I wrote a post last week after Harlow’s kindergarten orientation, on the eve of her first day of school. The resounding question from everyone who read the post was: Well, how did it go?
The answer is, ummm…okay?
On the first real day, which was actually a half day, Harlow was excited to get dressed, excited to take the bus, excited to enter the classroom, excited to play with the play dough on the activity tables, but then got upset when it was time for me to leave. She held onto my hand, which turned into clasping my entire arm, which then turned into a tight hug around both my legs, her little face pressed into my body, like if nobody could see her face than maybe she wouldn’t actually be there.
I turned her body around, facing the circle of kids that was growing on the floor. I put my hand under chin as she faced away from me and felt big wet tears drop on the palm of my hand. She wasn’t screaming or saying anything, just silently letting her big brown eyes well up with water. It was heartbreaking but also showed some self-control. I think she was trying to be brave.
Her teacher invited Harlow to sit on her lap for circle time and Harlow went, seemingly knowing that if she didn’t seize the opportunity someone else might. Harlow wasn’t the only kid crying and clinging to her parents in the room. She went to her teacher, without looking back and I left the classroom.
It was sad but handled quickly, so pretty painless as far as drop-offs go.
Since it was a half day, I picked her up from school at noon, right before lunch. For pick-up, the parents line up outside the classroom and wait as each child’s name is called, on a first come, first serve basis. I was somewhere in the middle of the line and I watched as each happy kid came bounding out of the room, back pack on and the day’s projects in hand.
Except for Harlow. The teacher called her name and she stomped out with an oversized frown on her face, clearly for my benefit.
“What’s wrong, Harlow?”
“They didn’t let me take my picture!” Harlow told me once the teacher was out of earshot.
I walked back up to the teacher and asked if Harlow could take home her picture. She told me it was still wet and hanging up to dry. Sounded reasonable. Then she handed Harlow a worksheet that they had done as well, which seemed to satisfy her. “We asked the children to draw a picture of something they are good at. Harlow said she was good at baking and drew a picture of a cupcake and a cake.” There were also rainbow sprinkles dotting the entire page, so this made me feel like Harlow had an okay day.
“Harlow, did you have a good day?” I asked as we left the building.
“Because we didn’t stay for lunch!!!!”
“Oh. Well, this week you have all half days and then next week, you will stay for a full day.”
“THAT’S NOT FAIR!”
“So, you liked school enough that you want to stay for the full day?”
Well, okay then. Perhaps we were in a better place than I thought.
That night, I flew to Montreal for work and Mike handled drop-off for the next two days. He reported no problems on the second day but a few tears on the third day. “She wasn’t screaming and crying. She just clung to me a bit and had a few tears when I left.”
That night, I talked to her over Facetime to see how it was going.
“Did you like school today?”
“I went to sit down next to someone and she said the seat was taken.”
“Did you sit down next to someone else?”
“Was she nice?”
“So you made a new friend?”
“What’s her name?”
“I DON’T KNOW.”
“Okay, well, maybe you can find out next week.”
This morning, was the first full day of school. I’m back from my trip so I was in charge of drop-off. Harlow and Mazzy got up early, got dressed, and had no problem heading out the door. We were even early enough to get muffins at the bus stop and both Mazzy and Harlow were happy and cuddly on the bus. On the walk from the bus stop to school, Harlow had an extra kick in her step and made a point of telling me, “Mom, I am excited for the first full day.”
“That’s great, Harlow!”
We were so early that we arrived at Mazzy’s class (which starts first) before the teacher. The door wasn’t even unlocked yet. The girls played in the hallway while we waited. A couple of older girls that know Harlow from the summer ran up to give her a hug and say hello. Then Mazzy’s teacher arrived and we said goodbye. In third grade, the parents no longer enter the classroom. It’s just a straight drop-off. Then Harlow and I went to her classroom, where we were first to arrive as well.
“Mom, do you get to stay in the classroom with me for a little?”
“Of course!” For kindergarten, the class opens at 8:30am and parents can stay until 8:45. Harlow and I played with play dough, drew pictures and chatted with the other kids and parents at our activity tables. Harlow was in excellent spirits. She drew me a rainbow and asked me how to spell rainbow so that she could write it on the bottom. Then she wrote, “Mom” because “I made it for you” and signed her name. She was laughing and singing to herself and just being Harlow, which made me feel really good about how the day was heading.
I chit chatted a bit with the teacher to see how Harlow did last week. She told me she did great and that a lot of older kids came by the classroom to ask if she was in the class. “She’s a very popular kid already.” One of Harlow’s best friends is Mazzy’s friend’s older sister, who also goes to the school. They have a house near ours and Harlow spent a lot of time over there this summer. One of the things that makes me feel better about sending Harlow to kindergarten is knowing how many big kids will be looking out for her and saying hi in the hallways. Especially Mazzy, of course. As a kid, I always wanted to be that support for my little sister but there was too big of an age difference and we were never in the same school at the same time. I’m really excited for Mazzy and Harlow’s paths to cross in school. Mazzy has already told me that she can see into Harlow’s classroom when they go to music class.
The teacher announced that there was three minutes until the parents had to leave.
“Three whole minutes?!” To Harlow, that sounded like a lot.
She smiled happily as she finished up her drawing and told me to take it, but not put it in my bag because she didn’t want it to get crumpled. Then the music started playing which is the parents signal to leave. The kids started gathering at the front of the classroom, where each kid’s name was written on masking tape to designate their spot on the floor.
“Let’s go find your spot, Harlow.”
That’s when Harlow started to cling to me again.
“Harlow, it’s going to be a great day! You were so excited on the way here! You’re having lunch here today!”
I gave her a hug and tried to leave the classroom, but she followed me. I went back in the classroom, but she stayed out in the hall. “Come on, Harlow. Come back in. You’re going to have a good day!”
Harlow stayed in the hall, her back firmly planted against the opposite wall. She wasn’t crying. There weren’t even any silent waterworks happening. No tears at all. Just defiance. The assistant teacher came out to help me cajole her back in, but Harlow clung to my arm and then my leg and then my back as I tried unsuccessfully to detach myself.
Right then, the head of the lower school happened to be passing by, and gently but firmly, prodded Harlow back to the classroom. Harlow walked away from me holding both teacher’s hands, without looking back.
Drop-off is not seamless obviously, but I see definite progress. I couldn’t say this on the first day, but now I am starting to believe that Harlow is ready for kindergarten. Her actions tell me that she is going through her own process of accepting and understanding that too.
I guess you could say our confidence is rising together.