Suddenly I have a school-age child. The past four years flew by and now we’ve reached this milestone: Owen has started preschool.
This momentous occasion was like Christmas day. Owen has been waiting to go to school for months, impatiently counting the days. Throughout the summer whenever he’d meet someone, he’d somehow find a way to mention that he was going to school soon and was going to “make LOTS of friends!” As his fourth birthday approached, he constantly asked me “After I turn four, can I go to school!?”
I was excited too. Maybe not quite as much as Owen (I don’t think it’s possible for me to reach his levels of enthusiasm). But, believe me, I’ve very much so been looking forward to the prospect of sending him off to school for a six hour stretch of peace and quiet and some one-on-one time with Carmendy.
But I’m more than a little sad too. It’s the end of an era…the start of the “school years,” with our lives being dictated by an academic calendar for the next 20+ years (wow, that sentence really depressed me). And it feels like it happened out of nowhere, even though I’ve known this day was coming. Was I ready? Hell no. Somehow time slipped through my fingers and I never had a chance to prepare. I’d had visions of prepping Owen for school – learning the alphabet, doing practice worksheets and mini lessons. Instead we played on the beach and ate ice cream and gave little thought to preschool preparations. And then I woke up and it was the start of Labor Day weekend and we were those parents who were like “Oh sh*t, we better get school supplies” and had to navigate the wrecked and insanely busy aisles of Walmart.
And, despite my eagerness for some time without Owen (you guys, he really wears me out!) and Owen’s eagerness to go to school and make friends, I started to feel apprehensive. (After all, worrying is what I do best.)
Owen has never been to any type of school or daycare before. For the past 4 years, he has been at home with me or Nana or at in-home childcare with a few other small children while I work part-time. He’s never had the daily routine of going to school. So this change is HUGE — transitioning from no school to full-day preschool, Monday through Friday. And Owen’s school isn’t small, with over 400 students up to 5th grade. Even though I know Owen is brave, positive and resilient by nature, I worried that he would be overwhelmed. I also worried that he would say “butthole” and “poophead” and other inappropriate phrases at his “real” school which I hurriedly tried to teach him to only say in the privacy of home the week before school began. I worried that he wouldn’t like the structure of school, that it wouldn’t meet his high expectations of fun.
Beyond my worries about his capabilities and behavior, I also worried about saying goodbye to the first phase of parenthood with Owen. For four years, whenever I have been at home, Owen has been there too. He’s been my best friend by default (which is either really pathetic or really awesome) since I talk to him more than any other human being. Now he’ll have a bunch of friends who are his peers. Now our house will be lonelier. Now he will be with his teacher nearly as much as he is with me. And the next time I blink, he’ll be a sullen teenager who wants nothing to do with me.
Thinking all of these thoughts, I knew the first day of preschool would be hardest for me. I knew I would cry.
And I did cry. But not for these reasons that I expected. I ended up crying because Owen was SO happy on his first day. He was giddy, literally radiating joy, as we drove him and walked the couple blocks to his school. He excitedly said to everyone he passed “Good morning!! I’m going to SCHOOL!!” Of course I dressed him in suspenders and shorts, so the combination of his adorableness with his elation was just too much for my heart to handle. I thought it would burst with love and pride and the tears started to fall. I cried because I was SO happy for Owen and because I am so lucky to be his mommy and witness these moments and milestones.
As we waited outside the school on that first morning of his first day, Owen said to me “Can I tell you a secret?” Then he whispered in my ear “I’m a little bit worried that I won’t have time to learn about dinosaurs while I’m at school.” I reassured him that, even if he doesn’t learn about dinosaurs in his classroom, he’ll have plenty of time to learn about dinosaurs at home. And then I knew he would be okay, and that we’d still have plenty of time together at home. Because at the end of the day, Owen will come home and we’ll play dinosaurs and he’ll still be my best friend.
Sure enough, when the end of the day (finally) arrived and I picked him up, Owen exclaimed “I had a good day, Mommy!! I had lots of fun.” Then we went home and played with dinosaurs and ate chocolate pudding. His voice once again filled our home (since he’s the loudest 4-year-old I know) and he chattered about his first day. He had only one complaint about school — there were no dinosaur toys. But all in all, an excellent start to his school years.
Obviously, I took photos to chronicle this milestone. Isn’t Owen the cutest new preschooler ever?