It's that time of the year again: pumpkin spice lattes are hitting the coffee shops, people are walking around in sweatshirts, I've swept up the last of the sand off my kitchen floor, and Ollie's hair has been trimmed. Summer is over and school is starting!
I never know when something is going to hit me, and this feeling that I have a first grader hasn't hit me yet and it may not. It's natural to have a first grader after you've had a kindergartener, so perhaps I knew it was coming and circumvented it. Perhaps I won't feel it until after I drop him off at school tomorrow. Maybe it'll be when I show off his first day of school picture, or as I walk around work all day wondering what he's doing at that moment, or when I pick him up afterwards. Or maybe I don't realize that I'm feeling it right now as I'm getting all thoughtful writing this blog post.
For the night before first grade, Doug, Ollie, and I watched The Adventures of Captain Underpants over pizza delivery. Then we trotted upstairs to put on pjs and climb into bed. We've been slowly moving his bedtime back to 8pm but our bodies today were a little too snoozy, so we climbed into Ollie's bed around 7 with a long book. Halfway through, Ollie put his hand on mine and said, "I think I want to stop here, Mama, I need to get some sleep." So I closed the book, dropped it on the floor and asked if he wanted me to sing a song or if he wanted to listen to one on my iPhone. He chose "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson and we watched MJ sing it at the Grammy's on YouTube while he sucked his thumb and used his other hand to caress the satin edging on his blankie. When the song was over, I turned to him and said, "Ollie, are you scared about tomorrow?" And he said, "Yeah...but mostly I'm scared that you'll make me wear church clothes." I laughed and said, "Oh, Ollie, no, you have your new tee shirt and shorts to wear tomorrow!" Then he stuffed his thumb back in his mouth and things got serious.
Me: Ollie, this year you're going to learn a lot. You'll learn about money and telling time, you'll read more and write more. You'll learn about math and science and you'll get to meet new people and see a lot of your old friends. We already know that you like your teacher and that she's really nice.
Ollie: How do we know that she's nice?
Me: We met her and she's going to call you Ollie, isn't she? And she was your teacher when you went through kindergarten camp, remember? Last year? You liked her.
Ollie: Oh yeah.
Me: I'm not worried at all about you learning new things, I know you'll be great at it. You also, I'm sorry to say it, will learn more about bullies.
Me: Yeah. You'll see more about how kids can be mean to each other. They might be mean to you. And you may want to be mean back. Hopefully you won't be. But can you promise me something?
Me: Whenever you see a kid who's maybe sitting alone, or playing by himself, or looking kinda lonely, will you be his friend?
Ollie: What about if he's a stranger?
Me: If he's a kid, he's not the kind of stranger to be afraid of.
Me: Because I don't care if you're the smartest kid on earth, or the handsomest, or the funniest, or even the bravest. I just want you to be really, really kind.
Ollie: You want me to be the kindest kid on earth?
Me: No, I just want you to be really kind to everyone - to your teacher, to your friends, to the janitor, to the principal, to everyone. Can you promise me that you'll try?
Ollie: Yeah. I'll try, Mama.
Me: Thanks, buddy. Now let's pray.
Together we prayed that he would have a great day at school tomorrow, and that he would learn a lot. We prayed that he would make a lot of friends and be nice to everyone. We prayed that he wouldn't have a bully or be one himself, and that if he sees someone being a bully, that he can stand up her or him. (Here we went off on a tangent because he somehow has the idea that to stand up to a bully is "American" and that he has to wear red, white, and blue - which was a further tangent because his outfit for tomorrow isn't red, white, and blue - and now that I'm thinking about it, maybe he got that from standing up for the flag and singing the National Anthem at the start of games.) We also prayed that he would find the gym okay, and get to the classroom okay, and that his buddy Benny wouldn't be home sick from school. (Because they're in the same class!)
We made so many memories this summer, but boy was it a whirlwind! I think summers get shorter when the kids are in school, and I bet they seem to get shorter each year as the kids grow older. (Of course, I can say that because I'm not home with Ollie over the summer).
Okay, so it's hit me. I'm not the greatest mother on earth, Ollie-gator. I don't play with you enough, I shoo you away too much, and I definitely don't handle your outbursts as well as I wish I could. But I can tell you that you're going to be the greatest first-grader on earth, sweets, whether or not you're the kindest, smartest, most musically inclined, or most creative. Have a great year!