Well, it happened. Today I dropped my youngest child off for his last day of Pre-K at New Horizon Academy.
Nearly six years ago, I never thought this day would come (or that at this point I’d also have a third grader, sheesh). Normally, my son would say goodbye and bound into his classroom with nary a second thought for Mom. And I loved that, because it meant he was happy and secure. This week he has been different: clingy, wanting a million hugs and kisses before joining the friends he’s shared every day with for the last two years, not wanting me to leave.
Kids are endlessly surprising. This little boy does not lack for confidence. This is the kid who walked up to a bench full of second graders at his brother’s last birthday party and yelled, “Who’s gonna move for this cool guy?!?” The child who was not afraid to tell his dad, “You not so awesome” or to look at his mother and shrug, “Her not nice.” The kid who has bounded happily into big brother’s elementary school at pick-up for the last three years, charming all the staff, and begging for the day he too got to experience this magical world of cafeterias and lockers.
I expected last night’s elementary school open house to be a breeze. He’d been there a million times! He hadn’t stopped talking about how excited he was for kindergarten! I knew something was up at dinner in the cafeteria when he ate only most of his pizza (this is a child whose toddler teachers used to joke about how he would pound the table in anger when he ran out of food) and completely eschewed the fresh plums, peppers, and cucumbers (at times the child can live on fruit and peppers). As soon as we walked into his classroom, he became a different kid. I thought he’d greet the teachers, run around and try everything in the new room, and be difficult to drag out in order to visit his brother’s classroom as well. Nope. He buried his head in my stomach, clutching my waist. He refused to make eye contact with the teachers or respond to their questions. He quickly unloaded his school supplies and was out the door.
Huh. Not what I’d expected.
I’m not worried. I know he’ll be fine. I know he’ll do great. A week from now, he’ll be the mayor of kindergarten. I have less than zero doubt about his preparation for this new adventure. But, it was a good reminder that transition is difficult for kids, even the most self-assured of them. There are certainly times even as an adult when I’m way out of my comfort zone and would refuse to speak or make eye contact if it were socially or professionally acceptable!
Standing in his pre-k classroom this morning, I felt my own pangs of transition. The walls and door were decorated brand new, ready to welcome next week’s eager class of four- and five-year-olds. The creations of him and his friends were no longer, now tucked away in hallway cubbies for the journey home. One boy said, “You’d BETTER hug me when I leave today, because we’re going to KINDERGARTEN!” I looked out over the busy almost-big kids scattered about, hammering here, stringing bead necklaces there. I thought of how well I knew their personalities, and some of their parents. And about how most will scatter to different schools next week, and that many of these relationships will fade away in the normal course of growing up.
On the way to school this morning my son said, in his still little-kid voice, “Mom, it’s going to be weel hahd to say goodbye to New Horizon, weel hahd.”
I’m with you, kid.