Brave and Ready to Go

I do not as a rule get very nostalgic at my kids’ milestones. I am happy to see them learn and grow, and yes, get older and more independent. True, I was sad when they self-weaned and June’s recent no-singing-at-bedtime dictate was hard for me. And I get just a wee bit sad when someone I know has a baby and I go through those bags of tiny baby clothes to make up a gift of hand-me-downs. Okay, maybe I’m more sentimental than I thought. But in any case, this week was something else.

On Tuesday Beth registered June for kindergarten and then two days later we took her to her elementary school for kindergarten orientation. On Friday, Noah had his first school dance. Yes, you read that right. And no I haven’t failed to update his headshot caption– he’s still in fourth grade. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Beth went over to June’s elementary school Tuesday to fill out some paperwork in preparation for the orientation on Thursday. That morning June and I ran some errands of the bank and post office variety. We took a bus to downtown Takoma and as it was a rainy day, the windows were all fogged up. June kneeled in her seat and used her index finger to draw stick figures on the glass. I remembered being a kid and doing that on the school bus windows and suddenly I could imagine her on a school bus, something that I have tried in the past and been utterly unable to do. As Beth wondered recently, how could we let her get on a school but by herself when she’s so small? Andrea, one of the teachers at June’s preschool answered that although small, “she is a big presence, brave and ready to go!!” And so she is.

She was more than ready for the orientation on Thursday morning. Beth drove Noah to school and came back to get June and me and pretty much the instant she pulled into the driveway, June was out the door like a shot, leaving me inside to grab my keys. At preschool on Monday, three Purple School alumni came to talk to the Tracks class about kindergarten. One of them made June a bit nervous talking about the green-yellow-red behavior charts I remember so well from Noah’s kindergarten year. I think she started to feel like this kindergarten thing was serious business. Since then she’d been veering between nervousness and excitement when she spoke of kindergarten.

All the incoming kindergarteners visit a kindergarten classroom (emptied of its students who have two days off school). They get to meet the teachers who conduct evaluations. The first thing they did was to snap a picture of June in front of a blue background for their records. (We got a copy, too.) She had an uncertain little Mona Lisa smile in it.

Then, along with several other kids, she drew and pointed to letters and played with puzzles and Legos while the teachers watched. One of the puzzles was a rainbow puzzle, which I think they were using for color identification. Finally she had a snack of animal crackers and apple juice and received a gift bag, decorated by a current kindergarten student, and full of crayons and alphabet cards. While our kids went around the stations, we chatted with the mom of one of Noah’s friends, who also has kids five years apart. Beth said she thought this would be easier the second time around but it wasn’t and Naomi agreed and said it was kind of sad, and one of the teachers said the baby is always the hardest. Still, instead of looking back, we looked ahead, discussing magnet middle school options for our older kids and the admissions process we will have ahead of us next year when Noah and Maxine are in fifth grade.

I kept looking over at June as she moved from table to table. She seemed serious and intent on what she was doing. When we left, she was happy and said the activities “took my mind off being nervous.”

Friday afternoon I was co-oping at June’s school and two of her classmates, the White-Tailed Deer and the Field Cricket had been to orientation at the same school and wanted to compare notes. The Deer had brought her gift bag to show everyone. June admired the drawings on the outside, which she decided were more skillfully executed than the one she had received. The Black Bear left school after an hour for his appointment and then came back an hour later. I tried to imagine the four of them going to school together. It wasn’t hard. Beth and I are also hoping that the Toad, who lives out of boundary and is in the lottery for the immersion program, gets in, because she’s one of June’s best friends. Because we live right on the boundary line the Toad actually lives closer to us than any of the other in-boundary kids and she would use our bus stop. Beth said recently she’d feel better about putting June on the bus that first day if she could board it with a friend.

Friday evening was the Spring Fling at Noah’s school. Unlike his first elementary school, his current one has dances. I find the concept of a dance for third to fifth graders kind of puzzling and I think Noah did, too. He skipped the fall dance because he was not sure what would happen there and he had decided to skip this one, too, but at the last minute he changed his mind. He said kids at school had been talking about it and they said the last one was fun so he decided to try it.

I never went to dances as a kid, except at camp, where they were mandatory. The idea of unscripted socialization with that many people was intimidating and as a teen I had the idea that any potentially romantic situation that did not arise spontaneously was shallow. I bet you’re sorry you didn’t know me then. I would have been so much fun at parties, you know, if I had gone to any of them. Beth wasn’t much interested in dances either, although she did go to her prom.

We were both glad Noah decided to go because social situations like that can be hard for him and we were proud of him for giving it a try. Beth said on the drive over he was full of nervous chatter. And he instructed her not to be late to pick him up. She could be early, but not late.

Beth came home and we played Sequence and Concentration with June. I think she enjoyed having both of us to herself for a little while. That rarely happens. Then Beth left to get Noah. He was wound up and happy about the dance. He danced (by himself, but that’s what he said almost everyone was doing). He bought a glow bracelet and had his photo taken in the photo booth. He said it was fun. I asked if he would go again and he said yes. One of the mothers of his classmates reported that her daughter said that the girls and boys stayed in separate groups, but when I asked him later, Noah said he talked to two girls. And of course, he talked to boys, too.

Later that night when I turned out the light in the bathroom, I saw his bracelet glowing green on the counter. After I climbed into bed, I said to Beth, “We are old.”

“Yes,” she agreed.

Old enough to have our younger child on the verge of elementary school, old enough to have our older child attending dances. But they are brave and ready to go. And I think we are, too.