August 2, 2010


Today, you brought home a classroom assignment. It was a photocopy of a number five that your mother had fished out of your backpack and that you had traced a number of times – each with a different crayon. Blue, Green, Red, Yellow, Purple…

Your mother shares it with me as I come home from work and you welcome me with excited tales of how you got to choose a prize for reading 20 stories. Our bedtime stories that I had meticulously chronicled each night for the past 10 days opened up treasures of pens with beads glued to it and a small box of crayons.

I smile at you both and I am struck by the change in you. The change from four to five years took place only six weeks ago. The change from preschool to kindergarten took place only 12 days ago. And yet, the change in you cannot be measured. You have both tackled a new chapter in your life better than I could have imagined or, perhaps, feared. You are both enjoying your own teacher, being apart for the better part of a day, and have thrived not only in school but socially as well.  You have flourished where I feared utter failure.  I shall try not to underestimate you again.

You both have adjusted to taking the bus to school. It took TheMonk five seconds to adjust while it took Swee’Pea five days. But you adjusted. And now, as I see you onto the bus (Kindergartners board first!) each morning and we wait for the other children to board the bus, we make eye contact and play a game of seeing as who can make the silliest faces. I always win. But you’re getting better.

And each day your mother greets you at the bus stop and shares your brilliant smiles as you come home from your latest adventure. And as you share your day with Mommy while eating an afternoon snack and drinking pink milk, your mother texts me any important news.

*TheMonk got to bring home Millie the Monkey today*

Millie the Monkey
*Swee’Pea was the Star Student today*

Star Student

And as I race home to celebrate Star Students or to help take Millie the Monkey on a bike ride, I am reminded that this only happens once.  Only once will you be so excited to show me that you can write the number two.  Only once will I hear stories of who brought home the coveted blue cards (while also hearing who in class brought home the dreaded red card).  Only once will I get to call my two little ones Kindergartners.

And at the end of the day, as we read our two bedtime stories while fighting a case of the grouchies because of your afternoon nap has been yanked away so suddenly, I savor the moment.  For I know that before long you will be reading your own stories and my role will be as listener and not reader.  And while that moment might come five months from now.

It’s gonna seem like five seconds.

July 29, 2010

Everything I’m learning, I’m learning from Kindergarteners

She sobbed quietly as she tightly grasped her mother’s hand in a cooler-than-usual late July morning. He grips my other hand with a soft, nonchalant grip as he eagerly walks, for the first time, to the bus stop.

The first day of Kindergarten was very typical for both Swee’Pea and TheMonk. Swee’Pea had good moments and rough moments, including some all-out tears. TheMonk had some trepidation at first but quickly decided he liked Kindergarten and fell in line with all the other kids quickly.

But that first day was just a couple of hours while Mommy and Daddy were in the teacher and a couple more hours without Mommy and Daddy. The second day would be the first full day and it would begin with their first ever ride on a school bus.

As the bus arrives, the nervous Swee’Pea begins to cry. We carry her on the bus and the bus driver, a nice older gentleman, tries to comfort her. We find a seat near the front and Swee’Pea and TheMonk sit down. I ask TheMonk to hold his sister’s hand and he does so dutifully. But it is clear that he is in awe of his surroundings and loves being on that bus. It is also clear that Swee’Pea feels just the opposite.

So Mommy and Daddy exit the bus while we watch Swee’Pea cry from afar. Soon, the bus is loaded up with 32 excited kids and one scared, crying kid and they are off.

Of course, I got in my car and followed the bus. You would too if this was the last think you saw when you exited the bus:

Cheers and Tears

May 4, 2010

A test not for the faint of heart

The pressure is unbelievable. It’s one of those life-defining moments in someone’s life where you know that one little mistake, one wrong answer, one tiny miscue can make the difference between a life of hardship and a life of splendor.

The energy, as we walk down the hallway is tense. Playful words are exchanged as we take in our surroundings and try to block out what will transpire in the next few minutes. The tension mounts as we enter a cramped corridor that holds untold potential horror. We are greeted and summarily ushered to two small tables where Swee’Pea and TheMonk are made to sit and face their judgment.

