Writing about my first day of school seemed like a natural way to launch our Marquette Educator blog. Just over a year ago, I anguished while trying to come up with a special idea for my initial post. And then it hit me –kick off the blog by talking about the start of my own school experiences.
After all, the blog would focus on the field of education, and I’d be the one anchoring it. That seemed appropriate enough. Besides, I had a pretty funny story that I could tell about escaping from kindergarten on day one of my school career.
My Houdini act involved sneaking unnoticed to a window that I unlatched and crawled through to freedom — before running all the way home. It left my mother mortified, and my kindergarten teacher traumatized. More than 100 posts later, my kindergarten post remains a favorite of mine.
A New First Day
So what’s my new very special first day of school? This time I’m the parent.
Tuesday, August 24th, marked the first day my daughter would officially attend school. Her educational journey began with my wife and me dropping her off at a local Catholic school where she is enrolled in the K-4 program. For two years beforehand, she had been attending a Christian daycare.
Audrey’s stint in daycare made her first day of school very different from mine. WAY back then, pretty much all kids spent the first five years of their lives at home with their mothers. None of our moms worked, so the initial drop-off at kindergarten represented our first real separation from them.
Despite being thrilled about starting school, I soon became as terrified as the other kids who were blubbering in my kindergarten classroom. My eagerness quickly gave way to uncontrolled sobbing. Little Billy Henk became a wailer.
By contrast, Audrey started her formal school days with the confidence of a seasoned veteran, a full year younger than when I began. Sure, she seemed a little nervous about meeting new friends when we talked the night before, but that fear hardly mattered.
The next day she marched up to the school and stood in line waiting to enter the building like a little trooper, soon forgetting that her mother and father were only a few feet away.
Her indifference to us made us feel better and worse at the same time.
Any separation anxiety she might have felt occurred quite a while ago when she started daycare. Even then it was minor, probably because the exclusive time she spent with her mommy hadn’t been nearly as long as back in my day. Consequently, our kid has already been fully socialized to a school-like environment.
As a society we’ve lamented that mothers and fathers typically can’t afford to stay home with their kids very long. I still feel that way about brief maternity and paternity leaves. But when I saw how easily our child adapted to her new world, I couldn’t help thinking that daycare prepared her for this moment.
When we picked her up afterwards and asked her about the day, she said, “I LOVE school!” Yessir, her first day of school ranked as very different from mine. She truly enjoyed herself. Audrey got a balloon. I got a very stern lecture.
Even so, I have to admit that when my mother returned me to my kindergarten classroom that morning, I was plotting my next disappearance. Little did I know that I’d be under constant surveillance from that point on.
Anyway, one thing remained the same on the days that my daughter and I respectively started school. After the drop-off in the morning, I cried.
In reality, I would have been much worse off emotionally if daycare hadn’t softened the blow. Still, how will I ever handle it when she goes to College (even if it’s Marquette class of 2027) or when she gets married? That first time I held Audrey in my arms as newborn, her school days seemed like an eternity away. And now they’re underway.
I’ll finish by telling you that before leaving her classroom the day before K-4 began — when we dropped off her school supplies – I cased the joint for possible escape routes. We shares genes you know.
As great luck would have it, I came across the poem below while searching for a basic image to accompany this post. It captures my feelings far better than I could have myself. And by the way, all of the family photos above were taken by my much better composed wife.
First Day of School poem
by Georgy Joseph
She started school this morning,
And she seemed so very small.
As I walked there beside her
In the Kindergarten hall.
And as she took her place beside
the others in the class,
I realized how all too soon
Those first few years can pass.
Remembering, I saw her as
She first learned how to walk.
The words that we alone made out
When she began to talk.
This little girl so much absorbed
In learning how to write.
It seems as though she must have grown
To girlhood overnight.
My eyes were blurred, so hastily
I brushed the tears away
Lest by some word or sign of mine
I mar her first big day.
Oh how I longed to stay with her
And keep her by the hand
To lead her through the places
That she couldn’t understand.
And something closely kin to fear
Was mingled with my pride.
I knew she would no longer be
A baby by my side.
But she must have her chance to live,
To work her problems out,
The privilege to grow and learn
What life is all about.
And I must share my little girl
With friends and work and play;
She’s not a baby anymore –
She’s in Kindergarten today.