It had to happen. It seems like only yesterday that we saw our kid in the blue cradle at the hospital. In what now seems like the blink of an eye, he’s off to school now. Kindergarten is a big step in his life and he is going to be away from us, albeit only for a few hours every day. So, what were our fears and apprehensions? How did the first day measure up against our expectations?
Kids generally take to strangers pretty well if their parents are around. But put them in a room full of 40 other screaming kids, the dynamic changes completely. That is why schools ask parents to stay around for a couple of days to gently ease the kids into their new surroundings.
These kids have been at home for two years and they rarely get to see other kids. Correction. They rarely get to see other kids sitting so quietly. They know only the kids from the doctor’s clinic, where chocolates are handed out to the best screaming children.
As I sat there listening to the principal’s address, I saw right through the school’s strategy. Make the kids sit in full view of the play area. Tantalizingly close. But don’t let them play. Ask them to sit quietly. They’ll start pestering their parents to let them play and they will be all cried out and tired by the time they reach the classroom. Both the teachers and parents win!
First Time Away from Parents
The first day is generally a test for everybody involved. We were allowed to sit with the kids inside the classroom while they peered at the two poor souls ‘in-charge’ of the class and carefully examined them. “Can I trust these people? Will they give me the bat and ball kept on the shelf? Yes, I have eyes in the back of my head. I can also see that the kid sitting three rows away has a Peppa Pig bag. Mom, take note”. So as you can see, the sailing was smooth on the first day.
The second day is an entirely different chapter in this story. The parents are asked to stay outside, within earshot of a terrified scream. The kids are on their own. It is now a shouting match. May the loudest kid win! But they also start to make friends. It is heartening to see them (through a small slot behind the door) make an attempt to bond with kids their own age.
The Super Merchandise (and the Humble Jute Bag)
You know the effort that goes into the selection of a good school bag, a multi-colored lunch box and a water bottle that’s taller than the child? I know I was excited as a child to go shopping for bags, shoes and books when I started school. So was our kid. He proudly walked around the house, carrying his bag everywhere. It is a lovely moment as a parent to see your kid in school attire for the first time, with the neatly pressed uniform and other accessories,
All that effort is probably in vain because it is easier for the teachers and the kids themselves to handle a small basket rather than a bag. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go shopping for merchandise. After all, it is a wonderful opportunity for your kid to point at every object in the shop (including the cash register) and ask you to buy it, even if he’s holding exactly the same object in his other hand. The wise shopkeeper conveniently positions all his high margin items right in front of the kid. Mayhem ensues.
Anyway, a simple jute bag will do the trick. It is easy to open and close and the teachers can make sure the kids don’t lose anything.
A Renewed Sense of Nostalgia
How many of us remember the fresh smell of new books and the brown wrappers? Do you recall filling in the personal details? My wife and I have such good memory that we almost wrote our parents’ names instead of our own! We also remember how difficult it was for us to see our parents drop us off at the school and leave. Our kids go through the same thing.
Our Great Expectations
After the first two days, we are so anxious to get quality feedback from the teacher. We expect the teacher to talk about how our kid over-pronounces every third syllable when she has met him only the day before. You meet a person is a quiet business surrounding and still forget his/her name in a couple of hours. The teachers interact with 40 kids for less than an hour every day and they will definitely take time to give us kid-specific feedback, unless your kid is doing something extraordinary, like sitting very quietly or eating all vegetables. I definitely don’t envy their job.
This day is a milestone. It marks the beginning of a wonderful educational journey and a lifetime of learning. It is very important for the kids to have fun while they learn. We, as parents can also join in and have some serious fun!
I know I will be here in a couple of weeks with a post on how silly and unfounded my fears were. Either that, or I will talk about how our kid still hasn’t settled well, or how we got multiple calls from the school that our little monkey is on the loose and terrorizing the village.
I will keep you posted.