Monday, August 26, 2013

On the Occasion of Your Entry into Kindergarten

Dear Boy,

It is with both a bang and a whimper, amongst lost forms and fresh school supplies, that tomorrow you march off to Kindergarten, and embark upon a journey that leads you inexorably, inevitably to adulthood. Adulthood is a place you yearn to be and, like every parent before me, I plead with you to slow down. Adulthood is it. It is the remainder of your life, which is itself a blip on the cosmos.

Until we went shopping for school supplies, I never understood the gnashing of teeth over sending one's baby to Kindergarten. Rejoice! It's Kindergarten! No more long days at home! No more filling the space between with fights and complaining!

You sat in that cart, flipping through your very first marble notebook, and my mind flashed forward, like a flip book of a different sort. That book. It will have chicken scratch, pulled out of you by a patient and experienced teacher. Letters will become sentences will become paragraphs will become stories will become essays hastily scribbled in what we call a Blue Book will become emails will become real estate contracts will become wills. I hope in there you'll find the time and motivation for a love letter or two. You will learn to do addition. Then subtraction and multiplication and division and algebra and geometry and then algebra again (it's confusing, I know) and then trigonometry and then something horrible they call functions and then calculus and then. Adulthood. Where it all devolves back into addition and a lot of long division and more statistics than you thought you would need but almost never calculus, except for the engineers.

I've thought about holding you back. You're young for Kindergarten these days. In my time, you weren't young. Five was the norm. But now it's competitive and kids start at six. You still suck your fingers, though you declared to me on the practice walk to school this morning that you no longer sucked your fingers because you are a big boy and don't need to, right before immediately sucking your fingers. It's okay. People have asked when you are going to stop doing that. When I am going to take your lovies. You are different from other kids, Boy (though the dirty little secret is every kid is different from the other kids, and trying to make it otherwise is brutal and pointless). You need your tools for calming down, and I am not going to take this one from you. If, in your own time, you decide Big Boys really don't suck their fingers, then I will support you in that.

You will learn so much. You will learn that English is damn near impossible to spell with any consistency and that you just have to figure it out. You will learn that not every child is a friend and that not ever adult will offer a hug. You will have to save your cuddles for me and your dogs and cats. We will save ours for you as well. You will learn that a circle and a sphere are not the same but kinda they are but not really. You will learn, please God will you learn, to flush.

And with any luck after this it will be First Grade. And then Second. And Third after that. You see where I am going with this.

It is a new world for you, of packed lunches and cafeterias and cliques. The enthusiasm with which you've practiced eating a school lunch--which so far largely entails your marching off with your lunch box, opening it, and declaring "Let's see what Mom packed for me today!"--tells me this new adventure piques your interest.

Here's a secret as you start your journey: there is no magic moment of adulthood. It is a transformation over time, of learning lessons both good and regrettable, of sticking it out and throwing in the towel, of hurt feelings and crying into your pillow.  Of doing what is unfun and unrewarding. Of doing what is right even when it is unpopular. Of learning that picking on a kid just might get you socked in the mouth and that defending a kid just might make you an outsider as well. Being an outsider is okay, sometimes.

Here's another secret: I'm still figuring it out too.

Godspeed and kick ass, Little One.


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