Confessions of a First-time Kindergarten Mom

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School BusThree years ago, when my son was barely two, a good friend’s oldest son was starting kindergarten. In her minivan, probably still in pajama pants with a toddler in the back seat, she followed her beloved’s bus all the way school that first morning. After all, the bus could have rolled over and landed unseen in a ditch. The driver could have been a kidnapper -- or drunk! I teased her, with love of course, certain that I would easily embrace my son’s growing older and kick him, ever so gently, straight onto that bus and never look back.

But now I’m the one whose first born is headed off to kindergarten -- in 7,836 minutes to be exact. (What? It’s not weird that I know that.) I’m thinking of not simply following the bus -- that’s for amateurs. I’m going to ride WITH him. I mean, how thorough was the bus driver’s background check exactly?

Like most of my big motherhood moments, the approaching first day of elementary school brings with it an odd, difficult to define mixture of horror and sentiment. How can I long for the days when he’s off at college so I can sleep as long as I want and then wake to read a book in my bed while in the exact same moment desire so desperately to capture him as he was at the age of two, reciting his ABCs for the fist time, and never, ever let him go?

This complicated combination of emotions -- and the fact that I know how many minutes it is until the first day of school -- has led me to believe that I’m in need of medication for neurosis. Really. Here are some of the other reasons why:

School Supply List. What the heck is a “bar eraser”? Is it an old-fashioned eraser for a chalkboard? Do schools even use chalkboards anymore? Is it a dry erase board eraser? Turns out, it’s none of these things. It’s a pink, rectangular eraser for pencils. The “Pink Pearl.” And headphones? Um, does the author of the supply list have any idea how many options there are for “headphones”? Apparently not, as no description is provided. They may want to be a touch more specific on the supply list next year. Between the stress of purchasing a backpack that’s not too babyish and figuring out what kind of shoes kids wear to school these days, I really can’t be expected to decipher “school code words.” Pink Pearl Eraser isn’t hard to type.

Also, what is it that makes school supplies collectively smell so, so good? A parent I know, equally in love with school supplies, helped me define the unmistakable smell of new school supplies this way: The scent of the newly sharpened pencil is filled with sweet possibility. If that brought a tear to your eye, you might need to join me at the therapist’s office.

Teacher Announcements. I had no idea that I would vividly recall the giddiness I felt as a 5-year-old waiting to find out who my teacher would be and which friends were in my class until today when my son’s teacher was announced. Giddy I still am -- and now probably a bit ridiculous as well. The experts say that we shouldn’t project our emotions onto our kids. Is it okay to project them onto Facebook? Because that’s where I spent this afternoon discussing with other kindergarten parents which teachers had which kids and what that class placement meant for the children’s chances to get into a good college.

Class lists won’t be posted for another 21 hours or so. Hope there’s enough wine in the house to get me there. Because surely if my son has no one he knows in his class, his self-esteem will be damaged irreparably and he’ll curl under his desk in the fetal position. Oh, wait. If I’m riding the bus with him, I might as well go to class with him as well. I’m sure no one will mind if I force that boy over there to sit next to my son at lunch. While I’m at it, I’ll just make sure he eats his carrots and tells the teacher when he has to pee. Just for the first day -- which is now in 7,770 minutes.

Editor/writer Brooke Bernard observed a kindergarten class once for a college course and still has nightmares. Bernard's adventures in parenting can be found most Wednesdays at www.mamasagainstdrama.com 

Photo Credit: alfonsojimenez.

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