When we take our children to school for the first time, it seems as though our thoughts should be focused on their short time left as children. At the rapidity with which our little babies are growing and how, soon enough, they’ll be wandering off on their own, finding their own interests away from us and making their way in the world. We should be happy about this, happy that their life is beginning and we get to be there with them as it unfolds. School is the first major step in that direction. They’ll make new friends, they’ll learn to look up to their teachers as they do their very own parents, they’ll learn to do things for themselves, at their own pace and with their own initiative. As we pack those first lunches, put on their new, crisp uniforms and walk them through the doorway and into their future, these are the things that normally would be at the forefront of our consciousness. And I’m sure some, or all, of this was on my mind when I took my first son to school on his first day. But that was then. I’ve got three more in addition now and I don’t have time for that crap at 7:30 in the morning. Not that I love the last three any less than the first, it’s just that they’ve made certain times of my life more difficult – like that time that comes before 8:30 in the morning. That time when I’m driving down North Parkway, weaving in and out of traffic, and doing the calculations in my head, “If I can make the next three green lights and drop GK and JP off in the next 10 minutes, then five minutes over to the school, walk S in and spend a few minutes with her, and then find C’s room…” Well, we left our house at 7:38 and, after making all the stops, I walked out of the last drop-off location at 8:22. Not too bad, though I feel we can do better. Perhaps S doesn’t need to be given so much time to eat breakfast, and I could probably spend less time wrestling with JP’s cowlick.
Kristy and I went together to pick C & S up from school this afternoon, hoping for the best. Hoping that Pre-K was the most fun she’s had since GK’s first fart. Apparently it was not. From the moment S saw us she had a scowl on her face, her shoulders were hunched up like an angry cat as we walked down the hallway together. She wouldn’t speak to us, wouldn’t answer our questions, wouldn’t even look at us. If she’d had the money, I feel certain she would have preferred to take a cab home. What had I done to my daughter? She was safe and in comfortable, familiar surroundings, and then I dropped her off with strangers in a cinderblock warehouse for an entire day. “Do you want to hold Daddy’s hand?” The answer came not even as an entire head shake, but more of a twitch from side to side that let me know, “Not only do I not want to hold your hand, but I’m hoping that hand is lopped off in that heavy door up ahead. Here, let me hold that door for you.” We walked through the school, out the door (safely), into the heat and down the sidewalk without so much as a glance in our direction from our tiny, blond 3-year-old, her ever-growing attitude moving the mass of just-released-from-school kids out of our way. When we got to Madison Avenue, with its quick-as-lightning trolley cars, I insisted she hold my hand to cross. Still no eye contact, still no speaking. Once on the other side of the street she jerked her hand out of mine and continued her gait, walking just behind me and to the left – eyes forward in a frown, shoulders hunched up, the occasional hands on hips. We got in the van and they took me back to work where I was left wondering if we’d ever speak again.
We found out later that she was promised a treat by her teacher after naptime, but we showed up just after nap and she never got her treat. It wasn’t us she was mad at so much as her teacher and her paucity of Fruit Roll-Ups at the moment. I stopped on the way home from work and got her a treat because she’s my daughter and I want her to be happy. And also because I’m scared of her, of her animal-like glower and the fact that I’ll be alone to deal with her tomorrow morning with just the other three to help me…or her.