And Then We Both Started School

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I did it; I survived the week. It’s done! It’s over! Huzzah! Moving into next week, and beginning the last anew, I’ve been in a celebratory mode. I managed to survive the first week of school. Tiny’s first week of Kindergarten, yes–but also my first week part-time teaching at the local community college.

Oh, yeah, and I was on call last week, too.

It was a week of, “Let the games begin!” and I took it, primarily, in stride.

This summer began with the onset of all things Tiny-related. Buy the backpack, buy the lunch bag, buy the school supplies, buy the new clothing, buy the new shoes. Craft a plan for lunches, read more books in preparedness for Kindergarten, teach (and fail at) independent, butt-wiping skills, reinforce directions on bus routes, and demonstrate all aspects of the lunch bag, including where the snack goes. Prepare, and prepare, and prepare, and prepare, because Tiny was starting Kindergarten.

Tiny was starting Kindergarten, but, mentally, I wasn’t prepared. I had questions upon questions, tumbling over themselves, demanding answers that only the school could give–and the school was closed for summer. No matter how many times I checked the school’s website, I couldn’t find the answers I required. In my heart, however, I knew my son was prepared for Kindergarten. I knew he would rock that first day, even with my own doubts.

But, every once in a while, he would turn to me, and say, “Mommy, I don’t think I’m ready for Kindergarten.”

I would hold his hand, hug him tight, and tell him, “Son Son, you’re going to do amazing! We have everything prepared.”

Little did I know–or stop and consider–that my son had his own fears and doubts, too.

The Wednesday before school started, my world went topsy-turvy. I received word that an adjunct position at the local community college had opened up, and my name was on the list of people to consider. Reaching out, I queried my contact at the college. She gave me the Department Head’s email address, so that I could relay my continued interest in the position. I received word that they were, in fact, searching for a few new adjuncts. If I was willing, they wanted to offer me a position.

When life-changing positions present themselves, I have always leapt before the door closes, for good. This felt like one of those doors. The opportunity was there, wide-open, begging for my acceptance.

I wanted to leap. I wanted to jump. But, before I made any decisions, I gave the offer some serious thought. Teaching has always been an inherent skill I possess, but I walked away from the field almost a decade ago for bureaucratic reasons. Would I be ready to start, again? Could I even teach at a college level?

But, more importantly, what would happen to my normal, full-time job?

With the last question at the forefront, I went to meet with my boss. We spoke, discussed the ramifications of conflicting schedules, and I expressed my dire need for a raise. Due to Obamacare, lowered child support, medical bills that never quit, broken appliances, and daycare expenses, I’ve been one catastrophic event away from bankruptcy, even with a full-time job. Amazing, right?

Love this economy.

In any case, we parted amicably from the meeting, with his begrudged acceptance. He gave me his list of fears, and the stipulation that this might possibly be a one semester trial. If it failed, if it interfered, there wasn’t another chance. No more teaching for me, unless I wanted to lose the job that paid my bills.

I latched onto the fact that he was willing to give this a try, and accepted the position. It was then that I had a minor, heart-attack-related understanding that school started the following Monday.

The same Monday Tiny started Kindergarten.

How would I get everything prepared, in time?

Luckily, I’m me, and I managed. Monday morning came, bright and early. I arose with fear, nervousness, and something akin to excited dread. Tiny and I got dressed, ate breakfast, pulled out packed lunches, and got in the car to drive to our respective schools.

Tiny’s dad met us that morning, as well.

The three of us trooped into the school with greetings from teachers, and into Tiny’s new classroom. We found his seat, I checked my watch, kissed his cheek, told him to have a great first day, and left the building. Tiny’s dad hung back, something I couldn’t do with an early morning class to teach.

As I pulled into the college, I received word from Tiny’s dad: Tiny had thrown an epic fit at his decision to leave, and the school counselor had to get involved. Apparently, when his dad walked out, Tiny raced out of the classroom, after his dad.

It was an, “What in God’s name just happened?” kind of text, but I couldn’t respond. My phone went in my pocket as I walked into the classroom, put my bag down, and stared across the room at forty eyes looking at me. Looking back, at all those expectant eyes, I proceeded to flush a brilliant, neon red.

Ten years, I thought. It’s been ten years since so many people looked at me with hope, expectation, and readiness to learn.

I was back in my element, red-faced, or not. It felt good, I have to say. That first week had hitches–because, why not?–that I had to pretend I could handle. It’s a good thing though, that in my profession, I’ve learned almost any problem can be solved if you ask the right person. Also good? Students haven’t yet begun screaming, cursing, and throwing metallic instruments across sterile fields when a problem arises. The kids took my fumbles in stride, accepting their goofy, new, but not so new, teacher.

It was the next day that I learned my son was not as accepting of his new school. The same situation my ex texted me about occurred on Tuesday, as well. I left the school feeling frustration, worry, and all-consuming doubt at my parental capabilities. My son, my tiny tot, had turned fight-or-flight. If I tried to leave, he tried to bolt out of the classroom. If I tried to calm him down, he refused to listen, and turned into a stone wall, incoherent and petrified.

Although I believed my tiny human to be ready for this new school, he wasn’t. I was just beginning to understand his fears, and doubts. Big school, big population, new teachers. No familiarity. My child was scared, and needed his mommy to reassure him.

But, in all my anxiety, I hadn’t. I hadn’t considered that he wasn’t ready, even though he told me those very words.

Isn’t parenting fun?

I left the school on Tuesday, spoke with my mom and sister, and then circled back to sit with the school’s counselor. Inside her office, I explained, “It seems like a great idea for a parent to walk a child to their classroom, watch them get settled, and then leave them in capable hands. Not for Tiny. I think he needs someone to meet him at the doors to the school, and walk with that person to his classroom. It can’t be his parents, because that is not working.”

She was in full agreement, even stating she wanted to call me, and pitch the same idea to me.

This week was our first week of school. The new plan worked like a charm, and a happy, tear-free boy has been escorted by the pretty counselor to his classroom, every morning. I maintained my beet red appearance, but managed through my first two college teaching experiences. It was weird, being on the other side of college, but I’ve been adjusting to the roll of educator, once again.

Going into next week, I know we’re ready. Together, Tiny and I can conquer this school year.

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