Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Nervous (The first day of school)

Author’s Note:  It’s been more than four weeks since the first day of school and I am finally finishing this post.  It’s been busy and I’ve been tired.  Always tired . . .. 

I was most nervous about your first day.  I was nervous because you would be in school all day without Margot.  You two have always been together.  And now you won’t be.  You two were in preschool together, of course; and you took gymnastics together.  For a very short time you took gymnastics without Margot when she started ballet, but she went to every one of your classes and watched (and then she insisted she be put back in gymnastics as well as taking ballet).  Even when Margot had ballet class, Flynn, you were sitting in the chairs outside the ballet studio waiting for her.

You two were always together.

Once, after you started preschool together we asked you, “Who’s your best friend in school?”  “Margot,” you said giving me a look that suggested the question was silly and the answer was obvious.  For two years you never mentioned another friend in preschool.

We thought briefly about putting you two in the same kindergarten classroom.  We could have requested it but we decided it was time for you each to have some independence.  To find your own friends.
We mentioned a few times over the summer, Flynn, that you and Margot would have different kindergarten teachers.  You complained a bit, saying that you wanted to have the same teacher as Margot.  Margot didn’t seem to be too concerned.  We didn’t bring it up a lot, but when we did we talked about how we hoped that you would have Mr. Kallok and we reminded you that Coco had Mr. Kallok so you knew him and that he was super nice. 

I didn’t want you to be nervous, because I was nervous.
Honestly, I was also a little nervous about your first day of kindergarten because you’re small.  You still eat like a bird and weigh about as much as one too.  The Gothams are big people so being small is not a familiar experience.  Would all the other kids be bigger than you?  In my head I had this image of my little boy, smaller than everyone else, without his twin sister by his side for the first time, shy and quiet, sitting by himself on the playground without any friends.  It didn’t help that on the Friday night before school started when we went to the school to see the classroom lists, we met another little boy starting kindergarten too.  But he wasn’t so little.  He had just missed the cutoff date for starting kindergarten the prior year.  He was nearly a year older than you and he must have been at least several inches taller than you.  He seemed huge.  It made me more nervous.

Checking the classroom assignments before school starts
Flynn, you were also nervous about starting kindergarten because you didn’t know how to count to 25 and you didn’t know your “plus-plusses” (math).  I don’t know where you got the idea that you had to know math before you started kindergarten, but we assured you that it wouldn’t be a problem. 
On the first day of school I walked with you in line with your class (every kindergartner holding a parent’s hand) following Mr. Kallok up from the lower yard to the back door of his classroom.  I wanted to go with you because -- between you and Margot -- you were the one most likely to need a bit of extra comforting and handholding (literally and figuratively).  I wanted to be there to do that.  So, every day for the first week of school, I walked with you up to your classroom.   

We were toward the back of the line and when we reached the backdoor of Mr. Kallok’s room.  The parents weren’t going in; the kids were going in but the parents weren’t.  You looked up at me and asked if I was going to go in with you.  “Damn right, I’m going in.” (I didn’t say that out loud.)  “Yes, Flynn, I’ll go in with you.” Fortunately, the parents at the door realized that they could go in so we walked into class together. 
You asked me to help you find where you would sit, which we did.  Coincidentally, the boy sitting across from you at your quad of kindergarten desks was the little brother of one of Coco’s friends, and a little girl at your table was the little sister of one of Coco’s friends too.  “That’s so exciting, Flynn!” I said.  You were not impressed. 

We found your cubby, put your backpack away and hung your coat.  Mr. Kallok asked all the kids to sit down on the carpet at the front of the room.  Nearly all the other kids where already sitting down when you went to find a spot.  From the edge of the carpet you looked back at me where I was standing with the other parents crowded around the sides of the room and I signaled you to go ahead, to find a spot to sit down.  Still unsure about what to do exactly, with all the other kids between you and someplace to sit, you stepped between them to get to an empty spot and sat down.
Mr. Kallok introduced himself and said he wanted you all to draw a picture of what you did this summer.  Mr. Kallok showed you all a picture he drew of himself hiking in the woods.  A little girl’s hand shot up in the air.  “Yes?” Mr. Kallok asked.  “You’re a good drawer, Mr. Kallok!”  Mr. Kallok and the parents chuckled.  “Thank you!” said Mr. Kallok.  “Brown-noser,” I thought to myself.  “I got my eye on you, missy.”

