I cried a little today
We went to kindergarten open house today. The whole way there both kids sang “kin-der-garten OPen house, kin-der-garten BLAH blah blah . . .” When we entered the multi-purpose room with its kid sized chairs we took a seat. The teachers were introduced, and then the teachers took the incoming kindergarteners off to go meet each other and play in the kindergarten classrooms. The G-man was on top of things so he talked to LP about the fact that LP was going to go off without us for a while to see the classrooms. So as the teacher came by our table LP dutifully took her hand and walked right off without a hitch. I don’t think he even looked back.
I teared up a bit.
It wasn’t even real kindergarten, and we knew we were going to see him again in an hour (after a wicked boring “introduction to our school” powerpoint that I knew all too well from my other life as a teacher). I didn’t have the same reaction when he went to preschool. The tears really came out of nowhere . . . or so it seemed. While we were waiting for the kids to finish up their classroom tour I was speaking to another parent. She said “isn’t it great to see them getting so independent?” She is right. It totally is. Watching LP figure stuff out for himself, be in charge of things, come up with creative projects (even the ones that wreak the kitchen) is truly amazing. I love watching him grow up, and while I feel sad about missing chunks of it while I’m at work, I’m mostly at peace with how things are in our lives.
The more I ponder the emotional force behind those sudden tears, the more I think my sadness, and anxiety around LP starting school is strongly rooted in my own experience in education. Sometimes being a teacher feels like I’m working in the kitchen of Olive Garden – once you see behind the scenes you never want to eat there again. I know all the flaws in schools. I know that when the principal said that the school was “Common Core Aligned” she was speaking about standards that are often horribly inappropriate for young students like my son. When she said the teachers were going to be SEI trained I knew exactly which training she was referring to because I went to it . . . and it was mostly a joke. And I’m sending my son to this place that I know is flawed in so, so many ways, and will probably introduce him to meanness and bullying, “standards” and rules that seem are arbitrary, moments of extreme frustration and moments of despair.
But I also know the other side of things. I know that he will have teachers that see what is unique about him and will draw that unique out and make him proud of it. I know he will learn to express himself through reading, writing, and speaking in ways that will amaze me. I know that he will be loved, but he will also be pushed to excel beyond what he thought was possible for himself. He will get moments in which to be creative, to learn about worlds broader than his own, to make friends with people he may not have met otherwise. Schools can be horribly frustrating and painful places, but they are also places joy, love and creativity, and this happens all at the same time.
Perhaps that is why I cry a bit even as I write this. My baby, my son, my little guy, is going into a world where he will struggle and grow, feel both sorrow and pride, be limited and learn. And he will do most of this without my input or guidance, and he probably won’t tell me a damn thing he did all day when he gets home. He is about to truly start his life that is his, not ours. And he is ready. I’m pretty sure he will thrive in and love school. And I will fiercely defend him and his learning needs when needed. But it will be his world to navigate, learn from and figure out.
I’m proud, but I also am crying a little.