“I’m scared!” My daughter Nee shrieked. “I’m scared!” Tears poured down her face as her body trembled. My wife K tried to console her, but nothing worked. It was as if Nee were in a fear-induced trance.
“What’s wrong, Nee?” K asked again and again. “Tell, Mommy so I can help you.” After several more minutes of hysterical screaming, Nee finally calmed down enough to say, “I don’t want to go to school!”
K held Nee close and began to pray with her for God’s peace and protection. Once Nee was calm enough to start getting ready, K moved on to wake up the 5 year old, who immediately let K know that he was also nervous about going to school. K brought both of them to our bedroom and told me what happened.
“They both need a hug from Daddy,” K told me. I grabbed both children and squeezed tightly. I assured them that they had nothing to worry about.
And that is how the first day of school began.
My children don’t do well with change. They face all new experiences with trepidation. Going to a new school was a huge event for both of them. N was nervous about starting kindergarten and Nee was anxious about being a third grader in public school (she attended a private Christian school previously). Both were worried about riding the school bus.
K and I knew that the kids would have a hard time adjusting, but neither of us expected this level of anxiety. I’m glad that I was able to be at home on the first day. Having both parents there seemed to provide some comfort.
After getting the kids dressed and fed, I rushed to get them to the bus stop by 8:00 am. I didn’t want them to miss the bus on the first day. Of course, the bus was late, but it was okay because we got to meet some of our neighbors. N was happy to meet a kid in his class. Nee continued to have a bad attitude as I attempted to photograph and videotape the momentous occasion. She won’t be proud of these pictures when she’s older.
When the bus finally arrived, K and I helped the children onboard and immediately jumped into the van to meet them at school. Traffic at the school was a scrum of minivans, sedans, and school buses, each jockeying for a preferred parking spot. After navigating this maze of traffic, K and I eagerly awaited the arrival of our children’s bus.
The bus pulled into the line a few minutes later and kids marched out. A teacher instructed the kindergarteners to follow another teacher to the gym, while the third graders were expected to make their way to their classroom on their own.
Just as Nee began to panic, K grabbed her hand and guided her to her classroom. I followed the kindergarteners to the gym. N’s teacher gathered him and the rest of her students and had them sit quietly on the hardwood floor. I introduced myself and let her know that I was N’s father. I was disappointed when she told me that I could not go to N’s classroom with him. I was robbed of a crucial kindergarten photo-op.
I sat with N and talked to him for several minutes before I had to leave for work. He was still nervous, but he started to relax after I gave him a hug and a few words of encouragement.
When the school day ended, K and I went to pick-up the kids. We decided to save them the torture of riding the bus after school and opted to pick them up instead. However, the torture of waiting in the parent pickup line was much more unpleasant for K and me. After waiting for 40 minutes, we finally pulled up to the curb where the children were waiting. The kids were surprised, but happy to see that I came with K to pick them up from school.
As the kids buckled their seatbelts, K couldn’t contain her excitement.
“So,” K asked. “How was school today?”
“I didn’t like the lunch,” N said.
“But you had macaroni and cheese,” Nee said. “That’s your favorite.”
“Yeah, I know,” N responded. “But it didn’t taste right. Neither did the chicken nuggets. Even the strawberry milk tasted funny.”
“Welcome to the wonders of school lunch,” I said.
N continued with many more anecdotes about his day, but I could tell that K really wanted to hear about Nee’s first day experience. She had to press N’s pause button so Nee could get in a word edgewise.
“Tell us about your day, Nee,” K requested. Reluctantly, Nee admitted she had a “good” day. K was relieved. So was I. We celebrated the day with after-school ice cream at Baskins and Robbins.
I hope the following 189 days are just as good (minus the hysterical shrieking).