Wednesday was Colin's first day of junior kindergarten. I have to say, the whole thing kind of snuck up on us, and in the end came and went without a whole lot of pomp and circumstance.
Tuesday night I found myself going to bed without having made a school lunch for him, without have labeled clothes or backpack, without have even gathered his school bag and things for the next day. Luckily with my early risers I knew we'd have at least two hours or more before leaving the house, which is plenty of time to get it all together.
I opted out of a "first day of school outfit," instead letting him choose his own clothes. Although there are so many cute things to wear out there, I'm more about fostering independence. Besides, a whole day of markers and paint and dirt - I'm not so sure I want to "dress" him up for school!
James gave him a father's blessing, in preparation for this new experience. He blessed him that he would be excited, that he would learn new things and make new friends. He blessed him that he would help those children who might be sad or scared. He blessed him that he would start to figure out using the toilet. He blessed him with safety and peace.
After a few quick photos on the front stoop, all four of us departed for the short 7 or 8 minute walk down the street to the school. There is a staggered entry for junior kindergarten in our area, which meant that most kids had already been back for a week by the time Colin's first day rolled around. Our usually quiet street becomes a through-way for kids walking to school, which provided a really neat sense of community.
We arrived just in time for the bell, which the kindergarten teachers were ignoring in favour of trying to make sure all their kids were present. When all the new students arrived, they made their way from the kindergarten play area over to the school entrance. There were about 15 senior kids who had already been in class for a week, and then about 6 junior kids to whom it was completely new. Colin was the very first kid to dart in the door when the teacher opened it! He was followed by another 4 senior kids, and the rest of the children stood outside clinging tearfully to moms and dads. Colin gave a very quick "see ya later, mom!" over his shoulder and disappeared inside. And just like that, the morning drop-off was over. James, Caleb and I headed home. And I felt fine. No tears, no sadness. I knew Colin was not only ready, but beyond excited to be at school. He goes a little batty at home with no "friends" to play with, and is constantly bombarding me to go to someone else's house for a visit. When I peaked in the classroom window (visible from outside), Colin was already exploring the classroom, checking out bins and buckets and wall displays. He was going to be just fine.
The day passed without incident. Colin's body still hasn't worked out the toilet issues, and so I was prepared for at least one, if not numerous, calls to the school to change his pull-up. But the phone never rang. Caleb and I passed the morning playing, reading, singing, cooking, and cleaning. After and early lunch we both squeezed in a good two hour nap, waking just in time to walk down and pick up Colin.
When the final bell rang, the door burst open and children spilled out into the playgroud. Colin came out reluctantly toward the end of the line. He was moving a little slower, evidence of the onset of exhaustion, but climbed up into the stroller and chatted my ear off the whole way home. Mostly about the friends he'd played with. I got very little out of him about what class activities had gone on, but I imagine he was just taking in the whole experience that first day, and probably not paying much attention to the teacher at all.
I riffled through a thick package of letters and communication, proudly displayed Colin's first piece of artwork, and got some food into my boy (he'd only eaten 6 crackers and one oatmeal cookie from his lunch - again, too much excitement during lunch time!). I gently questioned him about school, about his toilet accident (he changed himself, as we had taught him to do), and about a teasing incident the teacher mentioned (his blocked tear ducts sometimes mean his eyes get a little goopy, and some kids were teasing him about it), but it all seemed irrelevant to him.
That night I pondered a little more closely about this new experience for him. We enrolled him in French Immersion, which will mean a really good second language base. James took FI right through to grade 13, and I took it until grade 4. But even those few years for me provided a solid start that helped me become bilingual also. And the opportunity for so much friend time will be the icing on the cake for Colin. The day before school started, we had a little talk about how excited Colin was, but how shy and scared some other kids might be. I mentioned that maybe Colin could help some of his new friends who were a little scared to start school, by playing with them and making them feel better. I am constantly amazed at Colin's sensitivity to others, and willingness to play with anyone, regardless of age, sex or any other factor.
The last thing I did that night before going to bed myself was fill in a sheet provided by the teacher to help her get to know Colin better. I was most intrigued by the last question on the survey: what was I hoping Colin would get out of kindergarten? I thought about it for a few minutes, trying to discern exactly what it was I knew this class would provide to my son. I knew it had nothing to do with academic concerns - I've never been one wanting to push my child into early reading or writing. I knew it wasn't about socialization - I knew Colin was already well-adjusted in that area. Finally I was able to put my finger on exactly what I wanted out of kindergarten, and I penciled in just three words: indulge his creativity. That is exactly what I hope Colin will experience at school.