Thursday, September 04, 2008

I no longer have complete control of her universe

Day 1 of Project Go To School is complete. There was total excitement. There was a hurried lunch. There were introductions to new friends and neighbours. There were unexpected tears.

The tears were mine and they were indeed unexpected. From Emily there was only unbridled enthusiasm for every little thing that had anything to do with getting to, being at or coming home from school.

Emily's bus comes at 11:58. We're required to be out there at 11:53. Lunch has to happen before that which makes morning activities rushed, difficult and probably stressful although this morning wasn't thankfully. We went to the library, which is a very quick bike ride. Luckily, I had leftovers from last night's supper that I was able to put on the table in 3 minutes flat. Good thing too otherwise I would have been cooked since I walked in the door from the library at exactly 11:19 am.

I'd better buy a watch.

When lunch was done and I started the motions to go out the door, Emily, to whom I was applying sunscreen at the time, couldn't keep her feet on the floor. Which made the whole sunscreen application thing a little challenging.

We went outside and took the required First Day of School Ever Photo.

I think her enthusiasm is evident. You can actually see her about to jump out of her skin.

We walked to the bus stop. Actually, we walked to the end of the street and looked both ways in an attempt to find someone who knew what they were doing because I definitely did not. The bus driver left me a message a week ago saying the pick up was at the end of our street but over the past couple of years I've seen parents and their kids standing willy-nilly all over the sidewalks. It's never been clear where the stop is. I saw a mother and kids standing near our mailbox area. She confirmed I was in the right place. Thankfully, she'd done this before and was able to educate the newbie. Her little boy, Mohammed, is in Emily's class.

Emily was thrilled, as was Mohammed, to have a new friend even before the bus arrived. I pushed down the feelings of bad neighbour-ness when I realized they live DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM US and I really didn't know them or even recognize them. I didn't know she had three kids. I still don't know her name.

You know, I really like our street but I could only name maybe three families who live on it. First names only. That's sad. That's big city. Where I grew up, a small, rural town in the Niagara Region, and I was only a kid at the time, I could name a bunch of people on our very long road. Why can't I do that now? I'm not a hermit. I generally like people. Maybe it's my neighbours. Maybe they're the hermits. In any case, I'm going to make an effort to change that. Not sure how. Perhaps stalking will work. I honed my skills today as you'll soon find out.

Anywho. The bus pulled up. The jumping started again. The door opened, the driver checked off Emily's name and she was up the stairs and in the front seat without a kiss, hug or barely a look behind her.

Bye-bye mum, you are so yesterday's news.

As she climbed those stairs something happened that really surprised me. My lip started to quiver. I couldn't have spoken without my voice cracking. My girl was going to school and I wasn't going with her. I no longer would know how she was spending every minute of the day. Yes, she's done drop-off preschool programs but this is different. I won't be talking to her teacher at the end of every class, asking how she did or what she loved. She'll be coming home and, like today, won't remember most of what happened or what she did. For two and a half hours a day, she's someone else's. That's what hit me at that moment. And I didn't expect it. I still feel sad about it.

And then I became the stalker. But so did Mohammed's mum so at least I had company.

I drove to the school, parked a few metres away where I could easily see the whole scene. I watched the bus sitting there with doors closed. Mrs. B. approached, the doors opened and each student was let off into her care. She took them all into the little Kindergarten play yard (there were only 7 of them) and gave them a tour and the rules about not going beyond the fence (or so I gathered from her gestures). And then, she led them all inside in a nice line. I cried through the whole thing. Not just a quivering lip. Not just a cracking voice. I had big tears and some shaking shoulders. I drove away.

I met the bus (in the wrong place turns out) and welcomed home one of the most excited new students I have ever seen. Her first words were "Mummy, I had so much fun!" A few more exclamation marks would not be exaggerating her tone in any way. She had a big smiley face taped to her shirt that said "Kindergarten makes me smile." Uh, yeah. That's for sure.

In her bag I found a little paper that said: Quiet as a mouse award goes to Emily W. who was as quiet as a mouse going into school today. I'm willing to bet she was quiet most of the time. Taking everything in. Observing the other kids.

Here is what I was able to glean about Day 1:
- you have to take a paper clip to be able to use any of the centres. If there's no clips left, you can't use that centre (because there are already the requisite number of kids there) and you have to go to a different area. I love these Kindergarten teacher tricks.
- she ate snack on the big square but didn't have enough time to eat her carrot sticks.
- Krishtika didn't remember her from preschool.
- Mohammed is her new friend.
- she forgot to give Mrs. B her glue sticks.
- the soap dispenser was broken
- Mrs. B read Spot's First Day of School
- Emily's favourite thing is still the play house.
- she played a computer game that had something to do with a cow.

She was so ridiculously tired tonight that when that inevitable meltdown came, I agreed to skip the bath and put her right to bed. The next couple of weeks will be a hard adjustment, getting her through supper to bedtime with minimal crying. Once that adjustment time has passed I think we'll have a very, very happy kid who is loving school, making new friends, and a happier mummy who is more comfortable with giving up some control over her kid's life. And probably making better use of my time with her because it is little more limited.

And how did I spend those two hours away from her? Did I put my feet up while Hope slept? Enjoy a glass of wine? A cuppa tea? Perhaps a good book, some knitting, some sleeping?

That would have been nice if my second born would have slept. Which she didn't do yesterday either.

If she is dropping her nap there is going to be a lot of swearing round these parts. Perhaps some Valium as well. That would be just too nasty. Too mean of this universe.

It can't be, can it?


little b said...

I just cried a bit too! Sweet little Emily, my first niece, is going to school! On the bus! I think I need to send her a present to commemorate it.

Julie said...

I got all teary eyed. I think that is the most excited picture I've ever seen. I'm glad she had such a great day and that you are feeling a little more confident about her entry into academics (after the stalking).

Pam said...

WOW!! Thanks for sharing Emily's (and your experience of Emily's) first day of school. I'm so excited for her! Good luck with the bus stalking!

Erika said...

She is so darn gorgeous and spunky!!! Glad you both lived through day one (c: Anyways, I think my mom still cries when I go to school, so no worries.

little b said...

I just have to comment again to say that I'm pretty jealous that Emily gets to go to school with kids named Mohammed and Krishtika. Kate will not have so much diversity in her class when she goes to school.

Karen said...

Yeah, we're really happy that she's one of the only white kids in her class. Growing up in our area of Ottawa has meant that Emily, so far anyway, doesn't even register cultural differences.

jannie said...

Karen, your story is profoundly beautiful, and oh so relevant. It definitely strikes a chord! Your title is excellent!!. It marks the beginning of a gradual process of giving up 'control'. While this is mostly a rewarding process, it is not an easy transition b/c of
all the 'risks'.
And when our children become all that we had hoped for, AND MORE!!! we realize we weren't quite ready for that whole package either.
"Growing up, is not easy at all.' Not for children.
Certainly not for parents.
Love you all so much.
LOVE the photo!!! It's a keeper. It is vibrant with enthusiasm! One you might consider submitting - for a 'back to school' article or something like that.
This is all so exciting - keep the memories - they are valuable gems.