I had no intention of crying. But when they led my five-year old daughter away from me, down the elementary school hallway toward a Kindergarten class, the tears fell. They did.
It was Kindergarten registration. And while us parents wrestled with forms more suited to applying for top-security clearance jobs with the CIA, the little ones got to hang out in a real Kindergarten class.
Sarah, of course, had a great time. They read a book and the teacher told them the only rule was that you had to have a smile on your face. She loved this. I loved it. But still, there was that tugging deep inside. My baby, my last baby, is growing up.
When Daniel, now a seasoned second grader, started elementary school it was just as heart-wrenching. Probably more so because I had no idea what to expect. I pictured my sweet little boy roaming the halls of the school, surrounded by big kids, lost and afraid and not as coddled as in preschool. I didn’t think he was ready. I certainly wasn’t. It seemed big and huge and scary.
Surprisingly though, the transition was seamless. All my fear evaporated as those first two weeks went blissfully by. I couldn’t believe my luck! While other parents struggled with kids who didn’t want to go to Kindergarten, my little angel went without complaint.
And then came week three. The thrill was gone, the honeymoon over, and Daniel decided there was no way he was ever going back to that place where they made him stay all day and color (he hated coloring) and listen (he hated that too) and not talk when he wanted to.
It all went down on a perfectly normal day, as we walked to school with his friends. Somewhere before the playground and after the hill, it all went horribly wrong.
By the time we got to the school, Daniel’s shrieks could be heard for miles around and the exertion of walking Frankenstein-like with one leg dragging behind me, a screaming child attached to it, was starting to wear on me.
When we arrived outside his classroom, disheveled, bruised and battered, heartsore and mortified, I was thinking of elaborate ways to never go through this again (I’d find a country that didn’t have kindergarten and we’d move there. Or maybe his preschool would take him back. It would just be for a few more years. No one would have to know.).
Luckily, his nurturing, sweet and very strong teacher was able to pry Daniel from my body and gently but firmly place him in the classroom while I, distraught, was comforted by moms who had been there. (I wasn’t the only one ever to have gone through such torture! Who knew?).
But it won’t be like that with Sarah...will it? She already knows the school because she’s there every day to pick her brother up. It’ll be easy. Right?
What will happen when I start having to wake her up in the morning and she realizes that having a smile on her face isn’t actually the only rule and that she has to do work and not talk in class and stay there all day?
She’ll either go sweetly or she won’t, but one way or another she’ll go. I’ll use my well-honed ability to alternately bribe and threaten. And if that doesn’t work, I will remind myself that this too shall pass.
I’m sure I’ll shed a tear or twenty while the transition is fresh. But I can’t stop my kids from growing up, nor would I want to. Still, a little nostalgia and a lot of tears never hurt anyone. Right?
Lauren Menis is a Dunwoody mother whose column appears in The Crier each month. You can reach Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.