Yesterday was Aquaman's first day of Kindergarten.
He started almost 2 weeks later than the rest of his class. In a way, I felt robbed of the excited school anticipation. The roundups, the registrations, the tax free holiday. The opportunity to soak up the last few long weekends I had with him. To read the Berenstain Bears "first day of school" together.
We made the decision on Tuesday afternoon, attended Open House and met the teacher on Thursday night, and by Friday morning he was marching into the classroom without looking back.
His birthday being on the cutoff date, the plan all along was to hold him back a year. It seemed right, I felt good about it. He was going to repeat pre-k. And then, in an effort to ease some of the grandparents' responsibility, we ended up putting both he and The Dude in home daycare the 3 days a week that I am at work.
It didn't work out.
Aquaman was bored from wandering around all day playing with toys that were never in the place that he left them when he returned. He was anxious from all of the babies crying. He did not like his "teacher", in fact he was afraid of her.
Every day that I picked him up, he practically ran out of the door, usually with tears in his eyes before we even got to the car.
The Dude wasn't faring much better. His potty training, sleep, and behavior went completely out the window. The night that we finally decided we couldn't do this anymore: he threw about a 3 hour tantrum. Which culminated in his hitting JT and I repeatedly, and then smashing his own face into the concrete several times until his lip bled.
If that's not a cry for help from a 2 year old, I don't know what is!
We knew we had to do something, but having limited finances required some creativity. (Daycare centers run $100/day for both of them, and may not have been much better anyway)
I never would have thought we could even change our minds about kindergarten this late in the game. But lo and behold, the school was quite gracious and accomodating. And considering that their open house happened to be the day before we hoped to start him, it felt immediately meant to be.
I thought that the first day of school would be harder somehow. But having just come from a situation that felt hopeless and terrifying, school seemed like a very bright and positive place to drop him off. I guess the start of school is a little less stressful, and more hopeful, for the working mom. Suddenly you feel like a little more on even ground with the rest of the mothers. You're not dropping your kids off so that you can go to work. You're dropping them off so that they can learn and grow, become independent and responsible.
There are 23 kids in his classroom. (Apparently they are working on getting another teacher). Aquaman was not in the slightest bit intimidated by the numbers. He fits easily into a group. He needs only 4-5 positive words from a sweet teacher to motivate and encourage him. He needs very little negative reinforcement, and his teacher seems to be a great fit.
The night before his first day, as we prayed and talked about it together, Aquaman said "I'm glad I get to go to school. There won't be any scary movies there (like at his daycare, which, Aquaman considers PBS Super Why to be a scary movie), the movies there will be all about God and Jesus."
That made me sad on several levels: 1) the day care run by a member of our church is more scary than a public school. 2) There will be no movies about God and Jesus.
But it also gave me a sense of assurance. Because 1) he had a great start in his sweet little preschool which DID include God and Jesus. And 2) God and Jesus are what he wants to watch movies about.
He seems so little, but I believe he will be a light in this world.
I didn't cry at drop off. He seemed so relaxed and comfortable and ready, and besides I was too busy prying his little brothers' fingers off of the table and dragging him kicking and screaming out of the classroom.
But at recess time, I drove by slowly, hoping to catch a glimpse. I thought I saw him, in a pack of boys, jumping up and down on something. And the tears came then. Not happy tears. Not sad tears. Proud tears. My little boy becoming a part of society. Molding right in, but standing out so brightly.
Last night, as I tucked him into bed, his jolly self, the same energy. A new fire, from being challenged, and from finding that he WAS capable: he said to me: "Mom, do you know why I like Grave Digger (monster truck) so much?" I didn't. "Well, you know how I have orange hair and blue eyes, and I'm just a little different than everyone else?" Yes, I do know that. I knew it from the moment that he was born. That he was not going to be just like every other kid. It has given me a lot of anxiety for him. It has given me a lot of respect for him.
"Well, Grave Digger's like that too. I like being different, mom. I like being me."
If that's not the thing you want to hear the night after your first son, younger than everyone else in his class, starts school, I don't know what is.
He came out of his classroom grinning from ear to ear, and said "I had a GREAT 1st day of kindergarten, mom!" He went on to describe that he knew all the answers, even the ones that "most of the 5 year olds didn't know."
The writing was hard, but he hung in. He needs hard, he will thrive in hard, given the right environment.
The Dude and I will have some special time together on Fridays now (thought he spent much of yesterday whimpering: "I miss my Aquaman!".
The Dude's going to go back to spending more time with Noni and Papa, Gramma and Grampa, and Daddy when I am at work.
I am so grateful for them.
I am once again discovering that following God and finding His will for your life is a fluid and dynamic thing. It is setting out each day to walk in it, to live it with an open mind, and a willingness to change it.
I don't know if I somehow missed it before, and got caught up in what I wanted to do, and what I had planned, and what made the most sense at the time. I don't know if I was trying to do what was easiest for me, or selfishly holding on to something that I wanted to be, or assuming that I knew something that I didn't.
Or if this was exactly the route that God wanted us to take all along. A little different, just like our redheaded son with the missing teeth (a little early), and his deep sensitivity and convictions. A little round-about, through muddier waters.
What I do know, is that it doesn't really matter.
What matters is that, today, we are looking for Him. For what He is doing. That we're not so determined to do things our own way, or so discouraged by the fact that our previous way didn't work that we can't believe in His plan for the future.
What matters is, today.
The last day with a 4 year old Aquaman.
The first day of the rest of our lives.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."