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School ROCKS!

Maddie came. Maddie saw. Maddie kicked
school’s butt.

Oh yeah, oh yeah, un-hunh, un-hunh.

That’s my Happy Victory Dance.

In case you hadn’t guessed, the first day of school went
really well. And let me tell you, for the amount of prep and
cross-checking and background-laying that went into it, it should
have been as smooth as a shuttle launch.

I spent most of Sunday working frantically to finish Every Little
Thing that needed to be done before Monday. I put labels on her
things; made sure she did her “homework”; packed and
re-packed her bag; helped her lay out her first-day-of-school
clothes; and I cooked.

Boy did I cook.

Maddie loves to make celebrations for
ordinary days, so we planned a feast of a breakfast to launch her
into her educational years. I didn’t want to deal with the
work Monday morning, so cooked everything Sunday. I fried up the
bacon, whipped up a batch of “breakfast cake” –
coffee bundt cake – and whisked a tray of mini quiches so
she’d get her protein in with that sugar. If ever there was
love poured into a meal, it was Monday morning’s breakfast.

Maddie went to bed “too excited to sleep”, and woke up
half an hour earlier than usual, ready to get up and get dressed in
her new clothes. I blearily touched up her purple toenail polish
– painted special to match her school room color – and
watched her waddle around with her toes clenched in the air to
avoid marring the finish. We debated her lunch menu and packed it
full. And I presented her with the breakfast cake, with the empty
bundt middle filled to the brim with fresh flowers. Maddie almost
cried with joy. I’m pretty sure a new tradition’s been

At any rate, Maddie was standing impatiently by the door several
minutes before any of us were ready to leave, straining at the
leash to get to her school. Even heading in she was excited and
eager, not slowing down at all. We signed her into the room, and
she gave me a hug. And then hugged me again, a little longer. And
then again, a little longer.

And then she threw her arms around my neck and didn’t let go.

When I finally peeled her off me, she was crying silently, not
shaking or sobbing, just red-eyed with overflowing tears.
“Why can’t you just stay with me for the first day,
until I know what it will be like?” she asked, though without
much fight.

“Oh, honey, parents can’t stay. We can’t even go
in the room with you. But if you want me to, I’ll stand
outside your room where you can see me for a few minutes while you
get used to your class.”

“Ok,” my big girl sniffled bravely, and with one last
mighty squeeze she went trepidatiously onward.

I stood in the window where she could see me, and she turned around
to check on me every sixty seconds or so. But she also immediately
set to work on their first art project, and became increasingly
involved. So a few minutes later, she turned around to glimpse me
and I gave her the sign for “I love you” – our
sign that I’m going to leave but still love her. And she gave
me the sign back, and waved goodbye without worry.

We had a short parent social hour right afterwards, and it took all
my willpower not to run and check on her before we left. But I knew
she’d see me and whatever fragile peace was being wrought
would be destroyed, so I made myself leave. I also knew I had a
secret weapon – a friend of mine teaching in the school, who
also has a child in Maddie’s class. I knew my friend would be
sneaking to check on her own child, and knew she’d call me if
things were bad with Maddie.

When two o’clock rolled around, we stormed the building, this
time Cora leading the charge to get her sister back already! The
teacher told Maddie we were there, and she calmly got up and
collected her things. No running to me in relief, no tear-stained
face. Just a smile and a brief hug before she began skipping ahead
of me, shouting,

I love school! I’m not afraid of it any more! I’m going
to go to school all the time until I’m five!”

Wanting to celebrate but intrigued by the caveat, I asked,
“What are you going to do when you are five then?”

Pityingly, Maddie looked at me and said, “Mom, that’s
when I stop going here and start going to the big kids’
school.” As if this school is just filler until she gets to
the bigger and better five-day-a-week school.

I’m not so naïve to think that this crisis is all past;
once the novelty wears off I have a feeling there might be some
resistance to the rigidity in our formerly fluid schedule, and
think that around, oh, Thursday, there might be some complaining.
But Maddie’s teacher said she never once cried and had a
wonderful day.

And for my fearful kid, that’s an answer to many prayers.

I spent the rest of the day hugging and kissing her and telling her
how amazing and brave she is. She wriggled happily under the
praise, and I could see how proud she was of herself. And when
nighttime came she didn’t want to take off her school outfit.

So for my big, beautiful, brave girl, I send up prayers of
thanksgiving and rejoicing. Fear, zero; Maddie, a zillion.


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