The day finally came. After years and years of waiting, my youngest finally went to kindergarten and it was nothing like I expected it would be.
The graduated entry system makes it harder for both parents and their children to let go of each other. Her first day of school, I got to join her for a couple hours in her classroom. She didn’t go back the following day but at the end of the week she got to bring her dad to class for a couple of hours. That was it for kindergarten the first week of school and my child was loving it.
The following week my child cried like she was punched in the guts, despite her knowing exactly what was going to happen in terms of going to school.
The first week she had been so delighted to bring a parent to school both times she went. The second week, however, she knew she was on her own.
My youngest is a ham. She loves to be goofy and to make people laugh. She’s the first to crack a joke in a tense situation and she’ll do anything to make you smile. She’s not that shy, and will chat with anyone about anything for the most part. (She’s quick witted and understands sarcasm and dry humour too, which perhaps aren’t the best attributes for kindergarten, but we’ll see.) She’d been wanting to go to kindergarten since her brother first started school two years ago. She’s been lucky enough to learn a lot from her big bro about the things he’s learned in school thus far and she was more than prepared to enter school herself.
Or so I thought.
The way the school had it scheduled, my daughter was set to go in the afternoon, on her own, on the Monday and Tuesday of the second week. No parents allowed. All morning she asked me “Is it time? is it time? When’s school? Can we leave yet? Should I put my shoes on?”
It was annoying. I kept her busy until eventually it was time to go. That’s when the thing I least expected happened. She began to cry.
What the heck? My child had been waiting two years for this and now she doesn’t want to go? It’s been all she could talk about this summer and now she’s not keen anymore?
“But Mama,” she wailed. “Once I go to school that means the end of our special time together.”
Tug right at my heartstrings why don’t you. She was right and we both knew it. I tried to keep my cool but this was it. This was my youngest child heading off into the world of the big kids and me not having babies at home anymore. Having to string out the goodbye was gut wrenching in a way. It wasn’t a clean break.
My youngest heading off to school is a source of pride. We made it! It was time. Even though I, too, was mourning the end of a chapter in my family’s life, I hardened my stance — for both of our benefits.
I felt like Rockford Peaches coach Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) when he made his iconic comment “There’s no crying in baseball!” in the 1992 movie, A League of Their Own.
“There’s no crying kindergarten!” I said. “We’re going.”
She sobbed and tears dripped down her face as she put her shoes and coat on. My heart broke for her. For me. The tears continued to spilled out of her eyes as we left the house. They dried up, though, as we walked along and found a snail. She began to smile as we got to the school yard to find her brother and his friends running up to meet her while they were on their lunch break.
She started laughing as we got to her classroom door and started talking about what she might get up to with her classmates that afternoon.
The bell rang and she looked up at me with her perfect, although puffy little crying face, and asked if I could come inside with her.
“No,” I said, “but how about I stand outside the window so after you hang up your backpack, take your coat off, and put your inside shoes on, you can give me a wave to say goodbye?”
She agreed and got in line.
She never did look out the window and wave. She went straight to work, washing her hands and sitting down at a table to do some activity or another, grinning away and yammering at her new friends.
She was ready for school.
She wanted to be there.
She had been all along.