I didn't think I was going to feel it... the chest-tightening, eye-burning, throat-swelling impact of sending my first-born off to kindergarten. I'm not much of a crier, usually, and besides... Oliver's been going to pre-K at the same school for two years. Several of his friends are in the class, and even his sweet teacher Miss Jill (the one who came to his birthday party) has moved up to kindergarten... the only difference is that he has to call her Miss Russell now.
But. I felt it. Oh, I felt it. Kindergarten classrooms look different than they did when I was little. The rows of desks have been replaced by miniature tables and chairs, and blackboards have morphed into smart-boards. Computers line one wall, and - at least in Oliver's dual-language school curriculum - all of the signs on the walls are in Spanish instead of English. But there are lots of familiar sights, too... the rug where they'll have circle time, the teacher's desk (which always seemed so monstrous), and my favorite part: the reading corner full of small comfortable chairs, ever-changing books, and the odd stuffed animal to cuddle up with.
I think I got emotional for a few reasons. Of course, there's the obvious bitter-sweet feelings around my sweet little baby growing up too fast, but there's more. These first few years of school are so important... they will impact him in ways none of us can predict: they will boost or deflate his self-confidence, his view of other people, and his capacity for empathy and kindness; they'll solidify his understanding of delayed gratification and hard work; and most directly, perhaps, his formative years in school will form the basis of his feelings toward school and learning for the rest of his life. That's no small set of responsibilities I'm handing over to a group of (relative) strangers, and though I have all the confidence in the world that they will do a marvelous job, still: my baby.
When the teacher asked the students this morning whether anyone was feeling a little sad or nervous about the first day of kindergarten, among the sea of hands Oliver's voice was loud and clear: "I'm not nervous... I am SO EXCITED!" It was then that I got choked up. Dear Oliver, please don't ever lose your enthusiasm. Please work hard and be kind and enjoy these years. Please tell me or your dad if you are ever hurt or worried or sad, but also tell us when you are happy and excited and proud. I believe you are going to do great things in this world... you've already done great things in mine.