In 1981, my mother dropped me off for my first day of Kindergarten, shortly after our move to a new country, with a new home, a new language, new streets, new faces, all of whom I had no idea how to exist with. I was understandably reluctant. "No, I am not going!" I stomped my foot with all the strength a 4 year old could muster. I pleaded. I begged. I threatened a full on tantrum. Finally, my mother relented. "Okay fine, no school" she said, "Let's just go for a walk."
A walk? That sounded innocent enough. Yet I was uneasy. All the way out the door from our apartment, into the elevator, out in the street, my little pea brain was harboring suspicions. I asked her repeatedly: "We're just going for a walk RIGHT? We're not going to school, RIGHT?" My mother nodded in agreement. As we were getting closer and closer to the school, I began to sweat. Yet, I gave my mother the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was just pure coincidence that our "walk" was leading us closer and closer to the last place on earth I would want to be. I could not believe my mother would be a bold face liar. We had an agreement, a convention, an oral contract. We were simpatico, RIGHT? Right. Les illusions perdues, indeed...
This is the way my mother, the Masters in child psychology, eased me into my Kindergarten classroom on that fateful September day in 1981. By lying through her teeth. Once I was facing the teacher and my other paint splattered and snot nosed colleagues, I had 2 choices: throw myself on the floor and embarass myself with the worst tantrum ever seen on the Corniche Fleurie, or I could save face and pretend, with a half smile glued on for good measure, that I knew all along I was going to end up here, no that in fact it was my idea. I chose the latter path, somewhat of a predictive pattern for my future life, which would be and still is riddled with those awkward embarassing moments.
For Sweet Pea and Lady Bug, I decided that honesty was the best policy. I tried to talk to them, little as they were, with the same aplomb that I would use to discuss deportation defense strategies with my client. A mix of understanding and compassion combined with sternness and a realistic presentation of possible outcomes. Sweet Pea nodded as if he understood and accepted everything and proceeded to throw horrible tantrums for the first 2 weeks that I dropped him off at school. When that did not work, for the next 3 years, he changed gears and tried to undo me earlier in the process , with such colorful processes such as refusing to put on his underwear (or the rest of his clothes for that matter) at home, or doing a marathon around the kitchen table. As for Lady Bug's first day, which happened recently, she ran into her classroom with hardly a look behind her, and she has the audacity to frown when I pick her up, like I interrupted some monumental party she was just beginning to enjoy.
As parents everywhere are getting ready to ship off their kids after the summer vacation,(some of you already have), just remember to take a deep breath and don't give up. Whether you are paralyzed with fear at the thought that your precious little one is terrified, or lonely, or mad at you, or on the other end of the spectrum simply couldn't wait to get rid of you fast enough, remember all of us, no matter how long it took, eventually survived the first day of school. Good luck and have a wonderful, successful school year!
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