During the past week, my older son started kindergarten, and my younger son had his first day of preschool. I work part-time, and I’m extremely fortunate to have my mom and husband care for the boys while I’m working. While this is great, it also means I’ve never really been “childless” while not at work before. I have 2.5 hours this week where I have no plans and no children to care for, and it happens to fall on a day when I’m not at work. I guess now I can catch up on the nearly 6 years of household cleaning and organizing I’ve been ignoring, perhaps!
Having done the “first day of preschool” now two times, I can safely say it’s different with the second kid. I still haven’t decided who has it “better”, the first born or the second born, but I’ve definitively determined it’s not the same show both times. Let’s discuss:
When my first child got ready to start school, I really put thought into what outfit he’d wear. I knew this photo would be in his scrapbook forever, and we’d always look back on his first day of school. Polo shirt, madras shorts, tiny shoes…I planned it all.
My younger son this morning said “I’m not going to school if I can’t wear my Spiderman shirt!” I said “Sounds good!” and stuffed him in his one size too-small beloved Spiderman shirt, hand-me-down cargo shorts, and sent him off.
I went out for a full day of back-to-school shopping for my older son when he started preschool. This sounds insane to me now. I carefully considered clothes he could put on himself (no zippers, buttons, etc.), and got him a fancy backpack with the matching water bottle. I’d like to reiterate that their preschool “day” is just under 2.5 hours long.
Poor kid #2. We dug out the old “preschool backpack”, abandoned for something bigger by my kindergarten son, peeled of his brother’s name and stuck his name on it. He didn’t care…but I felt a twinge of guilt.
For my firstborn, anticipating preschool was scary. He’d never been in any kind of school before, and he’d never even had a babysitter who wasn’t a close family member. It was all a big unknown. He worried about going, and I worried about him. I didn’t know the teachers, and I envisioned my poor kid crying without me. I was home with his newborn brother, and I was sure he’d resent that fact.
As I dropped the boys off at their various schools today, my older son gave my younger son the run-down during the car ride. “So, listen, mom is dropping you off at school, and she doesn’t stay there, you know. You’re a big kid, and that’s how it goes. You’ll get juice and goldfish crackers though. It’s not a very long day.” My younger son said “Yea, I know.” And that was about it.
While preschool was the first real “school” experience for both kids, my firstborn didn’t have the benefit of seeing someone else go to preschool each day for years before him. He was nervous about school, and wanted to know exactly where I’d be while he was at school in case he needed me. I spent the first week in the parking lot, nursing a newborn and reading for grad school. In the second week, I graduated to the library across the street. I think it was three weeks before I drove all the way home and didn’t worry I’d have to drive back and console him. I never actually had to go back, but I worried.
This is how it went with kid #2, who thinks he is King of Preschool after his big bro paved the way: “Yay! School!! Have fun and be kind! Love you!”. Boom.
So what’s better? The nice, crisp supplies and being the “pioneer” as firstborn? Or a backpack that may have a few finger paint stains, possibly living in your brother’s shadow, but having someone else chart a safe path for you? I don’t know. This experiment will continue to play out here for many years to come!