My quadriceps actually burn today. They burn because yesterday was Oliver’s first full day of kindergarten, and we are adjusting to the new morning routine, and trying desperately, racing in a near-sprint not to be late. He needs to be at school by 7:50 AM. Yes. 7:50. SEVEN-FIFTY in the morning. Every day. Oh my god, this is going to be awful.
The school is only about four blocks from the house, and as I picture the walk in my mind, it takes far less time to get there than it actually does. Jesus… 7:50 AM? A smart woman would leave the house by 7:35 or 7:40 at the very latest. Yesterday we left at 7:45, and we were running, as usual. Summer camp has been over for three weeks, and since then, we’ve had no pressing deadlines to meet, and we’ve only really ambled about town since then, under no pressure to do anything or go anywhere in particular. I’m three full weeks out of this hurried stride, and my legs are paying for it. Man, I really need to get my act together.
Since we arrived at school yesterday with only seconds to spare before the teachers started ushering the wee ones inside, we only had time for a very quick peck on the lips, and I promised him I’d be back at 3 PM to get him. He understood this – he’d already been at the school twice last week, for short, introductory hour-long sessions to meet his teachers and get acquainted with the new digs. He’s been anxious about not knowing anyone, but there are several recognizable faces in the crowd – kids from his soccer league, and some other kids he’s met at birthday parties past… and everything is in French this year. He doesn’t speak very much French, and his understanding is very limited too, but he’s five years old, and he will learn. I’m not so very worried about it. In a short time, I know he’ll be fine.
I met him at the schoolyard fence yesterday, with a huge smile and a hug, and eagerly asked him how his day was.
“Not very good…” and his face crumpled and his eyes brimmed with tears.
“What happened, my love?”
“Well, it was a long day, and I missed you very much, and my water bottle started leaking all over my lunchbox, and then in my new knapsack, and it was all over the floor, and it was all my fault, and everything was wet, and there’s something wrong with the zipper, and I can’t close the bag now, and I think it’s broken…” He was sobbing with big tears, my poor baby.
“Don’t cry, baby. I know. It’s okay though. I think the water bottle just wasn’t closed very tightly, and so it leaked – but we can fix that. Everything will dry in the sun on the balcony… it’s fine, I promise. And let’s see… the zipper is okay. Look! Just a few threads got caught in it… we can fix that. Look! It’s fixed. It’s okay. Let’s go home now. Go say goodbye to your teachers, and see you tomorrow.”
“Bye. À demain.” Good boy.
As we walked home, he reiterated how much he missed me, and how he cried a little bit at the rest time, and how he wanted to call me, and that’s how come he needs a cell phone. (There’s a cell phone pocket on his new book bag, and he’s determined to have one. He can keep dreaming about that though.) I gave him a Kinder Egg, thinking he could use a sweet little treat after his first day. He thanked me, smiling.
Today, we didn’t have to run quite as fast, as we did manage to leave the house at 7:40 AM, leaving us a full ten minutes to arrive in time, but it was still a brisk walk. We waded through the multitude of parents hanging around, watching their kids twisting around nervously on the playground, some of them begging their parents not to leave them…
I don’t know why these parents don’t just drop them off and run. Seriously! I really think a quick separation is best. This-is-the-new-normal-so-get-used-to-it, kind of idea. I’m not trying to be mean to my kid. I don’t think it does a child good to watch his or her parents on the other side of the fence with pained, anxious, sad faces… just go. Go and cry at home if you have to, but just go. They will be fine. It is the New Normal. The better they can get used to that idea, the better it is for everyone.
Of course, this has been a little bit easier for me – it’s not our first time with this. Oliver had three years of pre-school under his belt before this, so we both know how this goes. Even the first couple of days of summer camp were a bit anxiety-filled for him. And I have been looking forward to this change, for myself, since school ended for the year in June.
Still, this is a brand-new school for him, with new friends, and a new language even. They do not speak English, which is his first language, and as a highly verbal kid, I know this will be challenging for him. I have a pretty good idea that he may even HATE it for a little while. I’m prepared for this, at least to some extent. I’m a bit nervous too, as the Anglo-mom, who must now do all her school-dealings in French. Shitballs. My French husband would be much handier if he were more available during the day, but with the hours he works, I know I’ll be left to do most of this on my own.
My French was actually quite good once upon a time, but it’s been nearly two DECADES since I was in a high school French class, and we live an English life in Montreal (shameful, I know) I’m hoping some of my Jurassic French may come back from the deep, deep recesses of my mind. And so Oliver and I will learn together, from the beginning. We’ll see how it goes.
Today when I got him to the school yard, there was still no more time for anything more than a quick peck, and a “Later, skater… see you at three o’clock!”
“Um, mummy… do you think you could get me at, maybe two o’clock, or one o’clock, maybe?”
“Ah, sweetie… everyone gets picked up at three o’clock. School ends at three. I’ll see you then, okay? I’ll be right here waiting for you.”
“But mummy, it’s such a long day, and I’m going to miss you…” My poor baby.
“I know, babe. I know. But I’ll be back at three, okay? I love you. Have a GREAT day, and I’ll see you right here. At three o’clock. Okay? Go on! Bye…” And I turned and walked away, back to his sister in the stroller, who I had to leave near the gate, for the crushing throngs of parents hanging around, waving, taking pictures, consoling the crying ones. Why are they hanging around?
If I’d stayed a moment longer, I know my kid would be crying too. That kind of crying is often contagious to other kids and parents alike… better to leave them before that emotion has a chance to breed and gain momentum. It’s better for everyone.
During the stroller ride home, Ava Scarlett is piping up. “Al-lay, ya?”
“Yes, Oliver has gone to school now. We will see Oliver later. Soon Ava Scarlett will go to school too! Ava Scarlett is a BIG girl, and will be going to BIG girl school, just like Oliver. Won’t that be fun? Are you a big girl too?”
“Yes, you are…” Baby begins pre-school next week, and though I have a moment of reservation about it now and again, I think it will be better for us all. She will have loads more enjoyment at school than hanging out at the grocery store, or running errands with mummy. And I will have a moments peace for a change. I feel so happy about this, it almost feels illegal.
Squeal! A quiet house for a few hours!! A chance to tidy up the house in a way that actually pleases me, that will last for hours and not minutes, as it has for far too long now… I relish the quiet time I can have in my head again. The uninterrupted time to do… well, almost anything! Anything I want. The very idea of this kind of freedom is just so freaking delicious, I can hardly stand it.
I’m about to be sprung from baby-prison – at least, from the maximum-security standpoint. I’m near-crazed at the thought. Now I can start planning my back-to-school brunch for my mummy-foxes in the ‘hood – the third annual. This is cause for celebration in my circle of friends.
And yes, of course it pinches my heart a little bit to know my son is at school, missing me and feeling a bit sad and scared, unsure of how things work around this new school, trying to learn new names in a new language… this definitely pinches my heart. I wish everything could be easy for him, but this is not the way the world works.
I’ve been trying to explain to him that anything a person tries that is new, usually makes a person feel uneasy. It is the same for everyone, everywhere, and this doesn’t tend to change, no matter how old one gets. And that’s the truth, Ruth. Everyone is new to his school in his class, and everyone is a bit nervous about it all. This is normal. There are other kids in his class who do not speak French either, but they will learn. That’s what school is for. He will learn. They all will. This is the new normal. Everything will be okay.
And it will be. I
hope think know it will. No tears for this mummy. Not today.