Yesterday was H's first day of kindergarten. There were no tears or nervousness on H's part. I think I must have had some because I had a hard time falling asleep. Why? Because of all the stuff that I don't know about the system. People think I'm paranoid and tell me that there is no secret parent society in which you learn the secrets of how to ensure success for your child in public school. Most of the time I believe them but then there are some times when things happen or I hear things that confirm my suspicions. Yesterday was one of those times.
We arrived at the school with plenty of time before H's class started at 11:40 for the afternoon kindergarten. At first I was quite dismayed to find a sign on the gate stating that parents would not be allowed to walk their children to the classroom but had to leave them at the gate. This seemed really odd to me--I was expected to leave my child in the hands of a teacher that I had never met to go into an environment that I had never seen? Luckily an administrator came by when the bell rang and said the parents could go in since it was the first day. Then it became clear why only few other parents were grumbling about the sign in the first place. Apparently there had been a meet and greet with the teacher on Tuesday. This wasn't in the school newsletter that had arrived in the mail the previous Friday or in the stack of papers they had given us at enrollment in January. So yes, there must be some secret parent society to which I have yet to receive an invitation.
The teachers (H is in a work-share class where two teachers share the job) said a few words and then it was time to leave. I said good-bye to H but he was unfazed. He's been in preschool since 2 years 3 months so his attitude was that this wasn't the first day of school for him. I left without thinking much of it since I had to feed R lunch, then go to the library and supermarket and make it back by 3:00 PM. My attempt to pick H up on time was foiled, however, when R refused to leave the house after we dropped off the groceries. Why doesn't anyone tell you that the second one may be affected by the first one going to big kids school? I finally convinced him we had to go. We were the last to pick H up and I had forgotten again to bring the bag of "voluntary" supplies that every parent had been asked to bring on the first day.
That night I asked H if he had liked my note in his lunch box. He said, "I didn't know it was a note so I threw it away." Sometimes I try to do the things that a good stay-at-home mom does, like putting loving notes in lunch boxes. Most of the time these efforts go completely unnoticed. I told him that made me a little sad because it had said "I love you. I'm so proud of you." First he said he would read the note if I put it in his lunch box tomorrow. But this morning he said, "don't give me a note. The other kids don't have notes so I don't want a note." Ah, the power of peer pressure (well not actually pressure since they didn't tell him to throw the note away) and the need to conform to be like everyone else. I knew it would start on the first day but I had hoped that it would have been in the form of them shaming him NOT to come to our bed in the middle of the night EVERY night.
Today I had to let him go on his own at the gate and was surprised when I started to tear up. That kid walked away with his over-sized backpack and bag of supplies and didn't even look back once. I'm happy for him that he's made such an easy adjustment to this new stage of his life, but a part of me wished that he had needed a last hug or at least glanced backward. Of course, I told myself to keep it together since I didn't want to freak R out. Plus, none of the other mommies were crying. The need to conform doesn't leave you once you've outgrown the schoolyard.
I'm hoping that the secret parent society will issue me an invite soon. There must be something I'm missing because the newsletter stated that changes in class assignments would not be considered until enrollment had become firm after the first few weeks. This suggests to me that kids do get switched around. But how do the parents know to which class to switch their child and how do they know the differentiating characteristics of each teacher? And how do they know that they have to use certain phrases like, "my child needs more math enrichment" which really means "my child needs to be in Ms. Kim's class"? Next week is the PTO Back To School BBQ--where I will track down the secret society president. The joys of public school.