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Thursday, September 9, 2010

The First Day Of School

And so it begins. Tuesday was my daughter’s first day of school. Well, preschool / daycare if you want to be academically accurate, and half day if you want to be chronologically correct. I took an extra day off for the Labor Day weekend so that I could be there for moral support. Had things been different, my wife would have had her mother riding shotgun on our daughter’s first trip to school. Sadly, her mother died this past Spring and I felt that I needed to be there, even if I was a poor substitute, to make sure everything went smoothly since my wife was a little apprehensive about this. She felt a little guilty sending the little one off to school. She felt she should be at home with her instead of leaving her in daycare. But, with October around the corner, it’s getting to be that time of the year and that means she’ll be back to work at the local farmers’ market she’s been working at for the last 16 years. We had originally thought about holding off a year since our daughter will be going into Kindergarten after she’s already turned five. She’s a July baby, after all.

The truth is, I’m glad. Not because she’s out of the house. I’m at work so I don’t get any benefit from her being in preschool. Besides, we have to pay for her to be there and that pretty much makes whatever my wife makes at her job a wash. It’s been a little rough the past few months. With my wife’s mother passing away in April we’ve kind of taken a hit in the wallet. It’s purely on us, though. I’m not blaming anyone but myself. We don’t cook much and when we do, we cook for my father-in-law as well. You see, before April, we spent close to three or four nights a week eating dinner with my in-laws at their house. Again, we don’t cook much. We’d also go out to eat at least three nights a week with them. Since April, we’ve been going out a lot more or cooking for her Dad. It doesn’t seem like a lot but it started to add up.

So, my wife decided that she needed to go back to work, if for anything to have money for Christmas. The only reason she’s even doing Christmas this year is for our daughter. Now, we could easily make three changes that would save us enough money to not have to worry about Daycare but we’re lazy. Sometimes, when you get home from working an eight hour day and you spend the next three hours teaching piano lessons you would rather just go out to eat instead of cooking dinner. But all of this is neither here nor there and my going off on that tangent was just as bad as that cliché I threw out there at the beginning of this sentence, so we’re moving on with the story.

Needless to say, my wife had to go back to work and that caused my daughter to have to go to some form of preschool or daycare. My father-in-law picked up more projects at work and has been going every day and cannot watch her like he had. That was Grammy’s job before she died since she was “retired” [read: job was eliminated] The concept of putting our daughter in preschool so my wife could work which was necessary to pay for the preschool is a snake eating its own tail puzzle. Still, socializing the child with other kids, her age, and allowing her to pretty much play in the Petri dish that is preschool would help her immune system. The kid already has a few strikes against her in the heredity department. Both our family histories are riddled with issues from cancer to MS to diabetes. Thankfully, she has been very healthy in her first three years and hopefully she inherits my immune system.

So, all of this build up and tangent taking and misdirection hasn’t caused you to flip over to ICANHASCHEEZBURGER for a mind numbing kitteh fest? Ok, I’ll get to it. First day went off without a hitch. We got to scope out the place last Friday and the munchkin seemed to be ready to stay there all weekend. She was a little upset with having to get up early on Tuesday and couldn’t understand why she wasn’t able to wear her pajamas to school. I told her save that for college. When we walked her in we had to drop off her paperwork and while my wife dealt with that I was having my arm pulled out of my socket by my kid trying to get into the classroom. We were told that it was best if parents said goodbye and then went away because hanging around might give the child a sense of anxiety if she saw the parent having a problem letting go. So, we said goodbye and she gave us a kiss and never missed a beat going back into playing. Apparently, it would be OK.

We both decided to grab some breakfast and went back to the house. Here I was, home from work, free to do whatever I wanted for the next four hours and I was bored out of my skull. I watched a little TV, played a little PS3, and basically surfed the Internet for awhile with no real direction. I even got a progress report in my email box from the school. The little one was completely acclimated to her surroundings. They couldn’t even tell that it was her first day. She even made fun of one of the boys in her class. “Aw, she’s just like her mother,” I thought.

Actually, I’d venture to guess she was more like me. I never shied away from a social gathering when I was a kid. I was all about being in the mix. Granted, I have become embittered by the world around me in my older age and lead a somewhat hermetic existence. Offline, that is. But growing up I learned to roll with the punches and adjust to the situation. I explained to my wife how my first day of school went. I realized within five minutes of entering the classroom on my first day of Kindergarten that I needed to keep a low profile when it came to fear and anxiety. Now, I had some preschool under my belt and some might say I was the scourge of the classroom. I led a few revolts and even enlisted the aid of another classmate in a black ops campaign which resulted in the flushing of another classmate’s sandwich down the toilet. I don’t know why we did it but I apologize immensely for it happening. Anyway, since I had some schooling beforehand I wasn’t walking blindly into the fray but I was a bit nervous. It was only a half day but it was every day. And it wasn’t just for fun, there was actual learning to be done and the class was a bit bigger than what I was used to. All of this added up to me feeling a little scared when I walked in but I kept it hidden.

However, there was a moment that solidified my thoughts on how to handle myself in these types of situations. I had walked across the room and my mother was still standing in the doorway, just in case I needed an escape plan. I turned to make a decision, feeling a little overwhelmed, and then it happened. There was a blood curdling scream coming from the door. Another boy had shown up and he was not exactly prepared for his mother to leave. She let go of his hand and was turning to exit and he went four alarm kablooey. It was like a train wreck but I wasn’t watching him. I was watching everyone else watching him. That was the moment I realized I needed to play it cool. If for anything else, it’s 30 years later and I still remember that moment and I remember the kid’s name. I would like to be remembered in 30 years but not because I had a complete meltdown my first day of school. I simply looked at my mother and we both shared an unspoken moment that went like this.

MOM: What do you think?
ME: I’ll be fine.
MOM: You sure?
ME: Are you nuts? Did you see what just happened?
MOM: Right. I’ll see you in a few hours.

Now, it’s day number two for my kid and it’s a full day at that. I got the progress report from my wife and everything went just fine. I have yet to hear the Silent Hill like sirens blaring overhead so I will take that as a good sign that she's behaving well and having a good day.  I think the parents have more hang-ups about their kids going off to school than the kids do. Although, considering the display put on, by that kid back in Kindergarten, I could only imagine what his mom did out in the parking lot. She might have spontaneously combusted right there in her station wagon. I at least waited until I got out of the parking lot to shed one lone internal tear. No one saw it and that’s 30 years of conditioning still going strong.
Class dismissed.

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