Didn’t say a word until we got home. I was worried. Every day he answered my “How was school?” with “Bad.” Then “Not so good.” Finally, on Friday he said, “I think it was okay… but also not good.” The next week he smiled at pick-up.
Three months later, he missed his first day of school. When we picked up Violet, we had to drive past his class. He rolled down his window to say hi. The whole group jumped up and cheered and cheered. “We miss you! Come back to school!” I thought his head might explode from happiness. Turns out, Graham loves school, and school loves Graham. He has a deep appreciation for rules and homework and schedule. His class is full of sweet kids who love each other so much they play a game called Huggy Monster which basically means they hug each other until everyone falls into a big pile on the carpet. He has several girlfriends. He hasn’t been in Time Out once. As Violet said, “Graham is going to have a tooootally different year in kindergarten than me.”
So, I guess I’m the one who is still navigating the transition. But that is another post.