Monday, September 12, 2011

Kindergarten Blues

My little guy started kindergarten last week. He'd been so excited all summer to go to school like the big kids. I got him up early his first day to get him dressed and ready, but I had an early class and didn't get to take him to school. His dad took him, and the first two strikes happened early on: no backpacks allowed for kindergarten (wish they'd told us that before we all took our kiddos shopping!) and his teacher would be serving jury duty for at least the first week of school.

I picked him up that first day, and he was beaming. He looked so adorable sitting at his desk waiting obediently for his name to be called. On the way home, he told me all about his day, and despite the 105 temperature, he clung to my hand the entire way. "He missed me," I thought. "He wants me close."

The next two days I had to drop him off at the curb from the van, to go into the kindergarten yard, where they don't let parents come before school anyway. He slumped slowly in, but both days his teacher told me he cried. As we walked home, I asked him about the tears. "It's just that I missed you," he said. "I looked out the yard, and you were gone."

He was grateful for a weekend.

Sunday night he told me he didn't want to go to school the next day. "I want to stay home with you," he said. I explained that I wouldn't be here; I had school too. He suggested Daddy, but I reminded him that Daddy has to work. "But I'll cry, I know it," he whimpered. "You can do it, Conor," I told him. "You always have a really fun day at school, and when you get home, you can tell me all the fun things that you learned." He persisted, so I tried other tactics.

"You have to go to school. If you don't go to school, they'll kick you out."

He wanted to get kicked out.

"If you cry every day, the other kids will think you're a baby."

"Oh, no, that part's fine," he said. "They all try to cheer me up."

On Mondays, my school schedule allows me to walk him to school, so I figured we'd do that instead of the dump and drive thing. As we walked, he held my hand. And he said the sweetest things:

"I just love holding your hand, Mom."

"I wouldn't trade you for any other mom in the whole world."

"Thanks for walking with me, Mom."

I told him how much I believed in him and how proud I was of him, and how I couldn't wait to hear about his fun day. I told him how many children in the world didn't get to go to school, and how lucky we all are that we do. When we got to the kindergarten yard, I got down on my knees and hugged him for a good long time. He took his Star Wars lunchbox and his water bottle, and walked through the gate. Once through, he came running to the fence, where I was waiting on the other side. "I can't do it, Mom! I can't!" and the tears were coming.

I wanted to burst into tears. I wanted to say to him, "You know what? Forget this public school crap. Come back out of that yard and come home with me. Let's read stories and bake cookies and color pictures. You belong with me." But I choked it back, and put my fingers through the chain link to grab his hand, like one of us was a prisoner, not even sure which.

I reminded him of how brave he is, gave him every pep talk I could think of. His anxiety waxed and waned (mostly waxed) as the bell got closer. When it was time to line up, his big blue eyes filled with water. "You can do this, my boy. I love you." He started to the line, and then ran back to me one last time. We lined up our lips through the chain link diamond and I gave him a kiss of courage. "When you get home," I told him, "go check your bed. I'm going to leave you a surprise."

He lined up, but kept his head turned around to watch me the whole time. Meanwhile I was giving him smiles and thumbs up and blown kisses and cheers. Finally, his blonde head of curls disappeared through the door, and safely now, I let my own tears flow as I walked home.

I hate kindergarten. It just feels wrong to me.

I'll get home from school around dinner time. Aiden will be at a Dodger's game, and Lyndsay will be tutoring. So, it's all about Conor. I will feed him and bathe him, and read to him a few chapters from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We'll say prayers together and lay together in his bed and he can tell me all about his day. I will praise his strong heart (and mine!) and tell him how doing hard things and facing his fears will make him courageous and brave.

And then, we'll do it all over again.


Stephanie Cozzens said...

My twins just started kindergarten, and tell me every morning they don't want to go either. No tears, they'd just rather stay home and play.

I tell them it's their job now that they're five. They have to go to school and learn. The rest of the family has things we have to do, too. It's not a sweet or motherly response, but it gets them out the door in the morning.

I'm not really giving advice, just sharing my own kindergarten blues. Good luck with your little man - what a sweetie.

Hannah said...

Memories. For Ash, it was 1st grade. He got through Kindergarten just fine but he cried every single morning for the first 3 weeks of 1st grade. It was heart wrenching for the first week and then it got really frustrating. And then, one day, he made it through the school doors without shedding a tear. I wanted to throw a party, I was so happy.
Conor will get through this. It's a lot of change for such a little man. You will get through this. You're an amazing Mom who always seems to know just what to say to make the situation better.
Kisses to you both!!

Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, you totally made me cry. I don't know how you got through it! Except you have the heart of a lioness. SO proud of you.

Saint Holiday said...

That boy is so perfectly brilliant, he should have started in fifth grade, not kindergarten. There's something very golden about him. He's quite unusual in the best way. And you are an extraordinary mother. Tell the Conor I'm very proud of him and his brave heart. I love you.