And with that, you all went back to find your desk.  There was a bit of chaos as kids and parents crowded and squeezed amongst and around one another and the half-dozen quads of the 24-inch-high desks.  Kids were trying to find their desks and parents were trying to find their kids. 
When I got to you, Flynn, I leaned over and gave you a big hug and kiss.  “I’m so proud of you, Flynn,” I whispered in your ear.  “Have fun today.  Remember, Mr. Kallok is totally nice.  Papa will pick you up after school and I’ll see you at dinner.  I can’t wait to hear all about your day.”

“I want you to stay,” you said, not quite pleading -- but almost.

“I can’t stay. I have to go to work.  And you’re going to have so much fun today!”
“I want you to stay,” you asked again.

“Flynn, I can’t stay.  I gotta go.  I love you.”  And with a final hug and kiss, I said goodbye and left.  I had to leave, but not because I had to go to work.  I left because if I didn’t leave I was going to start bawling right there in front of you.  You had managed to keep it together and I was determined to do the same.
In the hallway I pulled it together then peeked into Margot’s classroom next door.  Unlike Mr. Kallok who “invited” parents to leave after only five minutes, Ms. Mar was letting parents linger.  Papa was still there with Margot, so I went in to give Margot a hug and a kiss too.

I wasn’t as nervous about your first day of school as I was about Flynn’s.  I was pretty sure you would be fine without Flynn in your class; you’re ready for a little independence.  We also know you’re ready to find a little girl your age who can be your friend and a friend you won’t have to share with your brother and sister.  In fact, you’re desperate to find a little girlfriend. 
For months and months, you have complained about not having a little girl for a friend.  Like Flynn, you never really connected with the other kids in your preschool.  Also, the families we see regularly outside of school all have boys and most of the boys are older than you:  Wyatt, Josh and Jason Sonefeldt, Cassius and Uly Altholtz-Martinez, Miles and Laird Treaster, and Eliot Freund . . ..  Not a single little girl in the bunch.  And you also complain about the boys being too rough and too loud. 

We really hope kindergarten will produce a few girlfriends for you.  We’ve been laying the groundwork for it for months.  In May we went to the school welcome breakfast for new kindergarten families so that we could meet little girls who might be your friend.  In June we went to the school’s first summer play date for new kindergarten families (we would have gone to the second and third but you were at Grandma and Grandpa’s house) to try to meet friends for you.  The Saturday before the first day of school we went to the back-to-school picnic to try to connect with the little girls we had already met and to maybe meet a few more.  We also started inviting other kindergarteners to your birthday party the weekend after the first week of school.  That birthday party is all about trying to lock in a few friends for you and Flynn.
Margot, your only worry about kindergarten has been a concern about having a “strict” teacher, i.e., a mean teacher.  For weeks you’ve been saying you don’t want a strict teacher, nearly in tears at the prospect of a teacher who won’t be nice to you or who might yell at you for not behaving.  The irony, of course, is that you are the best rules-follower in our family.  You’re a good listener, you focus and do what you’re asked to do, you’re neat and tidy (Papa is thankful that at least one other person in the family is neat and tidy), and you like a plan for every day.  You’re a strict teacher’s dream!  We’ve told you over and over again this summer that there are no strict teachers in kindergarten.  They’re all super-nice and they’re going to love having you in class.

In fact, Margot, on the second day of school when I was in your classroom giving you a hug and kiss goodbye and Ms. Mar blew her harmonic for everyone’s attention, your two fingers shot up in the quiet sign and you practically fell into your chair to sit down while pushing me to get me on my way out the door.  Yes, Margot, you are a rules-follower and a strict teacher’s dream.

