They wander in at the appointed time, starry-eyed and proud, holding hands nervously and waiting for their names to be called. Young lovers, waiting for the Justice of the Peace? Young couple waiting for pregnancy test results?
Not even close…..no, these are the Future Mothers of Kindergartners or the Moms Formerly Known as the Preschool Moms. March is the month that they show up in waves at the elementary school where I work, pulling their prodigies along by their damp and sometimes sticky little hands. It’s time to sign up for the Kindergarten classes that won’t start for another five months yet. They look nervous and proud, ready for little Brayden (yes, it’s a name) to show the teachers what he’s made of. By the time they have produced electricity bills, immunization records, a complete list of next of kin, and sworn affidavits that the child is completely, 100% potty trained the mom is exhausted.
Now it’s little Brayden’s turn to shine. As the kindergarten teacher takes him off to an adjoining room, his mom looks stressed. What if he doesn’t remember how to draw a circle? Did she prep him enough on numbers and letters? What if he can’t sit still in the chair? The eager look that she wore only 15 minutes earlier has been replaced. Now she appears to have eaten a piece of bad sushi, but doesn’t want to upset anyone so she’s acting like everything is fine. By the time little Brayden is done, paperwork is completed and filed, and the appointment is over, mom is ready for Happy Hour.
Being the experienced mom (OK, cynical) that I am, I want to take her aside and tell her how it really works. There will be lots of sweet little Braydens, but some of his classmates will at times seem like future felons in training. Nice little five year olds mixed in with immature early bloomers and six year old late bloomers. There will be numbers, letters, projects made of rice and cotton balls, field trips, snacks that get lost, tears shed over the slightest indiscretion on the playground, best friends, sworn enemies, wonderful teachers, cranky substitutes, visits to the nurse’s office, and pencils held the wrong way.
Then, after that first week is over, this process will continue for many years to come, while the child just gets taller and older and the mother just gets older.
I can still remember feeling like it was all so very important, so life-altering, to enter kindergarten. That first day, when the teacher told the little ones, “Now everyone turn around and wave good-bye to your parents!” was only one step in the general direction of the self-sufficient adulthood we hope for them to eventually live.
Apparently it’s one very long trip.