Wednesday, September 13, 2006 My First Day of Preschool So today was the big day. I’ve been looking forward to it all summer. It was my…um I mean my SON’s…first day of preschool.
I had been worried that my little baby wasn’t ready. Then last week, as we were getting ready for an open house at the preschool, he conclusively delivered evidence that it was time for him to start school. He announced that he, my husband, his brother and the dog all had penises. Any doubts that I may have had about whether or not he was ready for preschool immediately vanished. (I retained doubts as to whether I am ready for him to start preschool, but that is a different matter.)
My son seemed to really like the open house, particularly getting to meet the class fish named George. Even so, I was still nervous about whether he would like his first day of actual school. I wanted everything to be perfect. I had packed his backpack the night before and had labeled everything. I then was able to focus on the two most important items to prepare for a child’s first day of preschool: picking the perfect outfit for him and vacuuming my car.
I don’t think I have to explain why I wanted my son to look and feel his best when he started school, and I believe I picked out the ideal outfit for him. Khakis and a button down shirt? No. Pressed jeans and a polo? Nope! The winner was a slightly more casual look consisting of his favorite dinosaur t-shirt and sweats. It may not have been my favorite outfit (by which I mean it absolutely wasn’t), but he was happy and I was pretty much willing to do anything this morning to minimize the chance of having a temper tantrum before his first day.
I also don’t think I have to explain why I felt the need to rush out to a gas station after it was already dark the night before the first day of preschool and fifteen minutes before company came over to use an industrial vacuum cleaner (which I highly recommend by the way) to suck up all the dog fur, crumbs, bits of paper, leaves etc. that were strewn around the seats. Wait! Maybe I do need to explain. Almost as important as ensuring my son performed well in school was the criticality of me making the best impression on his first day of school. And given that the teachers in his preschool directly pick up children from parents’ cars and put them back at the end of the class, I could think of no clearer sign to the teachers that I am not the perfect mother, than a dirty car. (More about this pressure for perfectionism in motherhood at a later time). With his fabulous outfit and a spotless car interior, how could anyone think I was anything but the perfect mother?
So the only thing left was keeping the morning as smooth as possible to put my son in the best mood. This summer I wondered a lot about what people meant when they said that their kids were excited to start preschool. How did their children even know what school was? I could understand if the child had an older sibling, because he would be hearing about it from that sibling and probably even being toted along for pickups and drop-offs. I figured that the kids were excited just because the parents were. I’m sure that all the kids would be really excited to go play in dirt (maybe even more so) or even watch grass grow as long as their parents were excited. In addition, my son has enjoyed spending time with groups of children in YMCA Day Care, when I leave him there while exercising. Thus the conversation I had with my older son (OS) this morning:
AE: Are you excited to start school today?
AE: Do you want to see George the fish today?
AE: George lives at preschool.
OS: No preschool! I want George! No preschool!
AE: Would you like to go to Y daycare?
OS: Y daycare! I want to go to Y daycare!
AE: Great! The Y daycare is at a new location with George.
OS was as happy as a clam, so to speak, and quite excited to go to the Y daycare in a new location to see George the fish. And when the momentous occasion came and the teacher lead him away from me to the classroom (without a single compliment for my pristine car I will have you know) he turned around with a big smile on his face and said “Bye, Mommy” and waved goodbye. But then things changed. Sniffle, sniffle…My son? No, that would be me. Although I’ve been eagerly looking forward to the start of preschool, I was surprised with how choked up I was that my son was starting out on the path of real independence. I’m not going to know everything that he does anymore. While, I’m thrilled that he’s going to become more independent, it’s also sad at the same time. Which is why I had to take younger son and drown my sorrows over a cup of coffee (as well as a doughnut that mysteriously joined us at the table) at the local doughnut shop. Anytime some strange adult (SA) came up to me to comment on my baby, I answered him/her as truthfully as I could. The exchanges went like the following:
SA: What a beautiful baby! How old is he?
AE: My older son just started his first day of preschool.
SA: Wow that must be very exciting. And how old is your baby?
AE: I’m sure he’ll be fine but I have my cell phone on just in case.
SA: That’s a good idea. And how old is your baby?
AE: Three years old.
SA: That infant is three years old?
AE: Oh that baby. He is almost three months old. I thought you were talking about my older son. He is starting preschool today.
One of those conversations was interrupted by panic when I realized that my cell phone battery was really low and, in my enthusiasm for a clean car and thus perfectionism, I had left the car charger on my kitchen table. There’s perfectionism for you!
The other exception to the above transcript was the one conversation I had with a mom whose daughter also had just started preschool. She apparently was at the same place mentally yesterday.
So how did preschool go? Apparently it was great. His teacher told me he did really well. He told me that they read a Clifford book, played with blocks, colored, ate crackers and juice and played in the sandbox. He had a couple of crafts in his backpack. Then he chattered on about George. One day down. Many years to go.