This morning, I dropped my kids off at school. I said good-bye to the back of S’s head as she wove through the crowded hallway towards her classroom. Then, I walked G down to his classroom. We went through the routine of swapping boots for sneakers, hanging up his coat, putting his lunchbox in his cubby. We say good-bye, and I walk back towards the main hallway. My brain is filled with the familiar thoughts. I hope he has a good day. I hope his day proceeds smoothly, without any bumps in the road that might send him into a tantrum or meltdown. I hope he participates. I hope he feels included. I hope he greets me at the end of the day with a smile on his face, saying, “I had another great day in kindergarten!”
I wish I didn’t worry so much. G loves kindergarten. In my eyes, his teacher is nothing less than an angel placed on Earth to create an environment where, year after year, a new crop of wide-eyed five year olds can flourish into full-fledged, confident elementary school students. I also know that no matter how hard I try to think of everything, and no matter how warm and loving the teacher is, there will always be bumps in the road. There will always be unanticipated turn-of-events: a missing glove, a juice box that won’t open, a math lesson cut short before G gets his turn to participate. As hard as it is to watch G have meltdowns and struggle through these unexpected incidents, I know that these are exactly the struggles that help him grow. With each unexpected event, he learns to cope. He learns he can cope. My glove is missing. My juice box won’t open. I didn’t get a turn today. But I’m okay. I’ll find the glove later. I’ll ask for help opening the juice box. I’ll get a turn tomorrow. I’m okay.
I’m still lost in these thoughts when I reach the hall that leads to the front entrance. I stop for a moment to exchange a few words with the principal, who is standing in the hallway, greeting students and parents as they enter the building.
While I’m talking to the principal, my gaze wanders to the little window to the main office. I catch a glimpse of a bright red shirt. Wasn’t G wearing a shirt that color today? Wait, it is G. What’s he doing in the office? And, almost more important, how did he get in there? I was pretty engaged in the conversation with the principal… but how did G walk right past me without me noticing? If he had been with a teacher, the teacher would have signaled to G. “Look, G! There’s your mom! What’s your mom doing here? That’s so unexpected!” No, G had definitely not passed by with a teacher. Did he walk to the office BY HIMSELF?!?
I lean over to take a closer look. Yes, there’s G, and he’s not there with a teacher… he’s there WITH A FRIEND. He’s with his friend, Gabby. (G loves Gabby. She is vivacious, and silly, and her name starts with G, just like him.) G and Gabby have come to the office on a mission. They are getting a new box of tissues for the classroom.
The secretary hands them each a box of tissues, and they are on their way. They are proud, they’ve accomplished their mission. They are two kindergartners, pleased with their newfound ability to navigate the enormous hallways of this big school, a task which at one time would have seemed daunting and unthinkable. They are looking forward to handing the tissue boxes to the teacher, to receiving her words of thanks and praise. They are chatting with one another as they skip down the hallway, much too caught up in their conversation to even notice that I am there. Even if they did see me, they’d probably be oblivious to the silly grin on my face, and the tears gathering in my eyes.
I worry about G. I worry about him every day when I leave him in his classroom. I hope he will have a good day. I hope his day will proceed smoothly, without any bumps in the road that might send him into a tantrum or meltdown. I hope he will participate. I hope he will feel included.
I silently say good-bye to the back of G’s head as he skips joyfully down the hall with his friend, tissue box grasped confidently in his hand. This image stays with me as I leave the building. Maybe I don’t need to worry so much after all.