We were ready for my daughter’s first day of kindergarten. We had new clothes and shoes, a new backpack, lunchbox, and I’d read and re-read the orientation paperwork from the school. My husband cleared his work calendar so he could be there to see her off, and we planned to take our younger son out to breakfast afterward to compensate for the extra attention his big sister had been getting.
We all woke up without an alarm and were excited and ready to kick off kindergarten. My daughter followed her new teacher into the classroom confidently, and I breathed a sigh of relief that we had actually done it – we’d successfully sent our first child to school!
Then I realized we’d have to do this all over again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that – 179 more days to be exact.
Suddenly, I was exhausted. All summer I was anxious for our new routine to start and tried to prepare myself for an earlier departure each morning, but the focus had always been about that first day. Beyond that, we spoke in broad strokes about the new friends she’d make, the fact that she’d be learning to read, and that she and her brother would now be in different schools. I had blocked the daily logistics – the evening prep and harried early mornings – out of my mind, and no one else seemed to bring them up either.
The second morning was a fail from the start. I woke up feeling drained, and my daughter slept later, which caused everything else to be rushed. Usually, the first words out of her mouth are, “I’m hungry,” but today she didn’t want to eat. I said things like, “You have to eat your breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day!” There was spilled orange juice, a refusal to brush her hair, and a general resistance to getting out the door. She didn’t feel like going through this new routine again, and I didn’t blame her. Neither did I.
Part of the reason I chose not to return to work after I had my daughter is that I wanted a slower pace of life, and it’s been exactly as good as I’d hoped it would be. For the last five years, we’ve run on our own schedule. Sure, we’ve been doing preschool dropoffs for much of the time, but that’s the minor leagues compared to hearing a bell ring as you’re rushing your child into school (that’s what happened on the second day). Plus, my kids only went to preschool three days a week, so we had a day off in between to regroup and, basically, do whatever we wanted. Now, we are slaves to the school bell and academic calendar. So long, family vacations in September!
I don’t expect veteran families of the morning hustle to have any sympathy for me, but we all still have to help our kindergartners adjust to a new school, new people, and a new routine. If my daughter’s excitement level on the first day of school was a ten, then it was down to a five on the second day. She was much more nervous when I dropped her off and asked, “How many more days do I have to go to school until I can get a break?” Oh, child, this is just beginning.
Happily, the third day went more smoothly. We arrive at school ten minutes early, and my daughter seemed really comfortable lining up with her teacher to wait for the bell. Our new normal doesn’t feel normal quite yet, but day by day, we’ll get there. After all, this is just the beginning.