So, the thing isÖ Ana started Kindergarten yesterday.

 

So, sheís completed her first day and sheís gone off to her second day and I think Iím going to survive.  Really, I think this might just work out without requiring long-term sedation on my part.  For those of you keeping score at home, I cried.  My husband videoed.  Jane (almost three-years-old and very enthusiastic) cheered.  Ana grew pale and silent and had tears in her eyes, which is what set me off.  But sheís going to love it.  I just know sheís going to love it.

 

GOSH, I hope she loves it.

 

So, I came home after dropping her off the first day and I made the beds and loaded the dishwasher and Jane and I fed the dog.  And I watered the plants and folded the clothes in the dryer and sat down to hem a dress of Anaís that had lost its hem during some excursion or another when she stepped on it.  (She insisted on wearing dresses everywhere for the last six months until last night when we picked out her clothes and she decided on shorts and a T-shirt for her second day of school.  Go figure.)

 

I started thinking about how I belong to a long line of mothers who have sown (sewn) their love and concern and care into the small daily tasks of everyday life.  Itís funny.  Not too long ago, my husband did some maintenance thing or another and he said, ďYou know, Iím a GUY.  And this is how GUYS say, ďI love you.ĒĒ

 

At the time I wasnít very impressed.  I mean, Iím crazy about my husband but I know how to spell C-O-P-O-U-T, ahem.  But today I finally understood what he was saying.  This entire summer, when I couldnít give voice to my huge feelings, Iíve been doing things like knitting (havenít done that since junior high) and scrapbooking and making jam -- cooking all the excess love I have for my big girl into the little jars.

 

Actually, itís so Freudian I have to laugh.  Making preserves--get it?  PRESERVES.  Even though everything I know about laying in provisions for the winter comes from repeated readings of Little House in the Big Woods, I made enough jam to keep our entire block in the ďjĒ of PB & J. It took me until recently to realize that this is a metaphor for wanting to preserve our life as it is --to try to "can" my girls in this perfect and whole state. 

 

(Painful, I know, as analogies go.  But at least I understand that one.  Whereas the recent nightmare about my male Yoga instructor who came into the room carrying a box of muffins and wearing a nunís habit and then, with a shy smile, took a gun out of the muffin box and shot me remains beyond analysis.  I havenít been able to go to his class since.)

 

But anyway, Ana went to Kindergarten yesterday and when she came home, she was a school-age kid.  She didnít want to tell me anything about her day; she rolled her eyes at me periodically and when Jane spilled her water at dinner, Ana cleaned it up without any fanfare or tattling or predictions about how much Santa would like to see THAT. 

 

So, see, in a way, my tears were justified.  I knew I was waving goodbye to my little preschooler forever when she threw me one last miserable, lost look over her shoulder as she followed her teacher into the building. But itís okay, because the schoolgirl who came out of that door smiling is one terrific kid. 

 

Here are Barbís Hints to Surviving Your Oldest Child Going to Kindergarten.  (Because I had to do something and we have enough jam.)

 

  1. DO NOT go to the grocery store the night before school starts.  Send your spouse/partner/somebody you pay but donít go yourself.  Itís crazy and there are six million people there and youíll be tempted to by that hideous, overpriced, stuffed, four-foot tall horse thatís been on display for the past eight months as some kind of guilt gift.  Resist at all costs.  If you need something (see number 5), and you have a husband to send, tell him you understand heís saying, ďI love youĒ by going.

  1. Prepare to cry.  I seem to be in denial about being a crier.  I never think Iím going to cry and I always do.  Bring some Kleenex with you.  Even if YOU donít use it, you might be able to offer some to a stranger who is having a nervous breakdown as she watches her very small five-year-old march off to the rest of her life.

  1. The school runs on a completely different clock than yours.  Elementary School Time takes precedence and the principal gets to arbitrarily decide what that time is.  She gets few perks but that is one of them.  Set your clocks, ALL of your clocks, to the same time as your school and do it before the first day of school, if possible.

  1. Have a simple, mindless project for yourself after you leave the school.  If you are a working mom, try to do something a bit mindless at work, like filing or reading e-mail like this one!  If youíre at home, find something to do with your hands that doesnít require a huge amount of concentration.  I was going to repaint my entryway but instead, I re-subscribed to the Fly Lady http://www.flylady.com and Iíve been deleting her e-mails with a vengeance. 

  1. This is not the day to quit drinking OR to start dyeing your hair.

  1. The second day is worse for the child.  Ana had a much harder time going to school on the second day when she realized that she was going to have to get up and go EVERY DAY. You might want to hold back a treatónew lunch box or backpack for the second day. I didnít know about this so I was unprepared and we were all unhappy.

  1. Remember that weíre the sherpas on this expedition.  We can bring them to the foot of the mountain, we can carry all of their gear and make sure they have what they need but ultimately, they have to reach the top themselves.  Weíll catch them if they fall but we canít climb the mountain for them.  You canít plan for every single contingency Ė you have to trust that your child is resilient and resourceful. 

  1. The teachers are on your side.  But more importantly, they are on the side of the kids.  Theyíll make it as easy for you as possible Ėour Kindergarten teacher had simple checklists of things to bring and not to bring, a copy of the daily schedule, and several pages of forms that I needed to fill out and send back.  It was very reassuring.

  1. Everyone is going to be just fine.  Really, I promise.  And you are going to be the proudest parent in the world at the end of this week.

  1. Well, almost.

 

(c) Barbara Cooper 2003

 

Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (5) and Hurricane Jane (2.75).  She lives in Austin, Texas and she has recently stopped buying muffins.