I’m pretty predictably having an up and down day. It was the first day of kindergarten for Ava. It was the first day of 3rd grade for Gracie. We have one child at the very beginning of school, and one that’s half way through elementary (our elementary only goes through 5th grade).
First, I’d like to say that I did 100 percent better today than I did 3 years ago. 3 years ago, I misread the bus stop info, so we were waiting in front of our house, and the bus never came. So we hustled up to the school at the last minute, and kissed our darling girl goodbye. Then I cried on my way to work. We didn’t know that we were allowed to walk our girl to class, and so we missed getting to do that.
That afternoon, I still didn’t know why we had missed the bus in the morning, so in the afternoon I also waited in the driveway, and if I had filled out the transportation info correctly, our kindergartener would not have been allowed to get off the bus at our actual stop (which was at the end of our street).
So after her bus didn’t come, I called the office over and over and over until I got a person on the phone. In my infinite wisdom I had written bus/parent on the afternoon transportation info (I thought that they needed to know that a parent would be at the bus stop to pick up Gracie…it was my attempt to make sure they didn’t just let her off wherever.) The office had been confused by my shorthand (I don’t know why ::wink::).
Anyway, when I finally got the secretary on the phone, I was perturbed. I said that my daughter hadn’t gotten home on the bus, and she said “Mrs. Estlund, we’ve been trying to reach you. Grace is looking worried here in the office, waiting to be picked up.”
My face was probably beet red when I got to the office. I had thrown Ava in her car seat and zoomed up to the school and just about ran into the office. I was so mad. I was mad at the school and mad at myself…and I was embarrassed. I thought that I’d made a bad impression with the school and that I had somehow made the shit list on the first day. Plus I sort of hated them for being the place that was going to be where my baby spent most of her waking hours.
Day 2 was much smoother I think, but by day 3 or 4 I was freaking out again. I was not used to the experience of my child being gone for eight hours a day and having so very little to say about it. I wanted to KNOW that she was being treated well at school. I was so worried. I could barely sleep at night. On one of the later days in the week Gracie forgot her bus tag at home. I drove it up to the school and took it in to the office with the hope that I would be able to walk it down to the classroom and be able to peak in the door to overhear the tone in her classroom. I just needed to see how it was going for myself.
They wouldn’t let me go down and see her. I was allowed to pull her out of class to see her for a second, but no parents were allowed to be in the classroom for the first week of school. In an unbearably raw and agonizingly embarrassing burst of emotions I burst into tears in front of the principal, telling her that she didn’t understand that I didn’t know any of them and needed to know how my baby was being treated.
She gave me a sympathetic look (which at the time I thought was a condescending look, but now that I actually know her and know how warm she is…I’m sure it was actually just sympathy), and told me that she really did understand.
I wish I could say that it stopped there. It didn’t. I actually called the district to complain that I didn’t feel welcome in the school. The superintendent of elementary education called me and told me that I could of course walk down to my child’s classroom…but not in the first couple of weeks. He actually was QUITE condescending and told me that it wasn’t my job to worry about how my child was being treated in school.
It was not a fun experience. I felt pretty deflated about it. I didn’t handle the whole thing well…but I do think that with a tiny bit of hand holding, the whole situation could have been avoided.
This year, we actually got the opportunity to attend kindergarten roundup (it was canceled the year that Gracie was a kindergartener). So we got to go up to the school and eat breakfast and learn all about the procedures for being a student and a parent. Although, I didn’t need that portion since I’d already figured it out after 2.5 years as an elementary parent.We got to meet all of the teachers and observe our child in their class for a few minutes.
I was thinking that it was going to be a piece of cake…and it was in all of the ways that it wasn’t the first time around. We got to go to meet the teacher night last week, and Ava had been placed with Gracie’s kindergarten teacher. One thing I forgot to mention was that after my attempt to come up to the school her teacher called me that evening, and several times over the next few weeks. It felt good to hear from her, and to get to know her a bit.
The girls are now car riders, so there were no bus stops to navigate this year. This year we know the entire staff. We have tons of friends up at school. I gave both of my girls a huge hug and told them how proud we are of them, but I still had big tears in my eyes as I walked Ava in and she just sat straight down at her desk and didn’t look back. This year I got a hug from the teacher. I really do love that woman.
Then Tommy and I walked down to the kindergarten parents’ boohoo breakfast that was hosted by the PTA.
So if you’re a spazz like me, just know that you’re not alone. The school staff is very forgiving, and it does get better. It gets WAY better.