Back to School
What it felt like to me was an out of body experience. It was like floating above myself and my children, watching us melt into the sidewalk like butter on a pancake.
When it's this hot, they should just say, "It's 102 degrees, but it feels like a raging inferno...It's cement that you're walking on, but it feels like burning coals...It's a swimming pool, but it feels like a hot bath you're sharing with 200 sweaty, sunscreen lathered people."
Just when it couldn't get any hotter, school started. The boys, with fresh new haircuts, traded in their swimtrunks and superhero T-shirts for blue shorts and white or red shirts.
Richie wore a full uniform even though, being in Pre-K, he doesn't have to. He walked into his classroom like he owned the place.
"Can I use the computer?" he announced to no one in particular.
When he followed the teacher to put away his lunch, I stayed put in case he needed to collapse on my shoulder in a fit of homesick tears.
Instead, he returned to the room and asked me, "When are you leaving?"
Meanwhile, a little boy was crying for his mother, who obviously had been nice to him this summer. She hadn't made him clean up his toys all the time. She hadn't yelled at him to, "Stop yelling in the car!!!"
My kids never cry when I bring them to school. They're like, "Hasta manana, bossy lady."
I made this same joke to friends sitting outside the school, where other moms were standing. Then I realized maybe I shouldn't imply that I'm a mean mom in front of strangers.
It's just that, at the end of the summer, the kids went nuts. Excited for school. Tired of freedom. At last, thier energy came together in a ball and exploded in the toy box. Then it flung itself at the boys and started a huge wrestling match. And then it just got really loud. So I might have dreamed, once or 5,000 times, of the day when I would take the kids to their classroom, tap the teacher on the shoulder and say, "Tag, you're it."
Now, that day is at hand.
After I picked up the boys, I asked them to tell me all about their day.
As you know, boys love confiding in their mothers about the little details of their lives. It's like a sewing circle. Except that they always have amnesia.
Richie said, "My teacher showed us her pet octopus. I mean slugs. Oh, I don't know what they were. That's all I remember. I can't answer anymore questions."
The important thing is, they both had a good day. In fact, Richie wailed when we told him he couldn't go today because we only signed him up for two days a week. And I felt really stupid telling him it was because full time preschool was too expensive.
"Sorry, honey, we bought you the discount education. You'll learn letters A-M and odd numbers. You'll learn how to care but not share. You'll be able to show but not tell."
I was very relieved to have the boys in school until today, when it hit me. We were walking Johnny to his classroom--which is a block away in the big building--and a group of boys from his class were playing together. They came over to say hi, and he was so shy! He barely looked up when he said hi back. I thought of him on the first day of school, sitting in his chair and staring straight ahead. I worried that he'd be too nervous to talk to anyone.
If we were at home, I would have said, "Look at them and be friendly" but I didn't want to embarrass him.
I just have to have faith that he'll figure it out. Still, I'll be sure to worry about it all day. In fact, I'm penciling it in on the calendar right now. "Mon.-Fri.: Obsess about social comfort level of oldest son."
Richie is right across the street. J.J. and I will probably even see him on the playground. Anyway, preschoolers all play together and don't worry too much. But Johnny, well, I know he has a nice teacher and classroom, but first grade is the big time. Who knows how things will go?
As parents, it's like we hold a spool of thread, and our kids are at the tip of the string. For each school year, we unloop the string one more time. They're further away, but they're still attached to us, tugging at our hearts.