The First Day of School: Were There Tears?

I’ve been absent for the last few days. Between a couple of big family events and house guests sleeping in my spare room/office (thus making my computer a no-go zone), I’ve had a bit of a holiday from the internet. My usual ‘Monday’s Top 5’ will be out in the next day or so (better late than never), but first I would like to fill you in on what’s been going on around here.

Plus, I’ve got 176 new blog posts to read before I can work out a Top 5.

More coffee may be required.

The first of the big family events that occurred last week was Big Brother’s first day of school.

No, it’s not “real school” in that it’s not Grade 1. It was his first day of pre-prep. (Which, for those of you who don’t live in Queensland is comparable to kindergarten. It’s part-time prep. He goes to school 4 hours a day, 5 days a fortnight.) But since the preschool is part of the same school that he’ll be attending for both prep and grades 1 to 12, it’s school. I drop him off, leave him in the care of his teachers, and pick him up later. He’s in a class with the same children he’ll be with for the next 14 years, until he graduates high school. It’s school.

My first baby has started school.

There are certain questions that everyone asks when your child starts school: Were there tears? Did he cry? Did you cry?

So here’s the short answer: Yes, there were tears.

Now on to the long answer.

Big Brother has been excited about starting school for the last year and a half. We went to an open day at the school back in July of 2010, and we all fell in love with the place. Barely a week has gone by that Big Brother hasn’t pleaded with me to let him go to school. We’ve talked about it ad nauseam, gone back to another open day (just because we enjoyed the first one so much), been to the pre-acceptance interview, and counted down days until school starts.

It’s funny how preparing your own children for something makes you remember your own experiences. I remember being four years old and heading off to school for my first time. I was excited. Not just because I’d meet lots of new people, or I’d get to feel like a Big Girl, but because I desperately wanted to read. I wanted to read more than anything else I’d ever wanted in my short life. I’d already decided that I would be an author when I grew up, and learning to read was the first step. Mum told me time and time again, “You’ll learn to read when you go to school.” I needed to go to school.

I remember my excitement that first day. And I remember the tears — the flood that came, not in the morning, but in the afternoon when Mum picked me up from school. I sobbed and blubbered, “But I still don’t know how to read!”

Apparently I needed to go more than once.

With that in mind, I’ve been careful not to promise Big Brother too much when it comes to school. We talked about what his days would be like, rather than what he’d learn. And he seemed prepared. He knew that school was more than one day, for a start. And we waited — eagerly — for the first day of school.

On Friday, the great day arrived. Big Brother leapt out of bed with more excitement than he showed on Christmas morning. He got himself dressed without being asked, prompted me that it was breakfast time without a single complaint, and then told me that I had to hurry up and brush his teeth so he could go to school.

For my part, I spent the morning moving as slowly as I could. If Big Brother had his way, we would have arrived at the school an hour early.

When the time came, we loaded the family into the car. My husband had the day off, so we were all going to be there to wish Big Brother a good first day. We drove the half hour to the school without music playing — the excited chatter from the back seat was all the accompaniment we needed. We parked the car and I was dragged through the carpark, past the Class 1 – 3 rooms, and into the preschool area by a small, blonde-headed ball of enthusiasm. It was time for school!

Big Brother said goodbye to Daddy and Baby, and then we went into the classroom. His shoes came off, and were neatly stored on the shoe racks. We put on his indoor shoes (rubber-soled slippers for indoor play), and went inside to where the teacher was explaining that the children should sit around the edges of a large, circular rug to prepare for the morning welcome. I left Big Brother to follow those direction (actually he abandoned me at the door, but let’s not quibble about details) and went to speak to the Teacher’s Aide.

After a quick conversation the Aide said, “You’re welcome to stay for a little bit if you’d like.”

I looked over at Big Brother. He had, indeed, made his way to the rug. But instead of sitting around the edge like the other six or seven children already there, he had plonked himself right in the middle of the circle.

“I like your indoor shoes,” he said to the other children. “I’ve got new indoor shoes. Mine have butterflies on them. What do yours have on them?” When he didn’t get an immediate answer, he pointed at one of the boys. “You.”

The boy hesitated a moment and then said, “Frogs.”

“Wow. I like frogs,” said Big Brother. Then he pointed to another girl. “You.”

I watched as Big Brother went from child to child, engaging each of them in conversation about their shoes. Then I turned back to the Teacher’s Aide. “I think he’ll be fine.”

There were certainly no tears from Big Brother that morning.

I left and felt the familiar tug of heartstrings, knowing that I was leaving my beautiful boy behind. But I didn’t cry. I love the school, I have complete confidence in his teachers, and I know that Big Brother is perfectly capable of speaking up if there’s something he needs. So that pull on my heart didn’t make me sad — it just reaffirmed that, however far apart we are, there is always a connection between me and my darling boy.

