Does This Kid Look Ready for Kindergarten or What?
Yesterday was the first day of the rest of Johnny's life. He entered the big K. The garden of styrefoam cups. Circle Time Central. Dr. Suess Depot. Phonics Phantasia.
That's right. Kindergarten.
He was dressed in full uniform by 6:30 a.m. He even had his backpack on.
"I'll just walk over," he said. "You guys stay here."
We do live across the street from the school, but still...
"No, we're going with you," I said.
"Just tell me when it's safe. I'll cross the street by myself," he said.
What did he think this was? College? I had pictures to take. Last minute advice to give. Tears to wipe away. We walked him all the way to his little chair.
Only, it wasn't a sad day at all. Johnny was happy to set off on his own. Our house was a little quieter. Richie enjoyed building blocks undettered by his brother sneaking them into his pile.
Sure, I peaked out the window when the kids walked out the door to recess. (The fact that we live across the street saved me the time and expense of renting a surveylance van.)
nd I worried the night before when Johnny prayed, "God I hope I'm not shy tomorrow because shy people don't make friends."
I worried even more when he said after school that he spent the whole recess collecting cicada shells by himself. A kid asked him to play kickball and he said no. Trust me, we have enough cicada shells. I'd venture to say we have the largest indoor cicada shell collection in the Midwest. I think he should give kickball a try. But I didn't say anything. I don't want him to feel shy about being shy.
But the thing with kindergarten is time is so linear from there. K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, college, job, family, babies, k, 1, 2, 3...
When they're babies, it seems like time isn't really going anywhere. Everyday, you hold them and feed them and stack blocks with them. You can play peekaboo from morning to naptime and it all seems new to the babies. You go outside and tell them the same thing everyday: "We don't eat sticks. Or rocks."
Even when they're three or four, they don't really seem to be marching with time. They still want to wear their boxers and white tank top to the grocery store. Why should you dress differently when you're asleep and awake? At breakfast time, they ask, "Is it time for bed?" At bedtime, they want to go out for pancakes.
But then...they hit kindergarten and the march is on.
They leave behind the days of losing a binkie or finding a cape that actually lets them fly. From now on, they tackle the same type problems over and over. They might learn something new everyday, but it probably will feel vaguely familiar.
During how many recesses or lunches, or workdays, for that matter, will these kids feel like fishes out of water? How many friends will they make because they both like something as simple as cicadas or kickball. How many books will they read once they learn how? Will any change their lives? Maybe someone in the class will write a book. How often will they witness that--like experiments--life is full of cause and effect. And sometimes that's good. And sometimes it's heartbreaking. And sometimes, life doesn't happen like experiments at all. You plant a sunflower and get the sun. Or a weed.
I'm not saying that everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten because a. someone already said that, and b. if it were true, then doctors would say, "There's a word for what you have. But I cannot read it because it doesn't rhyme with ham. Or hop on pop."
But it is where you learn lessons that repeat themselves through the years in more complicated ways: choosing friends, selecting books, learning to add and subtract.
That's why yesterday, for me, was a happy day. Life from kindergarten on isn't as easy as being a preschooler. But it's worth the lessons learned and relearned.