Today marked the transition of the Bear from pre-schooler to student. She bravely marched into her combined Jr and Sr Kindergarten class, head held high, backpack on, and, well, a little tearful. But her day went well.
Everyone accidentally overslept this morning, and despite the previous night's preparations for the Bear’s first day at school, of course everything went wrong. Wrong snacks, wrong clothes, no 'first day artwork’ done, etc., and no time to make everything right.
I also missed taking the Bear’s ‘first day of school’ picture. Momma Bear has a picture of her first day at school, taken on the driveway before heading out, and I thought it might be a good tradition to follow. But with the rush and a big outburst of tears I thought that this might not be a Kodak moment. Without a picture we can let glossy memories fill the void.
I drove the Bear to school, as we do not have bus service ‘there’. We couldn’t arrange transport between the Bear’s IBI program – which is ‘out of area’ - and school, and the bus pickup time was unworkable unless we could teleport the Bear home. Once there I put her backpack on her and walked her across the parking lot to the Kindergarten door, and her EA came out to meet her. The Bear was a bit tearful, but walked in, and I had a very brief chat with the EA regarding the contents of her backpack, etc.
“What do we do if she cries?” the EA asked. “Well, give us a call and I guess I’ll come and pick her up”, I answered, thinking with my overprotective pre-school hat. The EA gave me a look and I realized that no, that was no longer an appropriate answer, if it ever was. “How do you calm her down?” came back a second question. I gave a lame answer and then it was time to go. I mentioned that I would be back at 3:00 PM, just in case there was an issue with the Bear taking the bus for the first time - feeling like the overprotective Dad that I told myself I would not be - kissed her goodbye, and left.
When I came back just before 3:00 PM, the buses were lined up, and three short buses were parked nearby. I went up to the drivers and asked if any of them had the Bear on their list. One did, and I introduced myself. I also asked if the bus driver had the same understanding I did (from the ASD coordinator) that the bus would come up our driveway. Nope.
I went back over to the school, met a couple of other ‘first day’ parents, and then the EA - who was helping with bus duty - came out. She said that the Bear had a GREAT first day. She was interested, looked all around the classroom, taking everything in, and went up to the other children and tapped or gently poked them - a cross between “Hello” and a curious “Who are you?” She ate her snack, only one diaper change, and she was now sitting in the Gym with the rest of the school, lined up in their bus routes. Would I like to go in and take a look?
I went in and was quite impressed with the efficiency with which everyone was being organized for the trip home. And in her line of two was the Bear, sitting and lounging back on the backpack she was wearing, smiling, and quite content to take it all in. Eventually she sat up and started crying. The EA went over to comfort her, while I deliberately stayed away and went outside.
Soon enough the kids came out and got on their assigned buses. The Bear came out and was still crying, until the EA took off her backpack. The tears stopped immediately. Dad kicked himself that he did not acclimatize the Bear to the backpack over the summer like he was supposed to have done. The backpack was fine, as long as someone else carried it. I think the Bear is destined for management.
She was supposed to get on her bus, but the EA first checked her seat and noticed that there was no child seat for her. She called over the bus coordinator and (nicely) called on him to make the obvious decision that it was not safe for her. So the Bear went home with me, while the EA indicated that she would immediately get the process started to get a seat installed for the Bear. Another issue, but I was impressed that the EA was conscientious enough to catch this and deal with it. On the way back to the car I noticed that the other two small buses had lots of children on them, which was also a relief. The ‘short bus’ was normal transportation here, rather than a source of stigma.
So, all round it was a slightly mixed up day with a few issues, but the Bear had a good first start, which is the most important thing. She is no longer a pre-schooler, but a public school veteran. Tomorrow she has her first full day, with IBI in the morning and Kindergarten in the afternoon, so we’ll see how that goes. But given how well the first day went, I think that the Bear might adapt to Kindergarten just fine.