Friday, August 12, 2011

William's first day of school

When I was six years old and preparing to enter the first grade, I made a sign that said, "My first day of school is today." I drew a picture of myself, with two brown pigtails and a blue dress. On my first day of school, my dad took a picture of me standing in our driveway holding that sign. My mom stood next to me, holding my blue Pluto bookbag and looking a little stunned.

More than 30 years later (yes, it was that long ago....that was August of, gulp, 1980), that sign--and the dress and the Pluto bookbag--are what I most remember about my first day of school at the little elementary school near my childhood home. I remember sitting next to a little girl who wore pants and had an unusual first name and wondering if she was a boy or a girl, and I remember my sweet little teacher, a new teacher who was barely taller than her students. But that's about all.

(Mom remembers crying after she thought I could no longer see her. I don't remember that at all, of course. She told me about that years later.)

This picture may be what William remembers most about his first day of elementary school:

That is the picture that William colored as his very first assignment on his very first day of school. Granted, William's first day of school, which was yesterday, Aug. 11, 2011, was actually his first day of kindergarten, but I think it should still count. He's still at a big school with big kids. It counts in my mind, anyway.

And y'all, I could not be any prouder of him if I tried.

He woke up early, dressed himself in his uniform (including tucking in the shirt and fastening the belt), and made his bed. He was calm and agreeable and cheerful throughout breakfast and the inevitable rushing-around that we always seem to do before school. He didn't even object to having his picture made. And oh, he was so pleased to be such a big kid at last!

Somewhere, my parents have a picture of me on my first day of school that is very similar to this one:

In my photo, I'm wearing my sweet little blue dress, holding that Pluto bookbag that I inexplicably adored so much, just as William adores that gaudy Justice League backpack that's nearly as big as he is. I'm standing on the sidewalk in front of my new school, and I look...hopeful.

William looks a little more nervous in the picture above than he does in any of the other pictures I took of him yesterday morning, perhaps because he is actually standing in front of the school in this one, preparing to walk through the front doors. I think it's perfectly okay that he was likely feeling a few nerves at that point. I know I sure was.

He behaved so beautifully once we got into the school too. Even though his classroom was a sea of strangers, some of whom were having a few transition issues, he didn't freak out or hang back. He found his seat, and he immediately began to check out the school supplies on his table.

He didn't even seem to notice the leak in the ceiling or the trash can that was still sitting on the end of his table. He began to work on his drawing, as I snapped photos and looked around to see if I recognized anyone. (You will notice if you go back to look at his artwork that he found a crayon that exactly matched the color of the shirt that he was wearing. He's very proud of that shirt. He picked it out himself.) We stayed for the Pledge of Allegiance and showed him how to hold his hand over his heart. Like some of the other parents whose kids seemed to be doing just fine, David and I stood there awkwardly, not sure what exactly we were supposed to be doing.

Turns out, we were supposed to be leaving, so as not to drag out the process for the kids who weren't adjusting as well as William was. One boy kept making a break for the hallway, and his parents kept having to drag him back into the classroom. Another child was sobbing and thrashing around, prompting the teacher to shoo all the remaining parents out the door to the parents' breakfast in the cafeteria.

So I kissed William goodbye, told him I'd see him in a few hours, and...walked out. He didn't cry or cling to me or anything. He smiled and turned his attention to the teacher. He was...ready.

I know what you might be wondering. No, I didn't cry either. I didn't even feel the slightest prickling of tears. It was anticlimactic, actually. I'm relieved and delighted and surprised and happy and did I mention relieved?

There was no school today, but Monday is a half-day. Andrew and I will deliver William to his classroom for a few hours and then return to pick him up at lunchtime. We're already discussing the possibility of William riding the bus home from school soon; a handful of other kids in his class are doing it, and heck, if they can do it, he certainly can. I'm going to let him adjust to the new school, the new hours, and the new morning routine, and then we'll see about arranging for him to ride the bus home in the afternoon.

So we survived. It turned out just fine. Oh my God, what a relief that it's over. Onward to the rest of the year.

The Big Kindergartener says hello!


Ali...Mom...Jeff's Wife...Barb's Daughter... said...

Our "first day" experience with Emma was sort of anticlimactic, too. Preschool really gets them ready for the world of "big school," and even though we didn't know it was happening at the time - it got us parents ready too. Way to go on your first day of Big School, William!! And way to go, Mom!!

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