First day of kindergarten is tough, at least for Mom

By JENNY OVERSTREET

Those kindergarten teachers. You sit at their late-August parent meeting, all wide-eyed with expectation and happy-nervous. You fill out the important papers they hand you. You study their faces and gestures for the comforting signs of kindness and warmth. You hang on their every word. And then they hit you.

"Now, moms and dads," they say in a voice like they’re your parents, "it’s important to say goodbye to your kindergartner at the school’s front door on the first day of school. We know it’s hard … but it’s for the best."

For the best? What’s really best, I think to myself, is for me to just decide what’s best for my little future president/genius scientist/gifted artist. I’m the taxpaying life-giver here, I’ll decide where I should and shouldn’t go, OK? Maybe there’s something you just don’t understand.

Stay at the door? Don’t the teachers know how that feels? They wouldn’t ask such a horrible thing if they knew the physiology of the first-day-of-school-kindergarten parent: how my stomach churns at the thought of this milestone moment, how my heart fills my throat with the dread I’ve saved up all these years waiting for this day. If they did know, they’d let me stay a little while there in the back of that kindergarten room, just to make sure things are all right. If they knew, that morning, how my child’s life will flash before my eyes, clear back to his birth — the last push, the first sight, the warm, tiny little body first in my arms — they’d invite me to come in to school to make new family memories. If they’d only notice those tears behind the video camera that morning while I stand outside, they’d cheer, "Come on in, moms and dads, this is your day too!"

If they’d just let us have one day of kindergarten together, like a good protective mama, I’d steer my little one in the right direction at all times. I’d listen carefully to the teacher’s directions. I’d help him find his cubby, the bathroom, someone to play with outside. I’d help him remember to raise his hand and say please. Hey, those teachers might decide to keep me around for the second day, too!

Don’t they notice the love I feel for this face in the crowd surging through me like a charging electric current? Those shortcomings they’ll notice — I could explain each one. Can’t sit still? Been that way since the womb. Only uses purple crayons? We thought it was cute. (Oops, sorry there, I’m blocking the doorway a bit, aren’t I?) Can I tell you about the day the training wheels came off?

Wait a minute, what’s that you say? Oh. They do know how I feel? Oh, that’s why we have to wait outside. Oh, I suppose I can kinda understand their reasoning there. I mean, you gotta make that break sometime, don’t you? Might as well be — now?

I guess I’ll try not to cling too tightly then as we wait in the kindergarten line that morning, hoping he’ll remember I was his first best friend. I’ll swallow down that lump in my throat as I try not to think about all those days I was too busy to play, and how I want those days back. I’ll try not to picture graduation day, 13 years — or the blink of an eye — away.

And as a warm little chunk of my beating heart walks through those big school doors, I’ll be glad that kindergarten teacher made me wait outside. This journey is really just his own. Plus, it makes it easier to spy through the windows that way, now doesn’t it?

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