It was a hectic, emotional day. First day of school for my 3rd grader and her baby sister, a PreK 3 year old. We are at a new house, a new school, they need to make new friends, get used to a new routine, and frankly the enormity of what I am asking them to do and do cheerfully hit me today.
My PreK kid went straight into her classroom, ready to play and ready to greet the day. Her older sister was explaining things to her in a calm soothing voice like you might use with a skittish animal, but the baby seemed content and happy to play with the toy shopping cart and baby dolls in the "dramatic play center". Finally it was time to take my 3rd grader to her classroom so we hugged baby sister good bye and let ourselves out. She never even looked back at us.
Walking in silence towards the 3rd grade class room I looked at my 8 year old, remembering the tears and frantic grabbing after me when she was the little one being left at daycare for the first time. Now she has a sassy little bob of hair and her feet are nearly as big as mine. I could tell by the guarded look on her face she was nervous so I started chatting about the girls she had met at "Meet the Teacher" day, subtly reminding her of their names. We realized that the 3rd graders were supposed to meet in the cafeteria, so we headed down the hallway with me still blithely blabbering and she, my little chatterbox, giving me one word answers.
I left her in the cafeteria with her class and seated between the two girls she knew and hoped for the best. She looked at me a little tremulously as I waved good-bye. In her eyes I could see the little toddler who begged me not to leave her 6 years ago. It hurt.
I went home and cleaned furiously, unpacked, broke down boxes with insane energy. I washed dishes, I organized shelves, I swept the floor, I vacuumed the rug, I wiped down counters and put away toys. I had set the timer for 2 1/2 hours to make sure I was on time to get the baby and I was out the door like a shot when it rang out. I grabbed my camera on impulse as I dashed out so i could maybe get a few cute shots of baby at closing circle time or hugging a new friend goodbye. I parked my car in the driveway a few minutes later and started toward the classroom. I was just climbing the steps to her portable I heard the sound that makes your hair stand up, a wailing bloodcurdling YELL from my preschooler. I peeked in the window and while the teacher was valiantly trying to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider with the other kids, over the deafening roar. My baby was in the back with the assistant SCREAMING HER HEAD OFF and what she was screaming was plaintive, powerful and persistent, "I WANT MY MOMMY!" The assistant caught my eye in the window and motioned me in frantically. I walked in and baby launched herself into my arms sobbing and hiccuping and she said to me, "I never want to go to school AGAIN!" The assistant told me she had been fine till some boys started crying for their Moms and it seemed to spread from there. I noticed two small boys were also sniffling and teary but neither of them had the insane window rattling fury of my bellicose beauty. I grabbed her bag and scooped her up and mouthed, "I'm sorry!" at the lead teacher as we hustled out the door.
Later, over some mac and cheese we discussed the day, she said, "School is terrible Mama!" When pressed she admitted she had fun at playground and centers and playing with other kids, but she suggested next time I just come with her. She also shook her head sadly and said, "I never even got to see Sister."
Yup. I forgot to tell her that 3rd grade and PreK aren't in the same class, heck they are not even in the same building. She was devastated. This made my misapprehension for my 8 year old even bigger. I set the timer again to leave and to go to my older child at a moment's notice. I kept my cell phone on my hip in case of a frantic phone call from her teacher or principal or possibly the police. My sunny gregarious toddler had crashed and burned in class, surely my sensitive artist/poet/singer/dancer would come home permanently curled in the fetal position and suffering dehydration from the copious crying.
The baby and I entered the cafeteria 3 hours later with great trepidation, me looking for a sad eyed brunette and she looking for roving preschool teachers who might come and separate us. When I finally saw my little tween she beckoned me over with an assertive "come here" gesture so I hustled to her, prepared to whisk her to the car before the inevitable tears could start. Before I could say a word she told me brusquely, "Come on! I have a lot of homework to do and SO DO YOU!" As we trotted off she was waving at new friends and yelling goodbye to her teacher and telling me in rapid fire detail about her day before announcing as she buckled herself into the car, "Today was the best day EVER!"
For dinner we had bacon, star fruit off our tree and scrambled eggs. They match my brain at this point.