Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Lucia's First Day of Kindergarten

Huge milestone last week: Lucia's first day of kindergarten. It seems like we've been preparing for this for over a year, and in many ways we have--with Lucia nearly six years old, her pre-K program last year focused intensely (well, intensely but playfully) on kindergarten prep. Writing, counting, reading readiness, kindergarten routines. She was so well-prepared that by the time the big day arrived last Thursday, she felt fully ready. When I tried to give her some last-minute instructions, she said, "Mommy, I already know that from the pre-K 5's."

She was excited, and, as she admitted, "a little bit scared," mostly about the bus. And it's really a big deal, the bus--she gets on, gets to school, gets back on the bus, and has to get off the bus on her own. There's no one announcing the stops, or calling names, or making sure all the kids who are supposed to get off the bus do, indeed, get off. The day before her first day, we took a walk to the bus stop and I showed her what to look for out the bus window so she'd recognize her stop. In the morning, we made sure she met the other kids at the stop, especially the older ones (first- and second-graders) who knew the ropes. And then--we had to let her get on the bus, on her own, where she sat with a first-grade neighbor girl and waved to us through the window. No hesitation, no tears.

Except Andrew's. I was fine--excited for her--but as soon as the bus pulled away, Andrew began openly crying. Of course she doesn't know that, and it wouldn't mean anything to her anyway if she did; but one day she'll know how lucky she is to have a daddy who cries when he says goodbye.

Once the bus set off, we got in the car and drove to the school. We'd received copious instructions about meeting our kids behind the school, on the blacktop where they line up each day, and then accompanying them to their classroom. Andrew dropped me off and went to find a parking space, but when I got to the blacktop, to Lucia's line, there was no Lucia. She wasn't in any of the lines, not even when her line walked into the school. She wasn't in front of the school, or in the school, and everyone kept telling me to just go find her line. As I moved through the insane crowd outside, I felt a tug on my dress--and there was Lucia, calm and amused, wandering loose through the enormous crowd of kids and parents, identifying me by my dress. Ack.

We took her to her classroom and hung out there just for a bit, and then said goodbye. Again, no tears from Lucia, and more tears from Andrew in the school hallway. Poor Andrew! I can't imagine how he would have fared if Lucia was newly five instead of nearly six.

The big wild card, of course, was the bus ride home, and we were so relieved when Lucia got off the bus, smiling and happy. She had a great first day and was so excited about the whole thing. So excited to be in kindergarten. She told anyone we met that day--"Today I started kindergarten." It is such a big deal, so important.

She had a good second day, too, except for the bus ride home. She came off the bus crying, scared because she thought she'd missed her stop. But she's been fine ever since, and the past couple of days she's climbed off the bus all smiles, so proud of herself, and chattier than I've ever seen her about her new friends, and the things they did at school that day. So far, so good!

She already seems more grown up.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The End of the Summer

Tomorrow is our last day of summer vacation. On Thursday, Lucia has her first day of kindergarten. Next week, Greta begins the three's class at preschool. Although we have Labor Day and many school holidays coming up, it still seems like tomorrow is significant: the last truly free day we'll have for a while.

I've been acutely aware this week that the summer is ending, and acutely aware of how much things will change once Lucia is in school. Don't get me wrong: I'm not mourning the end of these three months of unstructured time, and once Greta starts preschool next week, I'm going to relish the quiet, productive solitude. Still, I am very protective of the girls' playtime--guarding it even when it drives me crazy to be with them all day, every day, hands-on, responsive, mediator/cook/activities director. Their play has ascended to new levels this summer, and they are completely in tune to each other and the robust imaginary world they return to again and again. They are interested in anything and everything, ready to engage at a moment's notice with something new, or something familiar they pull down from the shelf. They are never bored. They move from one activity to the next effortlessly. They collect acorns, run to the swings, have their ponies swim in the wading pool, ride around the driveway on their scooters, arrange fairy furniture around the trees.

Today, after quiet time (which they spent building with Magna Tiles, playing with ponies, and coloring mandalas), they came downstairs and somehow stumbled upon the Quirkle game I picked up at a yard sale earlier this summer. They dumped out the tiles and immediately began sorting and arranging them by shape and color--they'd been en route to get a treat but forgot all about it as they worked.

Later this afternoon, we went to the pool, and though I'd planned to get home to cook dinner, I couldn't bear to make them leave--by 6pm, the pool was nearly empty, and they were immersed in a game involving their diving rings, "pool Barbies," and various buckets they'd found.

And they're always together. That's the thing. They're free, and they're together. I think Lucia will be swept away by kindergarten, thrilled by the world of school; I think she'll happily and easily return to her creative play whenever she's home, but she'll be too busy to actively miss it when she's gone. But Greta--of all of us, I think Lucia's launch into kindergarten will be hardest on her. She holds her own in their playing--she has an imagination beyond description--but she definitely relies on Lucia to direct their days. She's going to be at a loss, for a little while, until our new routines settle in.