Friday, June 12, 2009

Graduation Day

Off I go to Primo's preschool graduation, where I will, no doubt, cry like a baby. I am a big crier. That is why my daughter, age 2, commonly uses the expression "cry for joy" in conversation.

David: "Why is Mommy crying?"

Seconda: "She reading the Giving Tree book. She ky-ing for JOY!"

But on this monumental occasion, let's take a little trip back in time and recall my son's first day at nursery school, almost three long years ago. I have just the thing to take us there -- "Preschool Jitters," published in the Park Slope Reader, Spring 2008.


By Nicole Caccavo Kear

It’s 8am on a Monday morning and I have changed my outfit three times.

“Is this too flashy?” I ask Primo.

“Nope!” he responds.

I am skeptical: “You sure?”

‘Elmo!” he responds.

Not helpful. Then I remind myself that although he’s unquestionably a fashion prodigy, he is only two years old.

I stuff a manila envelope full of paperwork, strap Primo into the stroller and rush out of the front door, stopping briefly to apply lipstick.

“It’s late,” I mutter, “Great first impression.”

Am I headed to an interview for a big-wig job? To sign the contract on a high-rise condo?

I am on my way to the first day of school. Not mine, of course; Primo’s nursery school. My son, blithely unaware of what awaits him, is calm, composed, unfazed by my jitters.

What if no one talks to us? What if everyone’s already made friends? What if the other parents misinterpret my carefully-designed hip mama look as plain trashy? What if my son assaults another student or refuses to relinquish the Play-doh at clean-up time?

When we’re a block away, I ask Primo, “Are you ready for your first day of school?” and, all of a sudden, I’m hit with a wave of empty nest syndrome which makes me start to cry. So I flip open my cell and speed-dial “Hubby.”

“Our baby is all grown up,” I moan, “We just brought him home from the hospital and now he’s going to his first day of school!”

“It’s only for two hours,” my husband replies. He delivered the same pep talk to me last night.

“But it’s the first in a lifetime of first days of school.” I persist, “And what if he’s not popular?”

I hang up on my husband and decide its time to pull myself together, since having a manic mother does not increase the likelihood of ending up in the popular crowd.

Neither does posing for a photo shoot in front of the school building, but that doesn’t stop me from pulling Primo out of the stroller and arranging him in various collegiate positions on the front steps while I snap away like the paparazzi. When I’m sure I’ve got a shot that can be blown up to 8 x 10, I take my son’s hand to steady myself and enter the building.

The school we chose is perhaps the most feel-good place on earth. Everything is clean, well-organized and drenched in sunlight – from the trunk of dress-up clothes to the reading nook to the tank where Mama Hermit Crab and her snail friends live. It is such a cheerful, inviting place that it leaves me wondering what the catch is.

His new teacher, Carole, is standing in the classroom door to greet us: “Welcome to our classroom, Primo,” she says, “Would you like to see your cubby?”

I am flooded with a delicious warm feeling. If Sesame Street was a real place, this would be it, with Carole in charge of kicking all clouds away to insure a lifetime of sunny days for all.

We walk together to a wooden cubby where some dear soul has Velcro-ed a sign with “Primo” written in even block letters. It is perfect and I brush away a tear.

“Let’s hang up your sweater,” Carole suggests, “and then you can explore the classroom. There are so many fun things that you may be interested in.”

Who could resist this enchanting calmness? My son takes the teacher’s hand and walks over to the snack table where she sings him an impromptu ditty about Cheerios.

I perch on a miniature chair along the wall and watch with satisfaction as Primo sits at the table like a civilized gentleman and drinks his water as politely as you please. I let the warm sensation wash over me. It’s like the relaxed feeling I used to get after drinking a glass of wine. I am buzzed on nursery school.

Two hours later, Carole invites the children to the rug, making sure to mention that it’s OK if they opt to continue their independent work. Then it’s time to sing the good-bye song.

“Time to go already?” I think.

On the way home, I give my husband an enthusiastic report. No battery and assault, no tantrums, no worrisome asocial behavior. Carole noted that Primo showed interest in many different kinds of activities, and she said it approvingly, as if cementing his potential as a real Renaissance Man. I, for one, pulled my weight, chatting with the other moms and communicating that I was hip but down-to-earth, progressive but not radical, a nice middle-ground mother. All in all, a resounding success. I may even be able to leave next time.

The first day is behind us and forward we ride, into a future of algebra and trigonometry and calculus, science projects and summer reading. Pop quizzes, ERBs, SATs. Not to mention in crowds and packed lunch and school dances. It’s excruciating -- so sweet, so terrifying -- to think of how we’ve only just begun. And the thought of this brings a lump to my throat again and makes me wonder how I’ll ever make it through.

So I turn my attention to my son: “Did you have fun at school?”

“Cheerios!” he laughs delightedly.

“I love our little talks.” I tell him.