First Day of First Grade

So... Long story short (for those of you for whom the sight of a semicolon evokes TL;DR, this first sentence probably tells you all you need to know, and you can stop after it), after a year of stress and a night of braving the elements, we got the Beaner into our neighborhood public school, and he started first grade today. Weirdly, my stress level did not go down after we were told he was in—nor did it drop when we got confirmation by mail in the form of a teacher and classroom assignment a couple days later. Instead, it seemed to hover over my shoulders and chest like a lead x-ray apron.

When it started to *increase*, I finally identified it as what it was: anxiety over the Beaner going to school at all. Some of it's probably just emotional baggage from my own childhood/school experiences, some is probably disbelief that he could possibly be this grown up (I know, not-quite-7 isn't exactly driving age or anything), and some is probably nervousness about him being in a school full of kids who range in age from 5 to 14 instead of 3 to 6.

I think most of it, though, was anxiety that my borderline-negligent parenting would cost him in the classroom. That we'd forget to send him with something important, like proper gym clothes or a dismissal note or a book report or coping skills. That we'd arrive late or drop him off in the wrong place or tell Shawna the wrong time to pick him up. That shorts wouldn't be considered appropriate uniform attire after all (or that he'd be too cold on an unseasonably chilly, rainy day), and we had no pants for him to change into because we were late taking them in to get hemmed.

Normally I'm not this neurotic—really. I think the first three things just fed my anxiety about the fourth. I know I'm a good parent to the Beaner—not perfect, but adequate—and that he's loved and fed and clothed and stimulated intellectually (and thanks to Shawna and Al, has lots of opportunities for fun). But.

<sigh> It's hard to put into words how I feel like I'll fall short, and in whose eyes. His teacher's? Other parents'? The after school program director's? It's probably all nonsense, and I'm silly for worrying about it. I said to Al as we drove home together in a pouring rain this evening, "the weird things is, our reward for getting through today is that we get to do it again tomorrow. And the next day, and the next day..."

"...until it becomes a routine," Al finished. It's true: This is a new routine, one that will take a little getting used to, but eventually it *will* become routine. The new normal. I hope in all the ways my childhood was good and normal, and in none of the ways it was sad and frustrating and confusing and mean.

Speaking of the routine, one of the appeals of having the Beaner go to the neighborhood public school was that it's in walking distance. He won't be able to walk to school by himself until he's in third grade, so of course that means one of us walking with him (or maybe he can walk with the neighbor when she starts Kindergarten there next week—hadn't thought of that before!). I guess in part of my head I thought it would be me who walked with him, and that I'd be excited to do it... until I realized that it would put me about 30-40 minutes behind my usual morning schedule. (I usually leave the house on foot by 7:45 and pass the school—if I walk that way—about 10 minutes later, but the Beaner needs to be dropped off at 8:20 and not before.)

This was a little agitating, but as we piled into the car this morning because of the predicted rain, I found I was more agitated about being in the car than about being late. About 3 blocks from the house I asked Al to pull over and let us out, and the Beaner and I walked the final 3 blocks. This turned out to be exactly the right call despite the rain that started up about a block in. I was treated to a delightfully bubbly discourse on what school might be like from the Beaner, and we stopped to take a self portrait.

first day of first grade

I told him of the photo my mom took of me and my best friend Linda on our first day of school (first grade, I think), a day when it was also raining. I said I'd have to ask mom—Grandma Lin, I mean—to send it to me so I could scan it. "It's ok if you say 'my mom'," he said. "You don't have to say 'Grandma Lin' too. I know who you mean."

The school was a madhouse when we got there, thanks to the rain and, in most cases, two parents plus younger siblings dropping off each first and second grader. I had a moment of near windmilling when the parents were asked to leave the cafeteria so that the teachers could lead their classes up to the classrooms in an orderly fashion; too many people seemed to think this was an opportunity to chat with their neighbors, and the flow outward was also hampered by a still-steady stream of parents and children coming in.

Finally we were out, and he was in, and that was it. First grade had begun.

Shawna texted us on her way to pick him up that she'd FaceTime us when they got home to let us know how the day went, and then texted again to report on what a madhouse the pickup area was. (Apparently it was a repeat of the morning, with a mix of double parents, younger siblings, and older siblings all picking up kids.) Al ran over to my office to join the FaceTime, and after a couple false starts with my phone, I grabbed an iPad2 (one of the benefits of running an iOS development team!) and we used that.

getting the scoop via FaceTime

The Beaner reported that he'd had a great time, and that he liked lunch and gym best. He was a little disappointed that the classroom looked "more like a nursery school than a first grade classroom." I'm not sure what he expected—maybe something like the older kids' section at the public library? He was also dismayed that the "jitter juice" served by the teacher, designed to dispel everyone's first-day nerves, was made of (according to his description) powdered Kool-Aid, ice cream, and lemon-lime soda. He declined it with a thumbs down and asked for water instead. That's my kid!

He also told us, with a certain amount of glee, "I didn't get any homework, but you did! Forms to fill out!"

At dinner we served his favorite meal—cod and corn on the cob—to celebrate, and we got a few more details about his day, including the arrangement of the desks; the name of one boy he met and the description of another whose name he didn't remember; an account of the book choices they were given during reading time ("they were all too easy"); and a glimpse of the getting-to-know-you work he was asked to do:

first grade survey
I'm pretty sure that's the very definition of a "woohoo!" face

I'm actually kind of excited about tomorrow now.

Posted by Lori in parenthood and school at 9:50 PM on September 6, 2011


Congratulations! That sounds like a pretty wonderful day, all things considered.

It's also good to see you posting again.

Posted by: David Humphreys at September 7, 2011 10:45 AM

Ah, school anxiety! I know it well, alas.

My coping mechanism included making a spreadsheet of necessary supplies, beginning their acquisition quite early, and hemming pants myself.

Of course, I still have a few more to hem. This is one reason they change out of uniform as soon as they get home from school.

I'm pleased that he got a spot in your neighborhood school! My friends' daughter, another sweet, bright kid, likes it very much, as do her parents. Whom I believe you've met, small world that it is.

You look great, and I particularly like the vibrance of your purple.

Posted by: ratphooey [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2011 12:52 PM

I just kinda wrote the same post. Although Tori doesn't start until Friday!

Posted by: cecily at September 7, 2011 7:35 PM

F starts kindergarten at our neighborhood school next week. I am panicked. He is thrilled.

Posted by: girlfiend at September 8, 2011 10:32 PM

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