Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Kindergarten and kissing hands

Nolan's first day of kindergarten
Nolan holds his kissing hand

My baby started kindergarten this week.

Nolan's first day of school started out kinda shaky. He barely touched his breakfast of oatmeal with fresh strawberries. He was restless and defiant. He had to be pried from the elaborate setup he built of Thomas the Tank Engine tracks and Legos. 

I dressed him in his favorite dinosaur shirt and helped him put on his brand-new dinosaur backpack. I told him what I packed for his lunch, which included a special treat - a blueberry fruit strip. He stared at me stone-faced.

When I asked him to pose for a photo with his brother Nico, who was starting fifth grade, he refused. My husband and I reminded him that he and his brother would finally be in the same school together and how exciting it was! He said he wanted to go back to preschool.

Before we left for school, I sat down with Nolan and reminded him of his first day of preschool. "Remember when I drew that little heart on your hand? So if you were sad and missed me, you could look at the heart and remember that I love you?" He nodded. I drew a little red heart on his left hand. "Could you draw a heart on my hand so I can look at it when I miss you today?" I asked him. He took the marker and drew a little heart on my left hand. We kissed each others' little red hearts and walked out the door, hand in hand.

Surprisingly, we were the first to arrive at his classroom. Nolan's teacher had set up a table outside with nametags of all the students. Nolan found his and I helped him stick it to his shirt. The other kids arrived and then I started feeling anxious too. My little guy was much smaller than some of his classmates, as I predicted. Nolan is small for his age and has a late birthday that just made the age cutoff. Also, there seems to be a trend toward academic redshirting, particularly with boys. 

I've been having a hard time letting go of all the hangups I have about Nolan and kindergarten. I need to accept the fact that Nolan may well be the youngest, smallest kid in his class. I have to let go of the idea that he and Nico are not going to elementary school together in Ohio, as I had long envisioned. He will not have the great teachers Nico had in Cleveland Heights. But it's still hard to let go of these dreams. When Nico had started kindergarten, I was pregnant with Nolan. Nico's teacher was fantastic (her name - no joke - is Mrs. Miracle) and I had hoped that someday Nolan would have her as a kindergarten teacher too.

I need to let go of the idea that Nolan must have all the exact same happy experiences his older brother has had. Besides, Nolan has had his own share of great teachers too. Just like with his brother, Nolan's day care and preschool teachers have all been wonderful and each one has simply adored him. We are lucky that both boys have always had caring, nurturing teachers.

So anyway, as the other kindergarteners and their parents arrived, I saw that they looked nervous and excited too. There were lots of fancy cameras and iPhones on the scene. We buzzed about taking photos and introducing ourselves. Finally, the bell rang and the teacher came out. I had heard great things about her already and if I had to conjure up a dream teacher for Nolan, it would look just like her.

The teacher had the kids line up to enter the classroom. As they walked toward the door, Nolan waved and blew kisses at me. All of us parents tried to follow the kids into the room and had to be shooed out. 

I cried and had to look at the tiny red heart on my hand.


Janet said...

Loved this, Lisa! When Tommy started kindergarten last year, he said he wanted us to hug inside the house because he didn't want to hug in front of other people. It was because he was so nervous and I think he wanted to be able to cry in private! Leah was nervous and excited to go to kindergarten, but maybe it's because Tommy and Nolan are the youngest. It will get better every day!

Lisa Chiu said...

Janet, thanks for sharing your experience! My older son was the same as Tommy. He would say "I don't want anyone to see my tears" and would pull himself together right before he saw his classmates. Nolan doesn't care if the world sees him cry, especially if it garners more sympathy and increases his chances of getting to stay home!

Alyse said...

I admit, I had to google "redshirting" when I read this post. That's absolutely appalling! Who ever heard of holding back for their children to get ahead? It's common sense; if you're older than everyone in your class, of course you'll be "smarter".

I like the idea of the little heart on the hand. It's clever!

Lisa Chiu said...

Alyse, thanks for your comment! Redshirting seems to be pretty common now, especially for boys - crazy, huh? Glad you liked the idea of the little heart. It didn't work last week, it turns out, but this week is going more smoothly!