I survived my first week of school… ever… as a parent. It’s true, my oldest son started Kindergarten this week having never spent a single day in pre-school or day-care. This week I threw him into the deep end without much to go on. He survived five consecutive 6 ½ hour days of new experiences. His ability to handle it all truly awed and amazed me. More than ever, I can see myself in him. So many feelings and memories welled up inside of me as I watched him through the small windows I had into his experience.
Day 1: The first wide-eyed confused look as if to say, “Really? You’re just going to leave me here?” Noticing his feet shuffling along in line as if on an uncertain conveyor belt of doom. I could feel what he was feeling. It was a jumble of my past experience and his present one, but I’m pretty sure he took that one better than I did. I recall having lost it there and broken into tears as my mother tried to peel my body from hers.
Day 2: Meeting him for lunch-time and the huge smile on his face when he saw his little brother and me waiting for him. Sending him back to be with his class and seeing the lower lip begin to quiver. A delayed response, but here was my chance to peel him from my body and send him back into the fold.
Day 3: Negotiations begin.
Day 4: Coming home with his first injury, a bump the size of a goose egg on the back of his head from a still mysterious event concerning a slide and some monkey bars during P.E.
Day 5: Arriving early and watching as he proudly secured his place at the head of the line, only to be pushed out later by another boy. The heart breaking look on his face as he experienced his first injustice from a peer for the day. Encouraging him as he found a new place at the back of the line with some cheerful boys who weren’t as concerned with “being first” and more interested in “just having fun.”
Going through this week with my son made me do something I had not done in a long time. I thought about the home I grew up in and looked it up on Google Maps. How small it looked now and how big I had remembered it being. I saw how far my Elementary School was from my home and recalled all those long bus rides. As soon as I saw the bird’s eye view of the school I was instantly transported to my first few weeks of Kindergarten again! I saw the field where I played Red Rover and met my first friends, Anissa and Andrea. How lonely I was feeling the day they came up to me and asked me if I would “be friends” with them. Looking back now I wonder if it was a set up from a teacher or even the behind-the-scenes magical work of my mother. But, at the time, they appeared to me as two perfect angels that arrived just when I needed them most.
I am reminded this week that even though my son and I are very similar in personality I have to respect that my experiences are mine and his experiences are his. There is no use in projecting my thoughts and anxieties about my early school experiences into his energetic space. So I continue to see the positive in his day-to-day experiences, be they challenges or triumphs, and help him to understand that he is the master of his own experience.