Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The first day of kindergarten
It's time. It's happening. It's the big event. The day the giant pile of money I've been giving my town's school district finally goes to good use. Natalie starts Kindergarten Monday.
This evening my wife and I went to "curriculum night." This is the Lamaze class of kindergarten. The session where the nice lady stands up in front of all the proud new parents, and teaches them to breathe in and out, breathe in and out. It will all be ok. You can do this. We may need to use the foreceps on you, but it won't hurt that bad. And if worse comes to worse, we may need to surgically remove your child from your womb, but it's time for you to set her free. For she is now a kindergartener.
My wife and I, joined by our neighbors who also have a daughter Natalie's age, piled into the car and headed to the elementary school to join other first timers while various grandmas watched various kids. As we wandered the halls of Peebles Elementary, we were taken back to our own early years...reminders of our kindergarten accomplishments, cubby holes, yellow buses, and pencil boxes. Personally the only thing I really remember about my own kindergarten experience is getting hit in the eye with a rogue snowball, being sent home with an earache to the house of a mom I didn't know, and thrusting Matchbox cars through tunnels made of cardboard bricks. Okay, so the kindergarten experience didn't really stick with me so much. But the experience is obviously for the parents. As we sat in the back row of folding chairs in the gymnasium and listened to the principal speak, I scanned the room for the other dads like myself. In the crowd I saw future "guys night out" club members, T-ball coaches, and power tool lenders. Up on the screen, I saw Powerpoints describing learning methods, rating systems, and guidance counseling recommendations. I sat and wondered if my parents had to sit for two hours in uncomfortable chairs like ourselves and learn about all this, or if they sent me on their merry way in a happy bliss over the fact that they finally got me out of the house for a few hours a day.
We learned that, in kindergarten, our children would learn algebra. They'd learn sign language. They'd have opportunities that I not only didn't have when I was a student, but I don't even have as an adult.
When the kindergarten teacher talked about her goals for the children, and how she wanted to ensure a safe, warm nurturing environment, and about how she would wipe their tears when they got off the bus missing mommy, the wives wept. Most of the dads looked at each other with emotionless shrugs, secretly trying to keep it all in. But one thing was for sure. In those emotionless shrugs, one little bit of feeling leaked out.