But back to the first day of school . . ..

After all the hugs and kisses and almost-tears, Papa and I were out of the room.  Papa went to the cafegymatorium for the principal’s welcome for parents and I was on my way to work.  Coco, I peeked into your classroom to get a glimpse of you and you were intently listening to Ms. Petrocchi standing at the front of the room.  And then I was off to the 16th Street BART station to catch the train to work.  

I wasn’t nervous about your first day of school; it’s your third year, after all.  No, I wasn’t nervous about your first day; I was nervous about your second-grade homework.  And I was right to be nervous.  
Your kindergarten and first grade homework was a breeze, a cake walk, no problem; you had it in the bag.  Most days, it was done before I got home from work.  But this year I think will be a different story.  It looks like - at this point at least - your homework will be a page of reading comprehension and a page of math every day.  That won’t be a problem.  But the required minimum 20 minutes of reading every night?  Well, that might be a problem.  It will have to be done in the all-too-short window of precious little time between dinner and bedtime.  And there’s no fudging it.  Your homework -- including your reading log -- has to be turned in every day instead of only on Fridays like in kindergarten and first grade.  There’s no missing a night and making it up the next night.  Ugh. 

And the first night of homework did not go well.
I was in charge of homework the first night.  It should have been easy.  Dinner was done before 7:00 p.m. (later than the planned schedule but we were still adjusting) so we had a whole hour before bedtime.  And there was only one page of homework.  Nine questions and all the questions were about you: Who lives in your house with you?  What is your favorite subject in school?  What is your favorite TV show or movie?  What did you like most about your teacher last year?  “Easy peasy, lemon squeezy,” right? 


It went something like this:

You telling me that you didn’t know how to answer the questions.
Me assuring you that there were no right answers.
You telling me that you still didn’t know what to write.
Me reading the questions to you like, “what’s your favorite TV show or movie?”
You telling me that you didn’t have one.
Me reminding you that you love “Trolls.”
You writing down “Trolls.”
Me moving to the next question: “what is your favorite subject in school?”
You telling me that you don’t like anything at school.
Me suggesting that you write down the subject you dislike the least.
You writing down science.
Me lobbing yet another question for you, like “what are you good at in school?”
You telling me that you aren’t good at anything.
Me suggesting that you are a good reader.
You writing that down.

After an hour (an hour!!) we finally finish the nine questions. 

Then, me letting you know that you that you had run out of time to watch TV, asking you to put on your pajamas, and telling you that we still had to finish your reading.
You in full-on tears telling me that it’s my fault that you couldn’t watch TV.

Us moving downstairs to finish your reading.

You telling me that I didn’t love you.
Me explaining that if I didn’t love you then I wouldn’t make you do your homework, and then you would go to school without your homework done and your teacher being very disappointed, and then you would have to do second grade all over again because you didn’t do your homework.
You telling me that you weren’t going to do your reading.
Me explaining that if you didn’t finish your reading by 8:30 p.m. there would be no TV the next day.
You finishing your reading.
You brushing your teeth and going to bed and falling asleep. 

You, so very tired after your first day of school.  Probably disappointed that your summer was over, maybe thinking about your long stay with Grandma and Grandpa having fun every single day.  Frustrated that now you have to share Daddy and Papa with Margot and Flynn on the walk to school every day.  Sad that Daddy and Papa can’t walk you up to class because they have to walk Margot and Flynn to their classrooms because they are new at school and nervous about kindergarten. 

Homework can be hard.  But it’s harder being a big sister sometimes, in second grade.   

On the playground together on the first day of school

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh Mike, you really captured the moment(s). I felt I was back at school on the first day with the butterflies in my belly and that wonderful smell. Thanks for posting this. The loving detail you put into these posts is really heart warming. I'm always brushing away a tear or two. What a blessing your family is! Love to you all. Uncle Mark