Today was “step-up” day at Jake’s school. I dropped him off this morning and as I walked past the gym, I saw all the metal folding chairs lined up like soldiers waiting for the next set of anxious parents and wide-eyed kindergartners-to-be. I had an instant flashback to this day a year ago when Matt, Jake and I excitedly made our big journey over to “Jake’s new school” to see what kindergarten was all about. I remember feeling both excited and nervous all at once. And now … as I think of Jake “stepping up” to FIRST GRADE, I wonder where the year has gone.
I glance back into the cafeteria and see a much taller and even more confident boy than the one who sat beside me that day last May. There he was trading silly banz with his new friends and laughing over something someone had said. On my way out to my car I couldn’t help but smile as I reflected over all those defining moments we both experienced in our journey through kindergarten.
“The working mom adjustment”. Having worked since Jake was only 3 months old, I didn’t think this would hit me as hard as it did when he started kindergarten. When kids are in day care, they are all pretty much on equal ground … they all get there roughly the same time and all leave around the same time. In elementary school, kids are segregated into 3 groups: bus riders, car riders, and after-schoolers. Need I say more? For the first couple months, I repeatedly got the question “Why can’t I be a car rider or a bus rider like all my friends?” The first time the words “Because mommy has to work” came out of my mouth, I thought I was going to burst into tears. We’ve both adjusted and he actually looks forward to going to after-school now and has made some very special friends there!
“Let’s play UNO” Speaking of after-school, one of the best things he learned there was how to beat mommy’s little smarty pants at the game of UNO! I’ll never forget that night that he innocently asked me to play and I seriously doubted his ability. I was worried it wouldn’t be fun for him because he didn’t know how to play so well … 2 hands into it and he had pulled out all kinds of strategery and was beating me 189 to zip! I was so proud of him! This of course has led to many more fun nights of family game night.
“Look at me, I can read!” We read books every night and I remember back at the beginning of the year, we’d pick out one or two words (like “the” or “and”) for Jake to read every time we came upon one. Now, not only is he reading the entire book, but instead of asking “what’s a habitat?”, he’s telling us all about the different layers in a rain forest and which animals live where!! I’ve learned so much this year about clouds and weather and different types of habitats such as the rain forest and the savanna (that would be the grasslands, not the city known for their great St. Patrick’s Day festival!). Amazing.
“Don’t kiss me in front of my friends, MOM!” This was a biggie and truly defining moment in my mind. I am certain I won’t be able to articulate it well in words … it was one morning when I was dropping him off for before school. Our usual routine includes me walking straight into the cafeteria to sign him in while he drops his backback and jacket off in his basket in the gym. We usually meet up in the hallway for a quick kiss and a “have a great day” before he heads into the cafeteria to meet up with his buddies. This particular day was picture day – the only day the entire year they don’t have to wear uniforms to school. Jake was in more of a hurry to catch up with his friends to show off his “street clothes” so he made it into the cafeteria before I had a chance to say goodbye. As he’s sitting all “cool-guy” amongst his buds, I naturally lean in for our routine peck and get a split second “what are you doing, mom??” look. In an equally split second, I shoot him an “ahh … got it” look and give a quick hand squeeze and tell him to have a good day. Walking out, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to giggle or shed a little tear. Either way, I was full of emotion that my little boy was growing up.
And now here we are. The end of our kindergarten year. The shy timid boy that started the year has really blossomed into a smart, confident, fun little kid who we are enjoying immensely. I feel sad at times that I’m losing the baby in him, but so much pride in the boy he’s becoming. So I guess step-up day isn’t just for the kids, but it’s a time for us parents to take a second out of our busy, fast-paced lives and reflect on all that has happened over the past year and be proud of what we’ve ALL accomplished!