Saturday, September 10, 2011

First days

Wednesday marked the first day of Seattle Public Schools for the 2011-12 school year.  We'd been counting down for a while, but those last couple of weeks seemed to fly by at an accelerated rate leaving me running around the house looking for the school supplies I'd purchased over the summer early that morning instead of my more usually uptight routine of getting everything prepared and organized the night before.  Despite my lack of order, I did start the morning with the tradition of homemade cinnamon rolls, so the boys awoke to a house that smelled of yeast and spices instead of the sound of an alarm.  I figure that's always a good way to start a new adventure.

Big Dog was up and dressed first.  He loves school and his countdown to the first day was more of an excited exercise in patience.  He looks forward to returning to the classroom the way most kids look forward to the first day of summer, and while I may not have had the same experience in my education, it is a joy as a parent to have your child up, dressed and geared up to go with plenty of extra time with no coercion or nagging required.  Granted, he didn't decide to dress himself in the picture-ready outfit I'd selected, opting instead for his KEXP t-shirt with the "I power KEXP" engine drawing and a pair of grey shorts, so he could look like his favorite Mario Karts character, Robotio.  But I guess when they get old enough to care about what they wear you have to let them choose, even if it isn't quite what you'd choose for them.

Little Dog was not quite as excited.  Despite spending the previous morning at the school volunteering with the PTSA to help him warm up, he was nervous.  He did get up and dressed once the time came, but it was with some apprehension that he prepared for his day.  The night before we'd had a talk about school and he once again told me emphatically that he hated school.  I tried to remind him that kindergarten was very different from his preschool, that kindergarten was a place for big kids to learn and grow and that his preschool just wasn't ready for a kid who wanted to learn so much.  I asked him to keep an open mind and try to think of kindergarten as a new thing, something exciting and fun.  He promised he would after his brother piped in reminding him that his teacher, Mr. Z was "really cool and funny". 

I packed the boys and their bags of school supplies, their lunches and their backpacks into the station wagon and Mr. Dog followed us in his car.  Once we arrived we decided to head to the classrooms and drop off the heavy loads of supplies straightaway then hit the playground before first bell rang.  When the bell rang, it was time to drop the kids at their classrooms.  Since one classroom was on the 1st floor and the other on the 3rd, this was a situation that required us to divide and conquer.  Mr. Dog asked Little Dog which parent he'd like to have drop him at his classroom and to both of our surprise he opted for Mr. Dog.  I handed the camera to Mr. Dog and took Big Dog upstairs where after getting into his seat and allowing me to take a couple of photos with my phone, Big Dog told me it was time for me to go.  He was all settled and I should leave.  Talk about feeling useless. 

I got one more peek at Little Dog in his classroom before I headed off, feeling slightly sad that I was now a mother of two school aged boys.  There was something more substantial about the drop off for my baby than I remember about Big Dog starting school, but I can't really say why.

At lunch I volunteered in the lunchroom.  Those first weeks for kindergartners are challenging.  Even just opening all of the things found in a typical lunch can be a struggle, so I opened juice boxes, string cheese and fruit leather packages.  I took lids off of lunch containers that were tricky for little hands and I fetched forks, spoons and napkins for those who needed them.  Little Dog only asked once to go home with me, but after I explained the he still had more school he accepted it and I left as he headed out to the playground.  On my way out of the building, I crossed paths with his teacher who told me that Little Dog had been testing the rules a little, not always listening and sometimes doing just the opposite of what he was asked to do.  I told him that sounded a lot like Little Dog and gave him some suggestions on what works best for our little challenge.  I also crossed paths with Big Dog's teacher who gave him a glowing review.  He's so cooperative and works very hard!  Not surprising there either.  Teachers love Big Dog, he's a teacher-pleaser by nature, but it is still nice to hear.

When I picked the boys up from their after-school program I talked to the director who I have grown to know pretty well over the past few years.  He told me that Little Dog had a bit of a meltdown when he first arrived, but it passed quickly.  They weren't really sure what had caused it but he was fine now.

I collected him up and told him we were going home and that he could just sit quietly and watch a cartoon if he wanted.  He gave me a GIANT hug and told me I was the best mommy ever (something that always makes my heart swell- in a good way, not a needs-antibiotics way).

On the way home I asked how he liked school, half expecting a poor report, a lack of desire to return and a plea to stay home with me instead.  You can imagine my surprise when he said, "Best day ever.  I'm happy this is my new school!"  Just as Big Dog did, he talked a lot about Mr. D, the PE teacher (remind me to do something nice for this man who has made both of my boys so happy on their first day of kindergarten!) but when pressed for specifics of the day in his classroom also couldn't remember the details.  Apparently the drinking water at this school contains some sort of powerful amnestic that causes children to be unable to provide satisfying color commentary on their days away from their parents.  Or at least that's my theory.

We had two more days this week, each day received a similar rating, though there was a bit more of a fight getting out of the car for morning drop off on Friday.  It has been refreshing considering my assumptions that this would be a similar battle to our old preschool days.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the new challenges and more structured learning will continue to keep him engaged and happy.  I've also decided to make a change in my approach to school.  I'm not going to be the mom who digs for insight from their teachers.  I'll be there to support the boys, I'll volunteer and if asked, I'll help solve issues that arise for either boy, but I'm not going to be the mom who is constantly mining for issues either.  I'm going to assume that Little Dog is somewhere in the range of normal when it comes to adapting to kindergarten and also assume that his teacher is skilled in managing that adjustment.  I won't let myself worry that he is going to be difficult or be traumatized by his experiences.  In other words, I'm going to stop looking for trouble.  I think it might be the healthiest thing I've decided in ages.

1 comment:

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

They sure are getting big, aren’t they ?~! Watching them crawl up the grow chart taped to hall wall still amazes and amuses me. Were it not for them aging, I wouldn’t believe we are putting on years too.

Here’s to a great year for all four of you.

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