Even my husband didn’t cry, which was something of a surprise. (He’s a big softie, and much more prone to tears at the idea of our little boys growing up than I am.) We went out for morning tea, did a bit of shopping, and accidentally enjoyed ourselves.

So when did the tears come, you ask?

I was  waiting for Big Brother when school finished. He came wandering out of the classroom calling, “Mummy?”

“Over here, Darling,” I called, waving and smiling.

And he burst into tears. “Nooooooo,” he sobbed. “I don’t want to go home yet. I want to stay at school! Please can I stay at school?”

It took almost ten minutes to calm him down and explain that he could come back next week.

He really does take after his Mum.







Filed under Life With Kids

18 responses to “The First Day of School: Were There Tears?

  1. Well, I cried (while reading this post) enough for you and Big Brother. He sounds like a great kid! I remember looking forward to when my oldest went to school; I didn’t plan on crying, but I did. We just returned from visiting him for his 23rd birthday. I was gone for five days, and it took me a week to catch up on reading email. Good luck!

  2. ava

    Yay for Big Brother! Very good job Mom! 🙂

  3. That picture is so cute! Yes- I cried, Jo. I bawwwlled. 😦

    This was my post made through tears.

    Our daughter was 4 when she started the local Montessori which is 5 days a week, 5 hours a day. I felt like I was losing her too soon- and I fretted about doing it unnecessarily. But, she came home today (at 4 and a half) excited to tell me about how she was doing “sums” using Montessori counting sticks that added up with the plus and equal sign. She is reading and writing and sounding words out. And she is doing it uncompelled because of the one-on-one curriculum that is full of respect for the child. I don’t cry about losing her anymore because I know she is learning in a natural and ecstatic way. And I know your son is, too. 🙂 Great post, as usual, Jo…

    • I love your post. It’s not easy letting them go. Reading your feelings actually made me all teary as well.

      “I don’t cry about losing her anymore because I know she is learning in a natural and ecstatic way. ” — I love this. I love the way that you’ve chosen a style of education that fits with what you want for your children, and that supports your own ideas and values. When we were researching schools, we considered Montessori, but decided that the Steiner system was a better fit for us, and we couldn’t be happier with the result. The teachers really care, both about the kids and the school, and it shows in everything they do.

      In fact, after 4 days at school, Big Brother came home and announced that he loves his teacher, and he’s going to be a teacher when he grows up.

  4. I think I freaked my daughter out with the whole ‘you will learn to read at school’ thing. a few days before she was due to start she burst into tears with ‘I don’t think I can learn to read in one day mum!’ A week and a bit down and she is loving it!!!

  5. Pingback: Goodbye Baby, Hello Little Brother | The Happy Logophile

  6. Wow. Quite the milestone. And what an unexpected end to the story!

    Our dear little B.T. has been in daycare since very early – a sad consequence of both Mommy and Daddy having day jobs. Because of that, though, I expect his transition to regular school will be seamless and painless.

    Also… while I think it’s sad B.T. is so often in daycare at such a tender young age, I must say that he’s learning lessons there that he simply wouldn’t if he was always at home.

    • It’s interesting, actually, because a lot of people said that the transition would be harder for Big Brother because he’s never been to childcare of any kind (other than a few sleepovers at his grandmother’s house), but he had absolutely no problems. Meanwhile, the kids who screamed bloody murder and had to be pried away from their parents were all full-time daycare kids before school started.

      Not that I’m saying that kids who go to daycare find the transition harder — far from it. But I do think that the question of how kids deal with the start of school has less to do with their previous experience and more to do with their self-confidence in the face of change and the unknown.

  7. This is just so sweet. What a lovely memory for him to hold on to when he takes his first little one to school…..just like you.

  8. Jo – you’ve done it again! I know I’m not exactly feeling strong right now but this really made me weep! You must be so proud of your ‘big’ little boy and should be of yourself too for giving him such confidence and sociability – he’s not a Sagittarious by any chance is he?

    I really hope our Little Chap has such a positive experience this next September. He seems to have formed a similar bond with his prep school having made several visits since we put his name down for a place at 18mths. He will be nearly four when he starts 5 days a week (6hr days) in the nursery, a class for 14 3+ year olds and, like your Big Brother, will be there until he’s 13. I will be signing up to another Open Day asap and hoping for a similarly successful start!!

    • No, not a Sagittarious — although my husband is, so perhaps that affects our parenting somewhat. Big Brother is a Taurus — easy-going, placid, a thinker, and incredibly stubborn when he wants to be. 🙂

      Best wishes for Little Chap starting school. I hope you’re feeling better by then, because I’ll look forward to reading all about it. 🙂

  9. Pingback: The Last Day of School | The Happy Logophile

Speak to me.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s