Which means about half of the mommy population is giddy and crowding the local Starbucks; the other half left weeping in the school parking lot.
New backpacks are loaded with supplies, pants that are just a bit too long are rolled up and everyone has freshly trimmed hair.
It’s go time.
And that first day of kindergarten?
When you are a new-to-elementary-school parent, you aren’t quite sure what to expect. There is this strange pull somewhere inside you to make sure the teacher knows what an unusually smart and adorable child you are entrusting her with.
Even if you didn’t think you were that kind of parent.
Because deep inside?
We all are.
On my son’s first day of kindergarten all of the proud camera-toting parents were allowed to crowd into the back of the classroom and turn paparazzi as the shiny new kindergartners sat on the ABC rug and introduced themselves one-by-one.
I haven’t seen a prouder group of adults gathered anywhere since.
Cameras flashing, mothers waving, proud dads ignoring the cell phones for just a bit.
Each one of us convinced that our child would be the best-in-show.
After each child had gone to the front of the class, met the teacher, and introduced themselves to everyone they all sat back down on the ABC rug.
And that’s when it happened.
“Turn around and wave good-bye to your parents!” the perky young teacher said to her 20 new captives.
We leave now?
Awkward glances shot around the room as we started to file out. Still waving, of course, but now with pinched lips and a forced smile.
Then the worry set in.
Did I pack the right snack? Will he be able to undo the snap on his jeans when he has to use the big boy potty? Will he find a friend/remember to raise his hand/have fun at recess? Can he open the small milk carton? Reach the soap dispenser? Pump on the swing? Remember that W and X are two different letters, not strung together like they are in the ABC song?
That first day? Tough.
For me, anyway.
My son was just fine.
And as the kindergarten year progressed I started to realize that these things I thought were so very important before starting kindergarten, truly didn’t seem to matter as much as the basics.
Being kind, waiting your turn, sitting still for a bit and listening to the teacher…these were the things that were truly important.
They were just a group of 20 random little kids, all sizes and abilities, thrown together in one room with one common goal.
To get to First Grade.
And they all did it in their own way, whether they wrote their name perfectly on that very first day or struggled with the pencil until late May. Milk cartons were opened with help if they needed it. Teachers helped with stubborn snaps and zippers. Colors and shapes and alphabet letters all learned by the end. Tears were shed, smiles were shared and 20 little people managed their way through it all to the end.
This initial group of 20 kindergartners have all graduated from high school now, and are finding their way in a world we all spent 18 years preparing them for. Some made it with extra help along the way; others needed extra challenges. But they are all reading, writing and can recite their colors if asked.
And most of them can snap their pants and tie their shoes.
Proud parents with cameras will once again crowd around taking pictures in dorm rooms and forcing a smile when it’s time to leave.
And the kids? They’ll be doing a happy dance, because they’ve made it all this way.
Lessons learned on the playground and in the classroom all the way back to kindergarten helping them along the way.
Be kind. Wait your turn. Sit still for a bit. Listen to the teacher.
They’ll all do fine.
But we’re the ones that have to adjust sometimes.
This piece originally ran on Things I Can’t Say, where the talented and super-sweet Shell shares her stories.