Today was the big day, and when our alarm rang at 6 a.m. (who thought I’d need an alarm ever again?) Akiva fairly leapt out of bed. The anxiety of the last several days was nowhere in evidence; he just wanted to get the show on the road. He got dressed and ready without argument (who has hidden my child and when is he coming back?) and after some hugs, we were out the door when we planned to be.
We got to school, and there was a klezmer band playing music on the front steps. The head of school and some other administrators were on hand to welcome the students (back) to school. Once inside, Akiva was a little shy, but the staff and other parents handled it as I would have hoped. No pressure to perform or conform, just friendly greetings and kindness. We went to his classroom, and there were several activities to get the kids used to the room, etc. All fine. Morning meeting with songs and a story. All fine. Schmooze time and exploring the classroom even more. All fine.
There is a bathtub in the classroom:
On the first day at JCDS, there’s an all-school assembly (more singing) after classroom orientation, and that’s where things started to be not so fine. About a third of the way through this program, Akiva started to get a little misty. Gradually the mist gave way to crying, laying his head in my lap, and, eventually, bawling. By the time I got him back to his classroom to say goodbye, he was sobbing so hard he couldn’t speak.
I loved the way the teachers and other staff handled this situation. Nobody said, “OK, stop crying. It’s time for Ima to go.” One of the classroom aides came to talk to us and tried to help him get calm. When he was calm(er) and it felt like a reasonable time to leave, she suggested that he could push me out the door and then race to the window and wave to me as I walked to the car. We tried that plan, blew each other kisses through the window, and then I went on my way.
He is a sensitive soul, my elder son, and I anticipated that he’d have some discomfort with the adjustment to kindergarten. He doesn’t tend to look forward to new experiences without some semblance of fear, or even dread. In the past few weeks, he’s been worried about things he doesn’t usually mention, like thieves and monsters and crazy basilisk chickens. He’s been asking if he could be homeschooled through college, and if he and I could live together forever. So I didn’t expect the day to be easy — but holding my firstborn while he wailed that he didn’t want to go to school was an experience I won’t soon absorb.
I stopped to chat with some friends in the parking lot and shed a few tears of my own, and by the time I got home, there was a message on my voice mail from one of Akiva’s teachers, saying that he’d settled into the routine after about ten minutes with the same aide and was doing fine.
When I picked him up, he was all smiles and full of stories of the day’s adventures, as well as questions about tomorrow.