Today was BJ's first day of kindergarten, and he was about as excited as I've ever seen him. He's been counting down the days for more than two weeks, and this morning he was bursting with anticipation.
Of course BB was excited too, and wanted to be part of everything.
I'd made up a little "start to school" gift for each of them -- a little belated for BB, but oh well -- including a new backpack for BJ. He Loves It.
We walked to school, and he would have run the whole way if it had been up to him!
He slowed down a wee bit when BB insisted on holding my hand for the walk. Because then, of course, BJ wanted to hold my hand too.
Who knows how much longer he will be content to hold my hand while we're out for a stroll.... I'm trying to appreciate every instance like this, I really am. I'd been anticipating the bittersweet moment of seeing, firsthand, how ready he is for this new chapter in his life, and sure enough he was rarin' to go. Here he is saying goodbye to S before heading into the classroom:
The school was really thoughtful about the gentle way they are starting off the year for these little (but not so little) guys. They'd had a BBQ on Friday night, which allowed many of the kids and families to meet and start making friendships. We ended up sharing a table with a family who has a daughter, J, in BJ's class. As we chatted over hot dogs and hamburgers, the kids discovered that J and BB both like princesses! And fairies! So the two girls took off and played together on the playground, with BJ close behind.
Apparently, the three of them had a great time, because when it was time for us to go on Friday night, J insisted that she had to say goodbye to BB and give her a hug and kiss. Not to be left out, BJ insisted that he had to give J a goodbye hug and kiss. Which he did. At which point, J scrubbed the kiss off her cheek and declared, "Too Many Kisses!"
But BJ didn't seem too troubled by this. On the contrary, he asked several times over the weekend for us to tell him the story about J and Too Many Kisses. And it couldn't have been too traumatic for any of the individuals involved -- when I picked up BJ at the end of his first day (morning) in kindergarten, he informed me that he and J had declared themselves to be best friends.
Now it will be interesting to see tomorrow if this is just BJ's impression of things, or if J shares his enthusiasm. Here are the three of them playing together at the playground this morning before school started (J is in the yellow dress, holding BB's hand). I think J would very much like to make BB an honorary kindergarten student. (And who knows, all the positive school vibes might rub off and make BB's preschool day tomorrow go more smoothly!)
Whether or not J has fully reciprocated with the terminology, it's quite reassuring to see our sometimes-less-than-social guy so excited about friendships. In fact, BJ told me that he and J and another girl, L, are all three of them best friends after today. (L was another girl we met briefly on Friday night at the BBQ.) It's all very sweet.
Another way the school is being smart about easing the kids (and their parents) into The Real World of Real School: today school started at 8:30 a.m. and parents were welcome to be with their students until 9; at 8:40 the parent organization set up a coffee hour in the courtyard to welcome parents old and new; kindergarten only lasted until 10:10 a.m., so most of the kindergarten parents simply hung around at the coffee, sharing small talk and cliches about how fast the kids are growing up until it was time to pick up said kids. S and I hung out on the playground with BB and several other kindergarten families. Very pleasant. And BB loved the "big kid" playground equipment!
Actually, I was impressed that I managed not to get all weepy today. I had a moment while we were walking to school, when we were waiting for the light to change so we could cross the major street in front of the school. I looked around, noting many parents with their kids, and I was struck with an almost overwhelming feeling of shared goodwill -- all these folks trying to do so well by their kids. That nearly got me going. But the light changed, the moment passed, and BJ pulled me towards his classroom. He was more than ready to go!
And naturally, I found myself thinking about my own kindergarten days. I don't remember much, though I do remember being very interested in the idea of school. I recall equating school with homework and being disappointed that I wasn't given any in kindergarten. (In fact, if I remember right, I asked for homework and was given a few dittoed worksheets. This says worlds about me -- not to mention dating me by the detail of those dittoes. I loved them -- their smell, their slightly fuzzy blue lettering, the way they would be warm to the touch when fresh, literally "hot off the presses.")
My mom emailed me this morning to tell me a little bit about my own first day of school: "I can still see you in your yellow jumper getting on the bus...you got on the school bus and never looked back. You were so excited to start your adventure." And so was BJ, today. Eager to begin, full of excitement about everything.
When we first went into his classroom, his teacher had told everybody they could explore -- anything that was out on the table was available to be played with. BJ wanted to find something having to do with science, naturally, and I did a little parental spin to convince him that building with blocks had a scientific aspect (what else is engineering, eh?) and he had a ton of fun making a "robot."
All told, right now I really couldn't expect to be happier with the start of BJ's schooling. After having spent many a sleepless, stressful night worrying about his educational prospects (a natural worry, I suppose, for a parent of a bright child who, among other things, started reading before age 3 and knows more about human anatomy at age 5 than I ever did) I am feeling (mostly) relaxed and content with our situation. For so long, I was so worried that school would squelch the amazing spark for learning that burns so brightly in him. He is so full of joy about Learning New Things. I'd never want to see him lose that, and I am all too aware of how a less than ideal school situation can dampen or even eliminate such enthusiasm.
But I'm feeling very lucky tonight. Everything lined up, just in time, for us to get BJ into this school. I am very impressed by the school, its philosophy and community, and I simply adore his teacher. BJ seems very fond of her, too -- he wanted his picture taken with her today at the end of the day, though he wouldn't look at the camera while I was taking it!
And -- further evidence of the teacher's amazingly kid-friendly qualities, so did BB:
Sure there are things one might wish to be different -- the class size jump to 30 is not ideal (it was 20 last year) but they are doing what they can to manage that. On Friday morning, during the parents' work time, they were hanging extra hooks for backpacks.
And the teacher was disappointed that she had to get rid of her alphabet rug for the year. Apparently, in years past, she had used it for circle time and directed the kids to each choose a letter to sit on. Can't exactly do that for 30 kids. So she's using cushions instead. I'm betting that BJ will be scrambling for one of the red ones...
So it isn't perfect -- and I have to say, 30 kids this morning, plus one or two parents per kid, plus a few younger siblings... that was one crowded classroom! Full to the brim. But full of goodness, full of love, full of joy. Yes, joy. That was my biggest impression when I first went to tour the campus of the school over a year ago now. The place feels full of joy. What a relief to still have that feeling as BJ started there this morning. And I'm so very, very proud of my (not so) little boy. (And ok, I admit it, I managed to stay tear-free for the whole day, until I sat down to write this post. Good thing there are tissues at my desk.)
Here's hoping that tomorrow is another great schooling day!