When you look at your five-year old, I bet you still see your beautiful, innocent newborn. You remember his/her first smile, first steps, first birthday…and it is hard to imagine that your baby is preparing to embark on a journey that is all his/her own.
Even if your child went to day care from the time they were three months old – or earlier – that was still a situation you had control over. You picked the school, observed the teachers, knew all of the other kids in the class and their parents, you got a daily sheet! You could stop by anytime and observe or hang out for a few minutes at the end of the day to chat with the teacher.
Impossible to imaging, but that is all about to change.
Sometime in early August you will receive a packet in the mail that tells you the name of your child’s new teacher. It will likely also include a class list. You search your memory, “Which teacher was that at the orientation way back in March?” You conduct a Google search. You read the packet from front to back multiple times. You stop random strangers in the grocery store, “Do you know this teacher? Was s/he good?”
You are not even really sure what you are asking. You just want information.And eventually you get to a comfortable place. You realize you live in a good district, all of the teachers are qualified, you just know your baby will be okay.
And then you realize, your child has to get to school somehow. The color yellow has the ability to send you into an instant panic, “THE BUS! THE BUS!” Someone you have never met before will be driving your child. In a vehicle without seat belts. With lots and lots of distractions. And children you don’t know. “Children can be so mean!” you think, “How can I send my baby onto a bus, practically without a chaperone, with kids she has never met! What if they make fun of her! What if she is scared! WHAT IF SHE CRIES!”
You start quizzing your child maniacally, “Which seat do you sit in on the bus? The front seat, right? And what is your bus number? What is the name of your teacher? What do you do if you need to go to the bathroom?”
And then the first day of school arrives. And your baby jumps out of bed with a speed and excitement you have never seen before. S/he dresses herself. Insists on eating breakfast with his/her backpack on. Wants to wait at the bus stop 20 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive “so s/he doesn’t miss it.”
And when the bus pulls up, s/he barely has time to throw you a kiss before s/he hops onto the bus, slinging a near empty backpack over her shoulder.
You know that if you jump in the car right this very second you will get stuck behind the school bus, “Maybe that isn’t so bad,” you muse as you sob into a soggy tissue.
And you do get in your car. And race to the school. And park about a block away because the lot is full of the other dozens of parents waiting to see their children get off the bus. And you smile when you realize that not all of these are parents of kindergartners. You feel almost normal, surrounded by peers in parenting.
And when the first bus rolls up, you crane your neck, trying to see if it is your baby’s bus. Disappointed when it isn’t, but unwilling to relinquish your prime spot to a parent whose kid is on that bus. When at last your baby’s bus arrives, you get the camera at the ready as s/he steps off…and does not even look your way. Or even acknowledge the paparazzi of parents. You watch as your baby walks confidently into the school, not looking back – only forward.