I admit that I was surprised when I picked my son up after his first day of school and he was upset. Really upset. I didn't know what it was about. I had been standing out by the letter "F", our designated pick-up point with the herd of other anxious Kindergarten parents, when I saw him come out of the front door of the school in a line of other adorable and tired looking 5 year-olds. Immediately, he ran to me. And just as quickly, the teacher reached down and tried to move him back toward the wall. I understand why they did it. They need to keep order in the midst of the afternoon chaos. They have to keep track of all of those kids! I would be upset if they lost him. So, I do understand that. Really, I do. But my 5 year old... well, let's just say that he didn't. It was the end of a very long day away from me and he was done. It was time to be with mom now and there was no logic that could change that.
As the teacher moved him away from me, he burst into tears. The first thing out of his mouth was, "I don't ever want to go here again. Ever." I held him and just listened to his feelings. Thoughts spun around in my head: was the whole day like this or was it just the last few minutes. He cried and I held him, refraining from launching into the series of questions that were heavy on my own mind. The next thing he said was, "I didn't even get a snack. I didn't want what was in my lunch." Oh, I thought. Was there more that happened during this first day of school than what I had observed? I held my judgment, knowing that he was upset and needed to just work through his own feelings before I tried to talk more about it.
As he began to settle down, we were able to walk to the car and start talking about what my two boys wanted to do to celebrate the completion of the first day of school. We decided upon a buffet. As everyone settled into their seats, my older son asked Josh if he wanted to go back to school tomorrow. I held my breath, wishing that he hadn't asked that question, knowing he really didn't have that choice, yet secretly glad that he asked it. He hesitated, then responded: "If you ask me if I'm going back, I will always say... YES!"
He had a good day. He stayed on a green light (not my green stoplight kind of green referring to a state of calm, but the school version of not being bad sort of green light, which of course is really about being able to stay calm and regulated anyway... it just isn't used that way- yet.) and he had enjoyed his first day.
I was relieved that it had been a good day for him. But secretly, I think I was hoping it would be cut and dried that it wouldn't work. That I wouldn't have to go through the days and weeks and months of trying to keep him motivated to go to public school when I believe there are better choices that are more in alignment with my own beliefs about what young children should be doing with their time.
Day 1, I thought. It is only the first day. 179 more to go.
Every day this week, I started to see signs of protest. Tuesday, he half-heartedly said, "I don't want to go," as he proceeded to get himself dressed and put on his shoes. His actions weren't congruent. It was almost like he thought he was supposed to complain.
Wednesday, he was a bit more insistent that he didn't want to go. He got himself dressed, but refused to put on his shoes. But he got willingly into the car. I put his shoes on him while I told him a story when we had arrived at the school. This was the first day I left him at the door to the outside of the school and his brother walked him to class. (Well, actually, Josh knew the way, so Zack followed him to make sure he found it OK.)
Thursday, he didn't want to get dressed. Or eat breakfast. He was playing. It took Zack magic to get him excited about going. Yes, today was PE day and he had looked forward to this after hearing his big brother talk about it all last year. He got dressed with my help and we made it to school. Thursday was the day at pick up that Josh was totally escalated into a red light brain state (survival- fight, flight, or freeze) when the teacher tried to physically put him back on the wall.
Friday, he point blank refused to go. "There are too many rules," he said at my prompting. "I can't even get out of my seat." My older son and I worked together and eventually got him dressed and into the car. When we reached the front door to the school, he refused to go in. The teacher at the door tried to help and suggested that there was an oatmeal cookie for breakfast today. It wasn't on his diet (he has some dental issues going on), but at that point I told him he could have it today. He may have no teeth left when this is all over, but he will have gone to public school Kindergarten. It all just seems wrong somehow. Why is getting him to go in more important than anything else right now?
Granted, he seems to have a good time once he is there. And I'm glad for this. Last year, he had a brief time in Pre-K and he didn't like it. I didn't see the point in forcing the issue, so I didn't and pulled him out again to be home with me. It was a very good decision for him. It was what he needed. This year, I think he has a much better teacher who is kind and respectful. He is making friends. He smiles when he talks about school, except for the drop off part. And being away from me, which is very hard for him.
I don't know what next week will bring, but probably more questions than answers as we feel our way through this huge transition. Whether you are homeschooling and starting school now or transitioning to a program away from home, school is a transition for everyone. How is everyone doing right now?