Ava has spent the last six months assuring me that she will hate kindergarten. I’ve spent just as long trying to convince her otherwise.
“You’ll have a new playground!”
“I’ll get hurt.”
“You’ll meet new friends!”
“I hate new friends.”
“You’ll have so much fun.”
“I’m gonna cry my eyes out every day.”
This past Monday was the first day of school and you can imagine my panic. I was prepared to watch my child collapse into hysterics when I handed her over to the strangers who never signed a contract in blood promising they will do everything in their power to love and protect my child.
She woke up in a great mood. Like, Christmas morning good mood. For the first time in her bi-pedal years she got dressed without complaining that her outfit—a uniform—was itchy, too hot, or “boy colors.” On the way to school she said, “I’m nervous about school. But I want to go.”
She never looked back. And it was a good thing because if she had, she would’ve seen the tears in my eyes and the gaping hole where my heart used to be.
I hate kindergarten.
I drop my child off at a building filled with 700 students. All I really know about her teacher is that she wears colored contacts. All she really knows about me is that I’m a crazy person. Take Day 3 for example. Ava had about ten mosquito bites. She doesn’t react well to them; she claws at her skin like a cat with tape on its back. I told her that I’d send her to school with some “StingEze” but she said I couldn’t because it was against the rules.
“What’s against the rules? Feeling better?”
Apparently. I had put a Band-Aid in Ava’s bag in case she got a blister from her new shoes, but her teacher told her she couldn’t get it; she’d be fine without it. She was “fine” in the sense that we didn’t need to amputate a gangrenous foot, but I’m pretty sure she was uncomfortable. What kind of place is this anyway? I imagined a room full of 5-year-olds, hot, hungry and hovering over dangerous machines, stitching together soccer balls.
But my baby has bug bites. So, armed with maternal madness and a tiny bottle of StingEze, I faced Cerberus.
“I just have a quick question…”
She was nice about it. Too nice. She instructed me to give “the medicine” to the school nurse. If Ava needs it, she’ll have to go see the nurse. I wanted to explain that toothpaste is more toxic than StingEze, but decided not to push my luck.
So I went to the nurse’s office and filled out a lengthy form about StingEze. As I was looking for the emergency number to Ava’s pediatrician, another parent walked in. Before I could explain the possible uses and application procedures for Stingeze, the nurse asked the other parent in line what he needed.
“My son is allergic to strawberries and shellfish. Here’s an Epi-Pen in case he goes into anaphylactic shock.”
It took me an hour to realize the error of my ways: that a bug bite and certain death were not comparable. Yes, in a mere three days, I had become that mom. Maybe I always was. My child has been a bit sheltered. My husband tells her not to run on cement because he’s afraid she’ll fall. She wakes in the middle of the night, asking me to put the covers back on her. Maybe some independence is good for her.
Actually, it’s great for her. She likes school. She likes the rules and the organization. I can see that her newfound independence gives her confidence. She’s proud of what she can endure—blisters and bug bites—and proud of what she can do. Which happens to be all the things I used to do for her.
I didn’t expect kindergarten to be this hard—on me, that is. But, it’s also not really about me anymore. And I suppose that’s the hardest part.
Today, on Day 4, she brought home a picture she drew in art class.
“It’s a picture of me sitting on a bench thinking about you.”
Well, I guess it’s still a little bit about me.