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3 Things We Learned On the First Day of Kindergarten

This morning, we saw our little guy off to kindergarten. He’s the younger of two and there will be no more. So, yeah, it was a big deal—but not in a way that a) we were crying about our grown-up babe, or b) rejoicing over the loads of money we won’t be paying for daycare. Mostly, we were excited about this new start for our eager 5-year-old, who’s been craving to be “big” like his brother.

Also, I learned three things on the first day of kindergarten, this second time around.

#1: Milestone days can be strangely emotional. You might expect a kindergartner on his first day to be shy. Clingy. Irritable. Or in serious go-mode. But you never know how the strong emotions of a big deal will manifest themselves. For instance, you might not expect a high-stakes day to end with an overly affectionate child acting like a cat, repeatedly rubbing his head all over your body as you sit side-by-side in a booth of a busy restaurant.

#2: There are always helpers. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This quote, from Mr. (Fred) Rogers, is one of my favorites.

As an adult, when I see scary things in the news, it comforts me. This morning, when we asked our second-grader if he would walk his little bro from the bus to his classroom, he turned to his brother and said sweetly, “I would suggest that you find a helper. There are always a bunch of nice people helping in the hall.” We weren’t impressed by his suggestion, hoping he’d prioritize settling in his brother over rushing to hang out with his friends. But it’s true: You will always find people who are helping. And, very often, they’re not just your people.

#3: You can plan all you want… You can ask several times—several different people—how your kindergartener will get from his classroom to his after-school program. You might get several confident answers. There’s a list. There’s a paraeducator. There’s a parade down to the cafe. And, then, at quarter past five, when you show up to pick up your kid, a fellow parent (who’s also the school nurse) reports that your kid somehow ended up on a bus to go home. He was rescued. He was unfazed. And when he finally joined the after-school crew, “some nice girls” offered him a cookie, he tells you. But he said, “no thanks” because he already had a cookie at lunch. And he sat at the red table. And he made a new friend. And he played soccer with Mr. Dylan. And—even though it don’t all go just as you might have planned—“it was a really good day.”

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