The First Day of School I Didn’t Photograph

My mom is going to kill me.

I kind of want to kill me.

Sam and Lily went off to their first day of school last week and I did not take a picture.

Sometimes I just kind of WANT to let these milestones in late slide by. Because time has sped up a bit, and if you don’t acknowledge it, you can just kind of pretend that everything is the same, and always will be. That this is not another school year, but just a continuation of the last school year.

Or maybe I just forgot.

In any case, I did not take a picture.

I did take a picture of Rory: the oldest child in the preschool’s kindergarten this year!

The new classroom fish, too! May Rory not love you to death, fishy dude!

And one of Wyatt, oldest kindergartener in HIS class (that’s just a fluke, because he’s not at all an old K). He’s also convinced that means he will be the tallest, but I think he’s in for a surprise there.

Why did you come back in to take my picture? I'm busy!

It’s an easy year to pretend nothing is changing. Same schools for everyone. Great teachers who suit them all ’round (I hope). This year, knock on wood, we can enjoy how far we’ve come and be the big happy family we thought we’d be. And then Sam will go to middle school, and…well, let’s not borrow trouble here, people.

I love school. I loved school for me. (I would go back to school right this minute if I could…clear goals! gold stars! an endless array of possibilities!) But I love school for them even more.

Rory, for example, cannot count to twenty. Frankly she simply refuses to learn to count to twenty, the number fourteen being one she does not approve of. When we try to teach her to count to twenty, she weeps and dissolves into a puddle of grief, and I, guilt-stricken, am reminded of all of those times when I did not comfort her in her first months home when I was so freaked out about how hard it was for both of us to adjust. I embrace her. It’s ok! You’ll learn! Oh, poor sweetie!

Not surprisingly, this does not result in her learning. But her teacher–this woman will tie Rory to her little wooden chair and get out those little wooden Montessori counting whatevers and by God, she will teach Rory to count to twenty! If it kills her! If it kills them both! I love this woman. By the end of the year Rory will be doing every single academic thing she’s capable of, and I won’t have to Kumon her or coach her or do any of the things that really do not have to be my job. I can just love her. There was a time when she had a teacher who was much better at loving her than teaching her, and that was not such a good situation. But now we’ve got everything right. Plus, the teacher loves her, but in her own special you CAN remember the number fourteen! You WILL! kind of way.

Lily feels that her teacher has underestimated her reading ability. I’m not good at reading out loud! But this book is too easy for me! I do not want this easy book! I will not read this easy book!

Well, I say, read it and prove it to her. She just wants to be sure you understand.


Ok, then tell her that.

Once again, this teacher can handle it. If she thinks Lily should read this book first, Lily will read this book first. (Sam had this teacher; she’s fantastic, and I have no doubt she’ll have Lily doing just what Lily should do.) And Lily will LIKE IT. And once again, she will save all of her worst explosions and tantrums and what not for me. See, nothing has changed!

And Sam’s teacher will fill his days with all kinds of things, and because Sam finds everything interesting, he will be constantly interested and will not be sitting in my kitchen saying things like “can I do an experiment with soda and baking soda and the coffee maker?”

And Wyatt’s teachers will love him and prod him gently forward, dealing capably with the fact that he’s well beyond kindergarden in his abilities but not in his personality, and every day he will shout “I hate school! I don’t want to go!” and then when I pick him up he will shout “NO! I am NOT READY TO GO HOME!” Wyatt does poorly with transitions. But for a blissful 7 hours a day (which really seems like rather a lot) that will be someone else’s problem.

I love school. I love teachers. I love feeling (even just for the moment) like all’s right with the world.

6 Responses to “The First Day of School I Didn’t Photograph”

  1. slawebb says:

    my middle child didn’t like 13. She would count to 20 but just skip 13. I said, ‘Who needs 13 anyway.” By the end of preschool she counted to 20 with 13. Just time.

  2. Paula says:

    Sorry, Wyatt, being the oldest won’t mean you’re automatically the tallest. My son was the youngest in his class but was one of the tallest. Jess is one of the older kids in her class (same birthday as Rory) but not sure if she’s the oldest. I know she will most likely never be the tallest but that just makes her fit in with all the other girls in our family (BIL’s daughter is a year older than Jess but only about an inch taller). Her dad is very tall but her mom’s on the shorter side.

  3. Damaris says:

    I love reading your blog–you’re a great writer. This post expresses my thoughts so well and I have only 2 kids, both 6 yrs old and attending different 1st grade classes at different schools. My son excels at school but HATES homework. My daughter, who does love school and homework, sounds a lot like Rory (she came home at 3.5 yrs old from Guatemala) and has or had some of the same difficulties that you mentioned recently: not being able to name things, having tantrums, wanting approval (last night she sadly told me that I had carried her brother to bed but I hadn’t carried her, which was true–he was asleep at the time). She attended Montessori for pre-K and was not progressing. She’d been in the US for 9 months when she started classes. The county evaluated her and came to the same conclusion as the school and our own observations: she needed speech therapy and special ed classes where she’s part of a small group, getting lots of opportunities to learn by experience and repetition. In special ed Kindergarten, she blossomed. She learned her letters, most of her numbers (15 was the one she’d skip), and she knows all her animals and speaks in full sentences most of the time. I expect she’ll learn to read in 1st grade (her brother learned early in K) but I hope the teacher will teach her instead of my having to have some of my own tantrums trying to teach her. SIGH I hope Rory excels in her class this year.

  4. Erika says:

    My daughter loved 6 so much that she’d skip 5. And 15, and 25. She had nothing against 5, just wanted to get to 6 extra fast.

    I’m actually kind of relieved to hear that other kids do the same thing…

  5. My 5yo constantly has his own agenda and doesn’t want to do what anyone else tells him. Today was the 3rd day of school, and I had to send a long note to his teacher’s to give them some tips on getting him to do what he’s told and to follow directions. I’m seriously hoping this is something he grows out of because even I’m starting to lose patience with his stubbornness. He’s very smart, knows his letters and numbers, teaches himself how to spell words by sounding them out (he first did this with the word “stop” because he wanted me to stop tickling him), he can do some simple math…I just don’t know what to do some days. He also went through a phase where he wouldn’t count numbers correctly. For him, 20 was 100 for like a year-and-a-half. I’m with Slawebb, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time for Rory.

  6. KJ (aka Lola Granola) says:

    Hey, that’s all fantastic to hear! I tend to forget that Rory is remarkably close to target “academically” for her age, especially considering. She has some “expressive” difficulties (and thank you, too, speech therapy teachers! I love you!) but she is so right on for reading and math–in fact, when I do sit down with her, which I did tonight (because I let Wyatt read to me last night, Damaris, and don’t think that went unnoticed!) she is actually EXACTLY like Sam. Same hesitation in putting the letter sounds together. Same willingness to just declare a random word. Wyatt and Lily both learned to read quickly and easily and without any of that (and without any help or even much interest from me–Sam got it as first and Rory as last, I guess; Lily and Wyatt learned to read at busy times). I’m so glad I went through it with Sam or I wouldn’t realize how normal she is. (Wyatt being kind of quick-witted for his age.)