Today was the first day of Kindergarten for Catherine. I thought I was fine. More accurately, I should say that I thought I was going to be fine.
It started with me registering her for school this spring. I am sure that I was one of the very first parents to drive to the school to pick up her Kindergarten registration packet. My friend in the office, we’ll call her Donna, even offered to mail it to me. “Oh no” I said, “I’ll just swing by and pick it up.” I was that excited and eager to usher Catherine into her new school. I was anxious to complete all the paperwork and get her officially registered. I knew that I would miss her something terrible, but I also knew how excited she was to start this new chapter in her life. I filled out the forms and returned it to the school. Check.
As the summer began to wind down, we started to get the sprinkling of emails from school. Important calendar dates here, school bus schedule there. Etc etc etc. When we opened the school packet, we did a happy dance in the kitchen when we learned that the teacher Jackson had when he went to Kindergarten would also be Catherine’s. That teacher is a pretty special person and I knew that Catherine would be in phenomenal hands. Check.
A week after getting the school packet, we went to the “meet the teacher” orientation. Catherine met her classmates, and she knew four of them already. Friends in class! Yahoo! She saw where her table was and we unpacked all her school supplies. Her name was already on her cubby. There were hugs, smiles and friends everywhere she looked. Check.
The afternoon before school, we reviewed what she could expect the next day. I packed up her backpack pack and showed her where everything was stored. We labeled her lunch box, put her neon green bus tag on the back of her backpack. I laminated her name tag and made a necklace so she could wear it around her neck all week at school until people recognized her. It’s a big school with over a dozen busses arriving within minutes of one another. Her all important name tag has her name and her teacher’s name on it so the moment she gets off the bus, the staff that greets the busses will look at her name tag and know exactly what classroom she was in. I felt super organized! Check.
The night before school, I designed her first day of school sign. I saved it to a thumb drive and drove to FedEx to get it printed at 7:00pm. I need to work on my sense of scale, it turned out much larger than I envisioned, but I was running out of time and had to go with it. A very nice man in the store helped me get the sign mounted to a foam board. Working together, we carefully and painstakingly smoothed out the large poster onto the adhesive board so there wouldn’t be any bubbles. It was perfect. Check.
Today I woke up at 6:00am. I made some coffee and roused Jackson from his bed. We got him out the door to middle school and turned our attention to Catherine. Daddy made her Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes while I packed her lunch. After breakfast we headed upstairs and washed out faces and brushed our teeth. She got dressed in her first day of school outfit, we did her hair all fancy and even added a bow. She looked so adorable! Check.
We went outside to take photos. Some with her holding the enormous sign, some without. Then the bus came down the street. We looked at each other and smiled. Yay! I took her warm little hand in mine, and we crossed the street to meet the bus. The door to the bus opened and the bus driver said a cheerful hello. Catherine climbed on the bus and turned around and smiled at me. Check.
And then something happened that I didn’t see coming. I BURST into tears. It came out of nowhere. The bus driver actually jumped back in his seat and looked at me like I was nuts (or it’s possible that I am a really ugly crier and my face was hideously contorted). Either way, I went from smiling to sobbing in an instant. I’m pretty sure I scared Catherine. She looked confused and was probably wondering why I was crying. I don’t know, but if I was 5 years old and saw my mother hysterically crying as she is helping me onto a bus filled with strangers I would assume that this was the last time I was going to see her again. Just a thought. The bus pulled away and I walked into Kerry’s arms trying to hold back the tears.
I took a deep breath while he rubbed my back and I felt better. Sadly, that didn’t last long. I walked into the house and saw her name tag on the table. Not on her where it should have been. The same name tag that is listed as one of “the most critical things to do on the first day of school checklist.” The same name tag that tells the staff who she is and where she needs to be so there’s no confusion on her very first, all important day of school. There was no holding back the tears anymore.
I grabbed the phone and called the school. My friend Donna answered. I explained what happened and answered her questions (through embarrassingly loud choking sobs) about her bus number and her teacher’s name. She said “Sarah, why are you crying? Pull yourself together, you should be going to a party right now and having fun. She’s going to be fine, we’ll make sure she gets to the right classroom. Don’t worry!” I know she could hear me gulping in air and then it dawned on her and she said “Oh…is this your last?” I felt instantly nauseous.
Yes, Donna. Yes it is. This is my last. And it effing sucks that she’s growing up. The baby years are gone. The nursery school is gone. The preschool is gone. We are in regular big kid school. I love being a Mom. I love that my kids need me. I don’t ever want my role to change. But with each passing year, it does. I am holding on to those moments they need me with the same amount of strength as I am pushing them away to need me less. Parenting is a catch-22 and it can be brutal at times.
It was really hard to watch Catherine climb those bus steps this morning. I’m so grateful to my friends who came to my rescue today in a variety of ways. My friends know me better than I know myself. Without asking, I got emotional support via texts, phone calls and a stiff Bloody Mary. It was exactly what I needed to get through the day. Thank you, you know who you are.
When the afternoon rolled around, I was standing on the street waiting for the bus. It’s possible I was waiting a tad early, but no more than 60 minutes. When the bus door opened, Catherine was at the top of the step beaming with joy and she practically leapt into my arms. She wrapped her legs around my waist, snuggled her head under my neck and immediately started talking about how wonderful her day was. Check.
| decompressing after a long, but very successful first day of Kindergarten |