Yesterday was Amelia’s first day of Pre-K. I don’t think it’s quite registered with me yet.
Growing up, I don’t remember anyone going to Pre-K. I figured Pre-K was the same as Pre-school, which wasn’t actually school at all. Hell, it’s always been my understanding that Kindergarten was sort of optional. When Amelia was born and I joined my local mom group, I listened to the mothers of older kids talk about pre-school and pre-k and “programs” and I likened it to those high pressure parents who buy their infants flashcards and stress stimulating the brain. It was SO not my thing, so I just shrugged my shoulders and didn’t give it much thought. Then, a couple years ago when Amelia was around two, her friends started going to “school” a couple days a weeks. Their moms were all Stay at Home Moms, so I figured that the moms needed a break to do errands or clean or day-drink (who am I to judge). Again, I didn’t worry about it. I go to work at 4pm, why would I want to send my daughter away during the only time-frame I got with her?
And then, last year, the subject of PRE-K came up. The more I heard, the more I felt like it was EXPECTED. I don’t typically do things just because they’re expected, but I didn’t want to somehow short my daughter and compromise her education. Georgia has a state-funded program, so I figured I’d look into it. Besides, Amelia had never been in daycare before so I thought that maybe she should learn what to do in a class before she started “real” school.
In March, after a bit of panic and confusion (I’ve never done this before and it seems like every county has their own weird system), I successfully got Amelia enrolled in a Pre-K program at a daycare near our house. Like I said, she’s never been in daycare before, and of all my “mom friends” very few live in my town, so I had absolutely no idea what the quality of the school was like. I hate to think that I just blindly jumped into something concerning my daughter’s education. But, well, I did. When I enrolled her, Jason had a million questions. My response to most of them was “damned if I know”. All I knew is that it looked fairly clean & okay (I saw some nasty front lobbies during my search), the program seemed official and the director seemed nice and pretty together. *OF COURSE I researched the place. I looked up their state inspection results. Everything was legit. I just did it after I’d filled out the paperwork.* And besides, it’s not REAL school, right?
Last Thursday I went to the Parents’ Orientation for the program. I was pretty excited, and a bit anxious, because this is completely new for all of us. I needed to meet the other parents and see that they were as laid back about this as I was. I needed some reassurance that everything was okay and that it really wasn’t that big a deal. I sat with all the other parents in the tiny little chairs and listened to the teacher, Miss Sabrina, say “This is not daycare. THIS IS SCHOOL.” So, apparently I was mistaken. This IS a big deal. She went on to talk about the schedule and the curriculum while all the parents nodded thoughtfully….and I sat in the back and hyperventilated. *This is a bit of an exaggeration. I wasn’t panicking that much. I was just rattled by the official feeling of it all. I’m pretty sure it was directed at the parents that see this as free childcare though…not the slacker parents that thought that Pre-K wasn’t real school.*
Over the weekend the family went out for our first official “Back to School” shopping trip to buy Amelia a backpack and some sneakers. We talked her out of the Hannah Montana & Jonas Brothers backpacks (Jason cited the shoddy construction….seriously), but we did finally agree to the pink sparkly “Princess” bag. You’ve got to pick your battles.
The Monday before she started, Amelia started going to bed early and we started getting up at 7am. I’ve worked 4p-midnight since she was born, so Amelia’s never been well-acquainted with the pre-9am hours. She did fine…I wanted to hurt myself.
The night before, Jason helped Amelia pick out the perfect ‘first day of school’ outfit (her awesome peace sign jeans and a new Nike shirt) and set her backpack out. He reminded her to brush her teeth and put on PJ’s. Then he suggested that she go up to bed and look at books until she fell asleep. And my daughter, who has never had a set bedtime, was asleep at a time appropriate for a four year old.
The next morning (first day of school!), Amelia jumped out of bed and told us “I’m so excited to go to school!” She ate breakfast, got dressed & put on her backpack. She was READY! When we got to the school, it was a flurry of children and parents and inappropriately large backpacks. Our family checked the new student in & walked her down the hall to her class. Miss Leah (the teaching asst.) met us at the door and brightly said “Hi Amelia! Come look at your cubby! Do you want to pick out a book to look at?” And then she was gone. Jason, Z and I stood awkwardly wondering what to do. Finally we said “Okay…bye Amelia”. She ran over to me with her lips puckered. As I bent down, our lips barely missed each other. Amelia looked at me, giggled, told me I was silly & ran back to the bookshelf. Jason, Z & I walked down the hall and out of the building and that was it….
…..Amelia was in school.
People asked me all day if I’d cried. I didn’t. It surprises me a little…it DOES seem like something I’d do. I think a part of me still isn’t sure if Pre-K is officially school. I never went. Kindergarten is still the big day for me- it’ll be at the elementary school, there are real yellow busses involved. I don’t know, maybe I should accept it, I’m the parent of a school-kid. Amelia has a class and a teacher. I have to drop Amelia off and pick Amelia up at school.
Amelia is really in school.
By the way, I have a very clear memory of having my picture taken on the first day of Kindergarten. I was wearing a blue dress with a white collar (this actually could be inaccurate) and I was standing up straight, smiling, against a brick wall. This is what I could get from Amelia: