First Day of School: Stepping Away

September 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Single Parents, Wendy Rhein

By Wendy Rhein

I’m not sure what happened, or really, when it happened. In June I had two little boys -7 and 2 -and now, I have one little boy and one Big Boy. It all started innocently enough. He wanted to make his own breakfast. He wanted to help me chop vegetables for dinner with the serious chef’s knife. And then it grew. He asked for his own music in the car instead of the ‘kid’ music his brother likes to sing; his own MP3 player would be the best option for everyone, he claimed. And then he asked to pick out his own school clothes since I may not get what he wanted. Including a sports coat because that’s what older boys wear if they need to be dressed up. He wanted to run into the drug store by himself to get a gallon of milk. He stopped wearing a shirt to bed.

All of this was fine with me – cute even. Until last week.

School started last week for us and we were all atwitter for the first day of second grade. I drove Nate to school because we had missed the orientation day and didn’t have a classroom number. He insisted that I needed to walk him all the way to class to be sure he was settled. My baby, my eldest, still needed me.

As we walked up the sidewalk teeming with happy parents and shiny-backpacked little ones, Nate suddenly stopped walking, turned and grabbed me around the waist, enveloping me in a tight hug that seemed to surprise us both. It brought an immediate and intimate smile to my face, thinking he needed the reassurance and the closeness that a hug from Mama can bring.

And then he let go.

I walked him into the melee of the entry hall of school with the vice principal loudly and unsuccessfully encouraging parents to drop off their little ones and let them make their own way to classes on the first day. I tried to hold Nate’s hand in the crowd so we could make our way through the now familiar halls. He wouldn’t hold mine. I resigned myself to putting a hand on his shoulder as we nudged our way passed crying mothers looking at the backs of their new kindergarteners for the first time. Out of the crowd, Nate walked in front of me, not next to me, pointing out the music room, the art room, stopping to say a fast hi to friends as they drifted off into different rooms. First day anxiety running high – will he have friends in this new class? Would he (we) like the teacher? Did she (me) pack a snack for the bus?

And finally we land in his classroom at the end of a long hallway. He walked in, one of a handful of kids in the room, and walked right up to the teacher and stuck out his hand. I swelled with pride. That’s my boy! Shaking his teacher’s hand and introducing himself! She welcomed him and told him he could find his desk and put his supplies away. And he was gone. Not a look, not a lean, not a glance back at me. He put his things away, said hi to a couple of kids, put his new pencil box and Star Wars composition book away, and started to work on the welcome form on his desk. I stood there, feeling like the awkward one, waiting for him to run over, give me a hug and ask if I’ll be at the bus stop that afternoon (a request he makes daily that I daily have to refuse) but he never did. After a couple of painful minutes, I walked over and leaned down and quietly said “Ok honey, I’m going to go now. Have a great day.” He would hug me now, I thought. He always hugs me when I take him to school.

“Bye Mom. See ya later.”

That’s it. That’s all I got. I’m not even sure he made eye contact. I walked out of the room with stinging eyes, feeling both proud and sad. My baby was gone. This big kid, who didn’t want to be seen hugging his mother, had surpassed the bear-clutching, sweet-faced boy who had so care-freely leaned into me with the full confidence that I’d be there to hold him up, because I always was. I knew this day was coming and once I could get beyond my own loss I cheered him for his independence and self confidence. He is growing up the way I wanted him to, the way I had worked so hard for him to, despite my own doubts of raising boys on my own. We really are doing fine, more than fine, we’re doing well. But time marches on. It is time for us both to let go a little more. Another inch here, another step away there.

At bedtime he was once again on my lap, telling me all about his day, snuggling his bristly-haired head under my chin, arms wrapped around my shoulders. I told him how proud I was of him for striding into second grade and he said he was a little scared because he didn’t know the kids in his class. We agreed to develop a secret handshake to say goodbye at school that will translate into I Love You, but just to us. I’d tell you about it but it is our secret, my big boy and me.


To My Daughter On Her First Day

August 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Joey Uva

By: Joey Uva

Kindergarten! Where have five and half years gone already? In one week you will start kindergarten. I attended the elementary school open house held back in April and saw what your very first class room would look like; it took me back thirty-eight years to my first class room. I don’t remember much from when I was five but I remember that classroom. Your classroom was filled with little desks, boards, and books with letters and numbers on the walls. I can’t believe we are here already!

Your new school provided me a list of skills you should have to be ready for kindergarten. We have been working on this list all summer. There were times when we sat down at the dining room table and practiced. There were times we practiced in the car to musical learning CDs. There were times we practiced when I didn’t even call it that –we would just do it randomly as a little game or challenge and you would smile at me proudly when you got it right. Those were my favorite times!

Here is your “Kindergarten Readiness” list:

· Write your first name using first letter uppercase and the rest of the name in lower case letters. You’re getting very good at this! You and I practiced. Papa “T” practiced this with you a lot. You’d both sit at the dining room table to practice; he is so good with you. You’d get a little bugged that a certain letter isn’t very good and Papa “T” would just be patient and remind you, “it’s only practice, so the next one will be even better!” And guess what? It was!

· Recite your first and last name. You had this one accomplished a long time ago.

· Recognize your first name in print. You have been able to do that for a long time.

· Hold and use pencil, crayons, scissors, and glue appropriately. We have all that covered. One thing, the scissors make me nervous even though you have wanted to use scissors since I can remember. I remember us playing Play-Doh. Your favorite thing to use was the plastic yellow scissors. You would say, “let’s cut the colors Papa!” You loved it!

· Take turns. You can do that!

· Sit still on the rug in crisscross position for 15 minutes. You might find this a little challenging, because will not be not watching a cartoon, eating at the dining room table, or reading a book with me. Maybe your teacher will be reading a book, and if not, you’ll do just fine.

· Raise your hand and wait to be called on. Yep, you can do that.

· Be able to dress and undress yourself when using the bathroom. This took practice, but you have gotten better and I am proud. You still have a little challenge with buttons on your pants, but we’ll get it right.

· Sharing materials. Check!

· Recognizing colors. I remember us driving home one day shortly after you turned five; you looked and the sunset and said, “see the colors papa.” I said, “yes it’s beautiful! What color is it?” you said, “vermillion!” I smiled and said, “you are right!” You know your colors, but it’s your vocabulary that amazes me.

· Recognize numbers and letters and the difference between them. Check!

· Take responsibility for opening, packing and closing backpacks and lunch boxes. You got this in the bag. Ha! Papa made a silly joke; you’ll probably be embarrassed by that one day. I understand.

· Speak in complete sentences. I remember the first time I went over the list with you. You said, “Papa, what is a complete sentence?” I explained it even though you just used one.

· Recognize basic shapes and colors. You got it!

· Able to listen and follow directions. You can do that.

· Work and play cooperatively. The first time we went over the list you did not know what the word “cooperatively” meant. You do now.

· Listen to the teacher without interrupting. You can do that.

I understand why there is a “Kindergarten Readiness List”. It’s there to help you and me prepare. Well, I have another list, a list that I first started thinking of shortly after you were born. A list that is harder for me to help you with. I will be able to guide you, comfort you, provide love and safety, and be there whenever you need me. It’s a list with a few items that I wish nobody ever had to write down. I am writing them down because I love you!

Papa’s Readiness list for elementary school and the future:

· I know you will be nervous and shy on your first day of school. You tend to be very shy. Give it two weeks Pumpkin, and you’ll be coming to me with the name of your new best friend. I know your heart and what it takes to enter it.

· You’ll get frustrated when you get something wrong. It will be all right; nobody is perfect. Do your best, not anyone else’s.

· You’re not always going to want to do your homework. Even though you may not like me sometimes when I make you do your homework, know that my love is still there in that time.

· You may not want to get out of bed for school. Once you are up and going, you’ll be all right.

· You’ll have to learn math. Division was especially hard for me to grasp. I got a school-assigned coach to help me. It’s ironic; today, one of the most successful points of my carrier was when I became a software engineer –it’s all about numbers and I love it. Remember, it could be your biggest challenge that becomes your greatest success.

· I did not like to read in school. I would really have a tough time getting through a book. Not sure if you’ll be the same. If you are, you’ll look back and be thankful.

· You will most likely get teased by another kid. I wish this didn’t have to be true, but if you get teased for being different, too tall, too short, heavy, or thin, remember I am always here for you!

· You might get teased for having gay parents. This one will be very hard for me. I will be here for you if you ever have to deal with this. I want you to be you; don’t worry about if it will hurt my feelings. Be yourself and know that I am your father who loves and wants the best for you.

· You may or may not be a popular kid. Popularity comes and goes. Whether you are or not, I expect you to treat all the kids with respect.

· Your friends may change as you move on to other grades. Be easy on yourself if a friend betrays you, you have a parting, or don’t simply get along anymore. Friends change throughout our lifetime, there will be some friends for which you have a very strong bond with and they will remain a very long time.

· You may get a crush and get your heart broken. I remember my first crush was in the eighth grade and my heart was broken. Being your father, I am hoping your crush is much later than that. When you do get your heart broken, whenever it is, know that my arms are open and I am here for you.

· Peer pressure can be challenging. Know that you can make your own choices. Don’t allow anyone to make you do anything you do not want to do. If you do stumble, I will be here.

· Know that I will be proud of your accomplishments. I will cheer from the sidelines as much as I can.

I am sure this list will grow as you do, as you learn and progress from elementary school to junior high and high school. I was thinking a lot today about you starting school. Your first day of school is hitting me a little harder than I expected. Maybe one day when you are older you will read this and understand what this day means to me and how much I love you. I know that some of the things on my list are years away but they’re hard not to think about as you enter your first year of school. I am proud of you! You are the very reason I wanted to be a father. To my daughter on her first day of school: I Love You!