I feel, not like a lion protecting his cubs, but a parent who is offering his children up to be sacrificed to appease some deity that controls all that is known and unknown. I fear the worst and I am ready to lash out at a moment’s notice. I am ready to rebel against the tyranny of oppression that stands before us in judgment. I want to scream out to protect my offspring in a primal, winner take all, battle to the death. But it is useless. I am resigned to accept the situation as it is.

I, as a parent, am helpless in my ability to protect my little ones from what is about to take place. I am forced to wait beyond the reaches of my protective grasp and as I take my seat and force myself to exude a calmness that doesn’t exist, I strain to hear what is happening to my little ones at this very moment. I hang on every sound, no matter how faint, and I expect to hear the worst. But, suddenly, I hear it. I strain even harder to hear with my one good ear and barely make out a familiar, yet faraway, sound.

“a, b, c, d, e, f, geeeee… h, i, j, k, lmnopeeeee… q, r, s… t, u, v… w, x, y and zeeee.”

Hmmm, maybe this kindergarten assessment won’t be so bad after all.

March 7, 2010

Everything I know, I learned while registering for kindergarten

The alarm on my phone pierced the serenity of the night.  It was early.  Or it was late.  3:00 a.m. does that to your brain – all you know is the only place you should be is wrapped up under the covers with your tattered shorts and “I’m Wearing My Twitter Shirt” t-shirt.  Instead, you find yourself filling up a travel mug with a poor man’s mocha of freshly brewed coffee and hot chocolate, pulling an old beach chair out of the garage and heading to the local elementary school to register your kids for kindergarten.

I arrive at 3:45 a.m. and there is already a group of 10 or so people waiting in front of the school auditorium.  They say the early bird catches the worm, but the early parent also guarantees enrollment in the area’s only full-day kindergarten.  There are 100 spots for kindergarten in this school and those who arrive after 7:00 a.m. will be out of luck.  They will also have to wait all day in the auditorium to register as it take each parent approximately 10 minutes to register.  That’s six people per hour. It’s gonna be a long day.

But for me, it’s a long night.  I settle into my beach chair at 3:45 and sip my mocha and make small talk with the lady to my right.  She lives in my neighborhood so we chat about home values, our kids and the fact that the school district really should change the way people register for kindergarten.  This. Is. Insane.

Before long, but long after my legs have turned numb, the sky begins to lighten and, thank God, the custodian arrives to open the restrooms. After a trip to the little boys room, I’m a new man. Soon after, the doors to the auditorium open and we are escorted into the warmth of a carpeted multi-purpose room that has a stage, basketball hoops and fold out tables. Being the newbie that I am, I did not realize I should have picked up the enrollment forms ahead of time. So, I quickly grab a couple of packets and furiously scribble all the needed information in record time. I am ready when my number is called at 8:30 a.m.

But, it turns out, I’m NOT ready. The first person I speak to is the school nurse who informs me while cringing that our shot records are not up to date. These are the same shot records that we scheduled an appointment in February with our pediatrician to make sure they were up to date. And now? After almost 5 hours of waiting, I’m about to lose what little sanity I have left. I know it. The Nurse knows it. Luckily, I ask, is there anything I can do? She summons over the head admin person, explains my situation, and asks if they can hold my spot. Once we hear yes, she tells me to go get my kids and go straight to the pediatrician’s office. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200 but also, do not leave without getting those shots.

So that’s what I do. And the kids? They deserve a frickin’ award after being unceremoniously plucked from daycare and ushered over to the pediatrician where they are given FOUR shots without a single tear. In fact, Swee’Pea actually giggled the entire time – which totally confirms my suspicions that no one will EVER figure that girl out.

Two hours after I’m told our shots aren’t up to date, I arrive back in the auditorium where they are serving number 23. I proudly show them my updated records and, duly impressed by my speed and determination, I am allowed to register the kids for kindergarten. Mission accomplished.

Now, they better get straight A’s or there will be hell to pay! (What? They don’t get grades in Kindergarten? Who do I talk to about that?!)

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