By John Jericiau
“Daddy, is it called ‘kidnergarten’ because only kids are allowed?” my 5-year-old son asked as we walked the three blocks on his first day of school.
“Actually Devin, it’s ‘kindergarten’, not ‘kidnergarten’. But it is for kids your age”, I replied.
“Is there a garden there?”
“Hmmm. Sort of.” I thought to myself. It’s more of a symbolic garden. During the first class there were 25 little people – not babies anymore – who all seemed ready and eager to learn whatever was presented to them by a wiser adult. As I watched my son and his classmates listen to an outline of all of the learning activities they will experience in the coming year, and all of the expectations placed upon them (no extraneous talking, no yelling, etc.), I could almost hear all the slurping of their brains as they stared at their teacher and took it all in. Occasionally the new students would look back and give a quick wave to the proud parent who was also mesmerized by the entire experience and who was wondering how and when this metamorphosis happened! Wasn’t it just the other day that I was telling my son where to poop? Now I’m talking to him about treating other kids with respect, looking parents in the eyes to say hello, and basically acting like a decent human being.
Seeds were already being planted the very first day. Responsibility. Trust. Tolerance. All the seeds that you hope and pray will flourish and grow in your child to become the very pillars of their soul. Each morning we arrive to class, and each afternoon we leave. I watch carefully and count in my head how many of my son’s classmates greet him and yell goodbye. I’m relieved when some of the parents tell me that their son or daughter talks about Devin at the dinner table. They like him; they really like him!
It’d be really nice if Devin didn’t have to experience any of the angst of the school world, but it’s inevitable. The girls that won’t return his feelings. The boys who won’t let him in their circle of friends. It’s bound to happen. Just go easy on him. Please.
Some kids already stick out as the popular ones. The funny one. The loud one. The athletic one. The daughter-of-the-PTA-president one. I know how it all goes. I’ve been there myself obviously, and remember every bit of it, even though it was a long, long, long time ago. I’m not sure where Devin is going to be pigeonholed. Maybe the cool one, or the handsome one.
Alen and I wonder if we’ve set him up on a course of disaster. An African-American kid planted right in the middle of an all-white class. The son of two gay dads plopped directly into an ocean of Mommies and Daddies. All we can do, and what we must do, is overcompensate. I’ve already begun that dance. Join the PTA. Check. Volunteer for activities. Check. Quickly learn the other parents’ names and use those names on a daily basis. “Good morning, Patty!” “Hey Mike, what’s up?” Check. Bring in an entire box of Xerox paper for the teacher (who asked for a ream). Check.
We had completed applications to a couple of other public schools in the area for Devin’s kindergarten experience. Both admitted students by lottery only. The first school is an alternative school house right next to Devin’s current one. After the lottery they formed a waiting list, and kindergartener number 4 in line actually made it in at the last minute. We were right behind her, at number 68. The second school, one that we hung our hopes on, is a Spanish Immersion school about 1½ miles from home. We didn’t make the lottery, and they don’t even form a waiting list, but instead just pick another kindergartener’s name out of the hat if a space opens up. We thought this would be really good for Devin, especially since he is already fluent in one language (Armenian), and our friend/surrogate and I both speak Spanish.
I got a hold of the admission coordinator’s email early this past summer, and gently nudged her with a few sporadic emails:
“Is there any way to find out how close we are to getting in? I had a dream the last two nights that Devin got in, and I want to see if you’re going to make my dreams come true.”
“We had a great trip to Costa Rica and Devin learned a lot of Spanish so I think this is a really good time to tell us that he has finally been accepted.”
Does everyone else use similar strategy and thoughts like I do? I have no idea, but for now Devin seems really really happy.
Only 11 months until first grade!