Today Grant started second grade and Katie started first grade, they both started at a new school and switched from private school (TINY) to public school (BIG). I am not normally the mom who cries at drop off. If anything, I'll error on the side of shoving my kids through the door and asking when pickup is as I'm leaving. But today was different. I was an emotional train wreck and I think I cried more over my kids today than the day they were born! Thank goodness for an understanding and compassionate husband who helped me hold it together, at least in front of the kids!
Grant has a tendency to over-think things which can create anxiety in him. For months, when we'd talk of moving to Oregon, he would consistently say the thing he was most nervous about was starting a new school. But last night, at bedtime, he was supernaturally relaxed and it brought me such comfort. This morning, he was calm and excited, until we got within a block of the school. He grabbed my hand, squeezed really tight and started fighting back tears. As his mom, I felt his pain and the tears start welling in my own eyes. I assured him he'd do great and reminded him of the 5 kids he already knew in his class. We got to school and Curt was waiting for us. We went to Grant's classroom first and since I was already on the fence emotionally, Curt walked him into his classroom. Grant looked around cautiously and then noticed a boy he had met at Vacation Bible School this summer. He went over, reconnected with the little boy, and never looked back. His response gave me a much-needed emotional sigh of relief.
Then we got to precious Katie. My little napper, sweet girl who is a social butterfly and always so adaptable. I remembered how long the days seemed last year when Grant started 1st grade and I was worried about my precious girl who takes a nap every day and who didn't know a single person in her large class, except the neighbor boy, who wasn't there yet when we arrived. I gave her a hug at the door and Curt walked her into her brightly decorated classroom, which was three times as big as her classroom at NCA with three times the number of student desks. As she disappeared through the doorway, backpack consuming her entire back side, the tears came for me. She just looked so small, lost and alone. My last visual picture of Katie was of her, standing in the classroom, looking lonely, perplexed and trying not to cry. I just felt her pain so intensely, that when Curt came out and asked me how I was doing, I fell into his arms and started sobbing silent, shoulder-heaving sobs. He kept whispering, "Don't let her see you cry - keep moving," at the same time that Alli was shouting, "What's wrong Mommy? Why are you crying?"
For the rest of the day until pickup, I was a mess. All it took was for me to picture Katie's little face and the tears would come again. I wondered when recess was and if she has someone to play with on the playground or would she be all by herself? Did she like staying for lunch and did she find and read my napkin note? Could she decipher my writing? Did she almost fall asleep at her desk in the afternoon or did the excitement of the day overshadow her normal "tired" time? I watched the clock and at 2:55 p.m., we (Alli, Paige, Dusty our puppy, and I), put on our shoes and headed back to school for pickup.
It was a gorgeous day - chilly in the morning with mid-50's temperatures and blue skies, but it warmed up to an impressive 74 degrees in the afternoon. I laughed at how when we walked to school in the morning, we dressed in long pants, long sleeves and sweatshirts and by the time we got home we had icicles for fingers and were contemplating hot chocolate. By afternoon pickup, we walked in tank tops, shorts and flip flops and actually broke a sweat! That's one thing I love about Oregon - the great weather! But I digress....
We got to Antonio Crater Elementary School and having never done pickup here before, especially on foot and not by car, I wasn't sure what to do. We followed the other moms and parked ourselves, (stroller, kid, puppy and mommy), outside the cafeteria doors. We saw the students start funneling into the cafeteria in neatly formed lines and I found myself glued to the window for a glimpse of a kid with a shock of blonde hair and a last name of Stilp. We spotted Grant first. He saw us,his face lit up with a huge smile and he waved so hard I thought his hand would fall off. I left Alli holding the puppy on the leash with one hand and the stroller with the other and went dashing into the cafeteria to give him a hug. When I looked up, I saw Katie's class marching in and her face also lit up when she saw me. As I signed them out, I realized that those smiles and hugs warmed me more than I ever could have imagined!
We walked home together in a herd, stopping to tie wayward shoelaces, fighting over who got to hold the puppy's leash, and talking to the neighbor kids who were also heading home. Katie, when we were 1/2 a block from home, ended up crying about how hot and tired she was and how she couldn't carry her back pack (which contained a folder, a sweatshirt, and an empty lunch box) one more step! I smiled and thought, "Oh did I miss these kids!"
We sat on the front lawn, in the shade and where we actually have grass that grows, and talked all about Crater and the first day of first and second grade. Both kids made friends and I laughed at how neither one of them could remember the new friend's names, but they REALLY liked them a lot. They enjoyed eating in the cafeteria, thought the hot lunch looked good, and Grant was pumped that the school mascot is a cougar because "big cats" are his favorite. Katie's favorite part of the day was "choice time" where they got free time to choose which toy or game they'd like to play with. Grant preferred the school assembly or recess and couldn't decide between the two.
As we sat and chatted, a sense of relief washed over me, and I realized that we all had survived the first day of school. For someone who normally doesn't cry much, these past 9 weeks of transition and seemingly endless tears have been a little much and have just about sent me over the edge. But we made it through one of our last big hurdles! From here on out, it will get better. We'll adjust to our new schedule, the kids will make friends in their classes and Newberg will start feeling more like home.
At 4:30, the doorbell rang. It was Connor, the neighbor boy in Katie's class. He played for an hour, then came back for another hour after supper. While he was here, Katie came downstairs, sat down on the couch and said, "Mom, I just need to take a break. A break from all my busy activities today." Within 30 seconds, she was sound asleep. I glanced at the clock - 5:31 p.m. I guess I'm not the only one with some adjusting to do!