Monday, August 19, 2013

First Grade Jitters

This morning Nathan didn't need me to walk him into the primary school building.

He made his way from the back of my loaded-down soccer mom mobile clutching his lunchbox and rocking his Ninja Turtles backpack. He waved goodbye to his sidekicks and I made a display by professing my love as he joined a herd of kids on the sidewalk. He glanced back and I'm pretty sure I got a little grin.

At least, I'll just keep telling myself that.

Then he entered the building and stopped short of the kindergarten hall {or from what I hear, he went there and was redirected by a teacher. I'm proud of him for asking for help.} This little dude was destined for the first grade.

I have no idea what happened next. On my end, it was soothing a crying Owen who just wanted to "go first grade, too!" Next was a run through McDonald's for the biggest coffee they had and a round of hash browns for me and my baby boy. Then it was a day of the cakewalk that is caring for two children as I watched the clock slowly tick to three.

Nathan was so excited about his first day when we finally made it through the agonizing first day car line. He was happy to tell me about the locust shell he and his friends found on the playground and the happy face he received for conduct. He was even pumped about homework. He dumped his spelling journal onto the table the second we walked through the door.

As he positioned his pencil to start copying the letters, I could tell something was wrong. Tears started welling up in his big brown eyes and he looked everywhere but at me. I asked him what was wrong and to my surprise, he told me.

"First grade is really different than kindergarten. I like it, but I don't know what I'm doing there. I don't know if the work is going to be too hard."

Cue the parental heartbreak, am I right?!

Change is tough. I hate to tell the poor kid that particular facet of life doesn't get any easier. But the funny thing about change is that it's constant. Nothing ever stays the same and often, change is for the better. I tried my hardest to explain this to my son. I know he will love this school year, and likely every one after, but it's hard to give up a yearlong routine for a completely new one. He will figure it out on his own. I just have to let him.

After sharing some chips and a little afternoon TV with his brother, Nathan sniffled a little and found his way next to me in the big chair. He wanted to let me know he was feeling better and ready to give first grade another go. He told me that today was just a practice day and he knows it'll be awesome. That he wants the work to be hard so his brain can grow and he can know so many new things. Once I saw that he calmed down and started to change his tune, I showed him this side-by-side:

He loved seeing how much he has grown in a year! From those never-ending legs to the toothless grin, Nathan is a far cry from the baby I shipped off to kindergarten last August. As I look at that little guy on the left, I remember the fear I saw in his eyes on his first day. I slipped out of the classroom before it got to me and I worried from the moment I left to the moment I returned. He was still shaky that afternoon, too. Nervous about losing his name tag and remembering to pick up after tubs. It was only a matter of days before that stress melted away and he slipped into the habit of a school day.

And I know the same will be true this year, but he has to realize that himself. As his parent, I simply have to let him.

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