And now, nearly 5 1/2 years later, as I watched that same "newborn" go to Kindergarten last week, I felt very much the same way.
I had told myself that any unease I was feeling as the school year approached was strictly for him. He's always been reserved by nature, more of an "I'll-hang-back-and-watch-for-awhile-before-I-jump-in-and-participate" kind of kid. But because of his ultra-shy personality, something as simple as raising his hand to say he needed to use the bathroom would be terrifying for him in a room full of strangers.... And I know that his school experience during the first few years - regardless of what is actually learned - will set the tone and have an impact on his attitude toward school and learning for the rest of his life.
He had a great experience with preschool for three days a week last year, but his teacher was my mother, and she teaches out of her home - so he never really had to leave his comfort zone (or more accurately, perhaps I should say my comfort zone). And by law, in order to be licensed, there could only be six children to one adult - so it was a very small class size, and not very intimidating. (I'm not sure why, only one year later, it is perfectly acceptable to have classes four times that size.) But now he'll be at the BIG school, sharing the halls with 5th graders! And under all those other influences - simply put: away from me.
Nevertheless, we did our best to "talk up" Kindergarten all throughout the summer. I frequently told him how much I had loved Kindergarten, how nice my teacher was, how I met a girl who went on to become one of my very best friends throughout all of school (and who is still a good friend to this day), and any other fun and exciting stories I could remember about my elementary school and Kindergarten days. I also did my best to familiarize him with the school: I made sure we went to Kindergarten Round Up, Open House, and since I was asked to be on the PTA executive board last spring, anytime I had to go to the school over the summer, if it was feasible, I took him with me.
However, despite my best efforts, I could tell that he was getting a little scared the weekend before school started. So Sunday night as I was putting him to bed, I said to him, "Grey, I'll bet all the kids who are getting ready to go to school tomorrow are excited, but they might also be feeling a little bit nervous. Do you know what it means to feel nervous....?" And soon he was in tears - saying he didn't want to go.
"But don't you remember how much you loved preschool last year?" I asked him.
"Well, I just want to go back to preschool then," was his response.... So I hugged him tight, and we sang some songs, and talked some more about how much he would love it. We said a prayer together, and then he was calm and ready to sleep. I was able to make it out of his room - so that he wouldn't see - before I started to cry too.
The next morning we had heart-shaped chocolate chip muffins as a first-day-of-school treat, and then it was time to go. Despite some nerves and a little hesitation upon entering his classroom, he didn't cry. The parents were invited to stay for the first few minutes, and his teacher read, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. (I only teared up once or twice during the story.) My husband and I each kissed him goodbye - and then it was time to go.
Two and a half hours later, as he came out the door, he was all smiles - and he said to me at least three different times that day, "Mom, I just can't wait to go back to school again tomorrow." Success!! (Clearly, this was much harder on me than it was on him.)
I have entered a new phase of motherhood: I now have a child in school. Gone are the days of hanging out in our pajamas until late into the morning, being lazy simply because we can - we now have Monday through Friday morning schedules and routines, and I know it will only get busier from here on out. Although part of me still wants to shout, "No... I just want him to stay little, and close, and in my arms forever," I am so proud of the big boy he is becoming, and am excited for the "school years" adventures.