Today was my son's first day of kindergarten. A day we have planned together for a long time, especially during "Camp Mama-atta-home-a" this summer. He was ready, although there was a funny side effect to all of the phonics work that we did: he now insists that his last name must have an "x" in it, because "Oakes" has an "x" sound in it. He has been spelling it correctly from memory for two years, but now he is learning enough to analyze words and how they are spelled.
Speaking of memory, I had to help him memorize a six-digit code that he is to enter on a keypad at the cafeteria, to access his prepaid school lunch account. He learned it quickly, and I was happy that we both passed that neuro test.
This night-owl child went to bed uncharacteristically early last night, so he was up uncharacteristically early for his first day of school. He (uncharacteristically) wolfed down a huge helping of scrambled eggs (his request for breakfast) and stood proudly for a picture, sporting his new school uniform and a sign that said, "Jacob's first day of kindergarten - August 9, 2006".
We walked together to school and easily found his classroom, thanks to the "meet the teacher" orientation we attended on Monday. After putting his backpack in his locker and his snack in his cubby, my son sat down at the classroom table in the spot labeled "Jacob" and began coloring a picture. His teacher gave me a little gift as I left - a plastic bag filled with a tissue, a cotton ball, and a teabag, and a little note. It expressed gratitude for being entrusted with the care of my child, and instructed me to hold the cotton ball and let its softness remind me of the gentle spirit of my child; to go home and dry my tears with the tissue, then make a cup of tea and relax. It was a thoughtful gesture, since I think more parents than children were crying as they said goodbye.
I know that the first day of kindergarten can be a proud but traumatic milestone for a mom. I had several people ask me this week how I was handling this time of our lives. It is a special, sentimental moment, just like other milestone moments can be. I missed my little guy. But truth be told, the overriding feeling today was one of gratitude and relief that I was able to be here for this milestone.