The smell of a school always feels like home to me. It’s an indefinable combination of ink, floor wax, the ghost of school lunches, and pencil shavings. Every school I’ve ever been in smells the same somehow, and stepping though the door instantly transports me back to my teaching days. But this time I hold my daughter’s hand as we head down the hallway to a classroom that is hers, not mine.
After a few minutes of morning work and the hustle and bustle of the morning routine we line up, kids struggling with coats and inside-out arms, and troop out to load the bus. Charlotte confidently hauls herself up the first step, although it is her first time on a school bus. We sit together, she and I, as the bus lumbers onto the road. We watch the fences flicker by, laughing in surprise at the bumpiness of going over a familiar bridge in an unfamiliar vehicle. She snuggles against my side as I put my arm around her.
We finally pull into the parking lot of our local children’s museum. Charlotte stumbles a bit at the long step off but rights herself without my help. I gather my little group of three, Charlotte and two other girls from her class, and we spend the next few hours exploring the exhibits of this truly wonderful place. The girls are darling, enthusiastic in their exploration and patient as they take turns decided where to go next. I watch my oldest with surprise and delight as she happily agrees to someone else’s choice without a grumble. Is this the same child who, at home, always objects to not getting her way with loud whines and the occasional meltdown?Our time eventually comes to a close and we load back on the buses for a shorter trip to the park for lunch. We are an hour and a half past their usual lunchtime, and the kids let us know it with loud complaints and protests. I can’t blame them as my tummy grumbles too. The whining continues as we unload into the teeth of a freezing cold breeze. The weather app had promised high fifties, but we sure weren’t feeling it. There are more kids than picnic tables, so half of Charlotte’s class sits in a circle on the cold concrete of the pavilion. Charlotte crawls into my lap to eat, and we are both grateful for each other’s warmth.
We decided to load back up instead of letting the kids play on the cold and wet playground equipment, and take a roundabout way back to school that avoids the highway but leaves all the adults wondering whether the bus driver is lost. They are paving the road in front of the school, and we have a narrow miss with a pickup dragging a trailer as the bus driver tries to navigate the cones and unmarked lanes. finally a construction worker comes to guide us back to the school safe and sound.
I want to remember this day, this chance I got to experience what Charlotte does while she is away from me. I’m grateful for the interactions I had with her teacher and being able to put names to faces of the classmates she talks about. I’m thankful I could see that the boy who she sometimes complains about bothering her is not actually a bully, just immature, and being glad I didn’t have to bring my concerns to the teacher. The transition to kindergarten has been tough. Much like motherhood itself, people try to explain how your life will change but I didn’t really understand until I began to live it. We have turned the page on a brand new chapter, and the shift is noticeable in the way our relationship has changed. This has been an extremely stressful season, kindergarten being only a part of the reason (#moving) and the chance to spend concentrated time with my baby feels like a gift. I want to hang on to these memories, even as I hold my daughter loosely. I know she is growing away from me and that is right and good, and also the definition of bittersweet. Maybe sometime soon I will write about my experience as a homeschooler who is sending her daughter to public school. But for now I will just say it is a joy and privilege to watch her grow and thrive in this adventure of going to school, and to get to see glimpses of the girl she is growing into. What about you? Do you enjoy spending time with your child at school? What special memories have you made with your gradeschooler? I’d love to know what else I have to look forward to!