Alex has officially started kindergarten. Thursday was his first day, after two full days at his extended day program.
The morning started off relatively normal, with the exception being that I was there to help him get ready. I had requested to come in late for work that day in order to take him to school with Zach. Breakfast, lunch packing, getting dressed…it was pretty typical.
We discussed (again!) how that day would be a new kind of a day. The New Normal. Mommy and Daddy would take him to kindergarten, walk him in, and then he would have a few hours with new friends and his teacher before taking a bus to his afternoon extended day program. He would get to play outside, probably do some crafts, read some books, and have an easy day! It would be quick! And before he knew it I would be picking him up in the afternoon.
None of this was okay.
“I don’t want to go to kindergarten. I don’t want to make new friends. I liked my old friends and my old school. I don’t want to go.” He told us again and again that it wasn’t going to be okay.
Before we left for the school, I wanted to take a few pictures. At the end of the year, and the beginning of next year (FIRST GRADE OMG), I’d like to look back and be able to compare. I’d like him to be able to see how much he’s grown, and what a change he has gone through in one short year.
The pictures weren’t easy. He cried. He whined. He reiterated that he hates pictures and he doesn’t want to go to school and he most certainly is not going to smile. Or stay still. Or be a reasonable human being.
With some distraction, mostly by Zach because I was getting frustrated in addition to feeling horribly emotional about the whole thing, I managed to capture a few cute moments; a small number of the pictures turned out okay and will, in addition to the not-so-great ones, be treasured.
When we got to his new school, we parked, took a short walk to the elementary school entrance, and stood around with what felt like a million other people. Every kid. Plus every parent. Plus a second parent for most kids. Plus grandparents for some kids. The playground was overrun with every small person in the place, and when it was time to line up behind the kindergarten teacher Alex melted down.
He told me he was scared. He asked me to hold him. To pick him up. To cuddle with him. To please pick him up or at least hold his hand.
We walked in together. Hand-in-hand, the last kid in line behind his teacher, tears streaming down his face.
I held it together until we were in the room, Alex in his assigned seat, crying and begging us not to go. Telling us he was scared. Telling us he was sad. Asking when I would pick him up and how long it would be and how long is that and would I please come get him before lunch right when kindergarten was over. I couldn’t hold back the tears. He was so sad and so scared and I just wanted to pick him up and walk him right out of there.
But of course, I didn’t. Zach and I hugged him, told him we loved him, and left. I did my best not to keep crying, but on and off throughout the day as I thought about those minutes before I walked away from my crying kid, tears would fill my eyes and I’d have to text Zach and say, “He’s okay, right?” (He’s okay.)
He was okay. When I picked him up that afternoon, he didn’t exactly have anything positive to say about the whole experience, but he wasn’t crying. He came home, ate dinner, and was generally his normal self.
As I looked at his kindergarten folder after I put him to bed that night, I pulled out the typical first-day-of-kindergarten poem/craft:
Three days later and I still can’t read it without crying. That third paragraph gets me every time.
Alex, you were brave, buddy, and you did get by.