It is 6 o’clock in the morning and my alarm goes off alerting me to start the day. Ugh that wretch-it thing! I roll out of bed, turning off my alarm, and sleepily find my way into the bathroom to start my day. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee carries me into the kitchen as a lifeline of sorts to help me get through this long awaited day. It’s now about 6:15 and I do a double check of what is needed for my son’s first day of school. Clothes laid out. Check. Lunch packed. Check. School supplies. Check. As the list continues on in my head I begin to make a special first day of school breakfast. Sprinkle pancakes with a side of bacon should help him stay full until lunch time. Lord I hope it does because he cannot go without the 500 snacks between breakfast and lunch when he is at home.
I enjoyed a few sips of coffee while making breakfast in the quiet house continually going over the list of to do’s in my head. Breakfast is now on the table and I make my way upstairs to wake up my sleepyhead son. I quietly creep into his room and admire how hard he is sleeping. It is 6:30. “Good morning! It is time to get up! It is your first day of Kindergarten” I said to my sweet blonde headed boy. He wakes up excited to see what actually going to school will be like. Poor kid has no clue what it “used to be like”. Who knew the saying “back in my day” would be replaced with “before Corona”?
We had survived three weeks of online kindergarten and today was the day he was finally going to school! Face to face with other kids his age and he was going to get the social interaction he so longed for. I suppressed the ‘fear of the unknown’ back down into the inner depths of my subconscious and focused on being excited. I had worked with him for the last several months preparing him for what Kindergarten would be like. He will be fine, I tell myself.
Hand in hand we make our way down the stairs to the kitchen table. His face lights up to see his sprinkle pancake and bacon waiting for him. At his point my husband emerges out with our two year old son to join us for our celebratory breakfast. We are all in the kitchen talking up school and encouraging everyone to “eat up”. We have a schedule to keep and cannot be late. After all, I had heard of the horror stories of the carpool drop off line being horrendous.
We finished up breakfast and scurried off to get ready for the big day. Time check! It is 7:10 we need to leave in ten minutes! Teeth are brushed, hair is comb, his belly is full we can depart. The two boys and I say our goodbyes to my husband and pile into the van. Everyone is buckled and I do one final check off of my mental list. He has his backpack full of supplies, the sign that says his name and what grade he is in, and his lunch. He should be set…oh his mask! Cannot forget that thing!
We embark on our trip to school and go over some self affirmations. Repeat after me: “I am kind”, “I am brave”, “I am smart”, “I am handsome”, “I am a good listener”, “I am child of God”. He reluctantly repeats each saying all the while building more confidence with each affirmation. We pull up to the school and already there are about 10 cars in line. Wow! I thought we were early! I pull the van into the line and put it in park. I go ahead and have him unbuckle and do my best to hold myself together. I cannot cry in front of him, I want him to be excited. I go head and give him a kiss goodbye, have him put his backpack on, and his mask so he is ready when we pull up.
My heart breaks and tears well up in my eyes. It is not supposed to be this way. Why is my five year old having to wear a mask to school? The line begins to move and we see the teachers with their masks and gloves on. Why? They are literally touching one kid after another with the same gloves, but what do I know? I guess it is to protect themselves but the word cross-contamination comes to mind. I hand him his sign as we inch closer. “But mommy I don’t know where to go” he tells me with a slight fear in his voice. My heart sinks even more and I begin to feel angry. I cannot walk him in nor can I tell him where to go. Helplessness washes over me. He should know where to go. We did not get to have a meet the teacher night at the school. Instead, we did it virtually while his teacher sat in the safety of his home in front of a green screen. Why could us Kindergarten parents not have the opportunity to go up and see the school? They should have had time slots, smaller groups, required masks…something. Here I am sending my kid into the unknown. I muster up the courage to tell him “it will be okay and that is what his sign is for”.
Pulling forward even more, I press the button to open the passenger door. A teacher greets him with a sincere “hello” and then notices he is a kindergartner and she begins to become even more excited to help him. I can see her smile through her mask as she helps him out and walks him to the door. The heavy metal door closes behind him and she turns around to give me a thumbs-up as if to confirm all is well. ‘She must have kids’ I think to myself. Then my youngest chimes in with “where’d bubba go” and I feel the tears running down my face.
We make our way back home and I am excited for the new found one on one time I get with the youngest. Throughout the day he continues to ask where his big brother is at and I realize how much they rely on each other. As a mom this makes my heart feel good because I know how much they love one another.
Time ticks away and I realize it is time to go sit in the pick up line. The youngest and I pull up to the school and one by one the little masked faced kids trickle out of the school. I see mine and can tell he had a busy day. He jumps into the van and rips off his mask. He continues to talk about his day telling me all about what he got to do. I am amazed at the amount of detail he is giving me and I am soaking it all up. In hopes to continue on with the special day, we picked up some pizza and ice cream sundae fixings to have as a family.
In the end, it may have not been exactly how I always envisioned my child’s first day of school going but it was a good day. While we are all ready for some normalcy I choose to look at how this made him become more independent and not let this pandemic steal my joy.