Maybe it's because I haven't buried my toes in the sand this summer, or dipped them in the Atlantic...
Maybe it's because between moving and traveling and having a new baby, we've been busier than in summers past...
Maybe it's because, with each passing year and each subsequent child, time really does seem to speed up (as is evidenced by the fact that my itty bitty baby girl is somehow already saying "mama" and nearly sitting up all by herself)....
Or, maybe it's just because we moved from a school district with a late-start calendar to one with an early-start calendar, so our summer break really is Shorter this year....
But whatever the reason, we are already, in mid-August, getting ready for school. And, even though it's only mid-August, that makes me want to pull out my jeans and start buying pumpkins along with those shiny new Crayolas.
But first, let's tackle the big issue: SCHOOL.
You guys. I will have TWO CHILDREN attending school this year. I'm not quite sure how this happened because, I'm pretty sure, last time I checked, I was the Mommy to three babies. Or at least two babies and a toddler. Alright, maybe that middle baby was pretty large and in-charge, but still my BABY. Too little for Circle Time, for sure.
But then, he wasn't. We had added Max to the Waiting List at the most highly recommended preschool in our new little town. It wasn't likely that he'd get in this year, which was fine with us...he's not even three yet, after all. But having his name on the list would help secure a spot for him the following year. We got the call a few weeks after we moved in....a spot opened up and he'd be starting August 21st. In early July, that seemed like a whole summer away. Before we knew it, though, it was his Open House.
He walked into his school proudly and with confidence: "You all can follow me!" he said, "It'll go Max, Evan, Mommy, and Daddy. And Molly in the pouch." He was excited to show Daddy his classroom for the first time and to check out the toys that Evan had promised would be there. He was also excited to meet, as he calls them for some reason, his "school mates." As soon as his teacher crouched low to welcome him, though, he was hiding behind my legs. Ms. A smiled and introduced herself to me, instead. She invited us in to go check out the room. After a few minutes (and some inappropriate laughter over the "little potty," "Look, Evan, it's like a BABY POTTY!" How ironic coming from the 35-pound, thick-as-a-brick, almost three-year old wearing a diaper), he started to warm up.
He found some large foam dominoes and started building a castle with them. Ms. A walked over and we chatted for a few minutes about schedules, routines, supplies, etc. Then, with a glisten of a tear in the corner of my eye I said, "You know, this will be his first time away from home. Away from me. I mean, I think he'll be fine....but still...this is big."
As if on cue, Max's castle tumbled, he uttered a frustrated expletive"Oh, brish-o-brash," and he hurled a domino across the Circle Rug.
"Um. Yeah." I continued, as Sam handled the "You Can't Throw Toys in the Classroom" lesson, "I'm sure he'll be fine."
Why is it so much different this time around? Is it because I'm different? I've already sent one child off to preschool....to learn with and from a new teacher, to become friends with children I don't know, to have parts of his day that he'll keep to himself and not share with me...is that why I don't feel as suffocated by the thought of sending Max to preschool? Or is it him? Max has spent two or three mornings a week for nearly his entire life going into classrooms that look beautiful and exciting and inviting and being told that he can't stay yet..."When you're bigger like Evan you can stay in preschool and play." Now that he's "bigger" and CAN stay....are we both more ready because we've been practicing for so long? Or is it his personality? My Maxwell who pulls you in and engages you with his bright blue eyes. Maxwell who keeps you close with his silly ways and quick wit. Max who feels no shame in singing loudly, dancing "fancy," dressing up in wacky costumes, or trying new things--even if he's not sure he'll succeed. Max who wants so badly to be like his big brother that he's already writing letters, sounding out words, counting up through the thirties, and learning Important Information (like what asteroids are made of and why thunder sounds scary). My Maxwell who wasn't even going to go to preschool this year....but we looked at him last spring and knew we had to at least put him on the waiting list because....He's Ready.
He'll be fine. But I'll be close by in case he surprises me and isn't. And Evan and I have big plans for Max's first day of preschool: when he comes home, he find a Giant Cake, "because he loves cakes, you know." And it'll have pink frosting (his favorite color), and lavender sprinkles (his second favorite color). And we'll celebrate his first day of big boy preschool and eat cake.
The day before Max's Preschool Open House, we attended Evan's Kindergarten Open House.
Do you remember how nervous I've been for the past few years about Kindergarten? I was worried about him being away from me all day every day. I was worried that he would be intimidated by the busyness and the noise in Kindergarten. I was worried that the excessive testing now required in Kindergarten would stress him out. I was worried that he wouldn't feel comfortable enough to show all of the wonderful and hilarious and curious and thoughtful sides of himself. I was worried about how he and I would handle all of the obstacles that his food allergies present....what would we do about birthday treats and special behavior incentive treats and holiday treats and the lunch room? Oh, god! The lunchroom!! Would he feel left out? Would the other kids make him feel bad? Would he be safe? And then....I was worried that he would get a teacher who didn't love him....or (worse?), didn't love Kindergarten. Because if nothing else, I want for my children to love school.
Well, I've learned some things over the past year. First of all, and most importantly, I've learned that Evan can handle a whole lot more than I may have given him credit for in the past. I've learned that he can be away from me (and I, him) and that he can make friends, handle assessing, and show off all of his strengths to his teachers.
I've also learned that, sometimes, strange twists of fate can put you in exactly the right place at exactly the right time for exactly the right reason.
Evan's teacher will be Mrs. C, the teacher who taught me how to teach, who taught me to love Kindergarten as much as she does, and who, now....will take care of my baby during this first, huge, year of School.
She loves teaching. It's infectious, actually; when you're around her, you just want to hang out in that room all day with her and her students and watch and be a part of the magic that is Kindergarten...the magic that is learning! I can't wait for Evan to be in her class. I can't wait for him to experience, through her, that magic. And he can't either! When I opened the letter from school last week with his teacher assignment in it, I was nervous...but didn't let on. I opened the letter and quickly scanned for the name: Mrs. C.! As soon as I told him, his face lit up and a huge, wide-open mouth smile spread across his face. He's ready.
At Open House, he led the way to his classroom with confidence and excitement. We entered the bright and cheery room and were greeted by an even brighter and cheerier Mrs. C. She handed him a "scavenger hunt" to complete to help him to become acquainted with the room, while I looked over some Parent Letters. On the table of hand-outs were three special pieces of paper with children's names on the top...one of them was for Evan. It was a letter explaining that there would be two food-related activities within the first two weeks of school. The names of the products that would be used were given, as well as ingredient lists. We were to sign off on the sheet saying, yes, our child could eat the treats or no, the foods were not safe, so the parents would provide a similar treat from home.
First of all: Holy Organization!!
Second of all: This teacher GETS food allergies. Which means that I feel a whole lot better about the safety of my child in this classroom.
And third: THERE ARE THREE CHILDREN WITH FOOD ALLERGIES IN EVAN'S CLASS!!
He will not be alone! He will not be the only kid not eating the cupcakes brought in by the birthday kid! He will not be made to feel badly for not being able to eat what everyone else is eating! He will have compadres! Kids that are JUST LIKE HIM!
And the best news of all: He'll have lunch buddies. And because there are three of them, Mrs. C has already said that they can sit together at the end of the REGULAR lunch table (no separate, isolated nut-free table!!), which the classroom TA will sanitize before lunch each day.
That nervous tummy that I've had for the past few years?
Replaced by happy butterflies, maybe. And pride. And excitement. But I'm not worried anymore.
Everything is just right.
Max is ready for school.
Evan is ready for school.
And, believe it or not, even I am ready for school. And jeans. And pumpkins.....