I picked him up that first day, and he was beaming. He looked so adorable sitting at his desk waiting obediently for his name to be called. On the way home, he told me all about his day, and despite the 105 temperature, he clung to my hand the entire way. "He missed me," I thought. "He wants me close."
The next two days I had to drop him off at the curb from the van, to go into the kindergarten yard, where they don't let parents come before school anyway. He slumped slowly in, but both days his teacher told me he cried. As we walked home, I asked him about the tears. "It's just that I missed you," he said. "I looked out the yard, and you were gone."
He was grateful for a weekend.
Sunday night he told me he didn't want to go to school the next day. "I want to stay home with you," he said. I explained that I wouldn't be here; I had school too. He suggested Daddy, but I reminded him that Daddy has to work. "But I'll cry, I know it," he whimpered. "You can do it, Conor," I told him. "You always have a really fun day at school, and when you get home, you can tell me all the fun things that you learned." He persisted, so I tried other tactics.
"You have to go to school. If you don't go to school, they'll kick you out."
He wanted to get kicked out.
"If you cry every day, the other kids will think you're a baby."
"Oh, no, that part's fine," he said. "They all try to cheer me up."
On Mondays, my school schedule allows me to walk him to school, so I figured we'd do that instead of the dump and drive thing. As we walked, he held my hand. And he said the sweetest things:
"I just love holding your hand, Mom."
"I wouldn't trade you for any other mom in the whole world."
"Thanks for walking with me, Mom."
I told him how much I believed in him and how proud I was of him, and how I couldn't wait to hear about his fun day. I told him how many children in the world didn't get to go to school, and how lucky we all are that we do. When we got to the kindergarten yard, I got down on my knees and hugged him for a good long time. He took his Star Wars lunchbox and his water bottle, and walked through the gate. Once through, he came running to the fence, where I was waiting on the other side. "I can't do it, Mom! I can't!" and the tears were coming.
I wanted to burst into tears. I wanted to say to him, "You know what? Forget this public school crap. Come back out of that yard and come home with me. Let's read stories and bake cookies and color pictures. You belong with me." But I choked it back, and put my fingers through the chain link to grab his hand, like one of us was a prisoner, not even sure which.
I reminded him of how brave he is, gave him every pep talk I could think of. His anxiety waxed and waned (mostly waxed) as the bell got closer. When it was time to line up, his big blue eyes filled with water. "You can do this, my boy. I love you." He started to the line, and then ran back to me one last time. We lined up our lips through the chain link diamond and I gave him a kiss of courage. "When you get home," I told him, "go check your bed. I'm going to leave you a surprise."
He lined up, but kept his head turned around to watch me the whole time. Meanwhile I was giving him smiles and thumbs up and blown kisses and cheers. Finally, his blonde head of curls disappeared through the door, and safely now, I let my own tears flow as I walked home.
I hate kindergarten. It just feels wrong to me.
I'll get home from school around dinner time. Aiden will be at a Dodger's game, and Lyndsay will be tutoring. So, it's all about Conor. I will feed him and bathe him, and read to him a few chapters from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We'll say prayers together and lay together in his bed and he can tell me all about his day. I will praise his strong heart (and mine!) and tell him how doing hard things and facing his fears will make him courageous and brave.
And then, we'll do it all over again.