When kindergarteners go off to school for the first time, there’s always a good bit of crying.
Even though not a tear was shed from my eyes the first two go-arounds with our oldest two children – now in fifth- and sixth-grade, respectively – I associate the first day of kindergarten with crying for good reason.
Picture it, a late August day in 1981 in rural, middle-of-nowhere Alabama, a bowl-cut blonde-haired, wide blue-eyed boy in thigh-high blue shorts with the white stripe down the sides, matching blue Izod shirt complete with green alligator and tube socks pulled to the knees awaits a ride on the big yellow school bus for the first time. Yeah, I got picked on… a lot.
Stay with me now. A 30-something mother stands beside him, filled with anxiety as she fights back the tears.
“You’ll be just fine,” she says.
“I know,” the boy responds with reassurance. “It will be fun.”
About the time Chilton County schools bus No. 57-82 arrives with Linnie Killingsworth behind the wheel – I can’t make all this up – the waterworks really start.
Years later, the assignment came down from above to be at the first day of school to capture the quintessential “crying mom” picture for the front page of the newspaper where I was working. In the prequel of marriage and children, it was more of a joke than anything. In retrospect, I was, quite possibly, just as naive as that boy waiting on the bus.
Flash forward to six years ago when my oldest child and only son made that same leap toward adulthood with the start of kindergarten. It all made a little more sense to me – the tears and all. I watched as his mom let go, and I understood it was more about being forced to do just that – let go.
While I swelled with pride that my son gained some independence, my wife saw her son go from a toddler in diapers to a young man in an instant.
The next year, it got a little easier with the middle child, but it was tough for mom nonetheless.
We’re now on the eve of our youngest taking that same rite of passage, and I doubt it will be much easier, at least not for mom.
Ah, who am I kidding? If there were some way to keep her this same age forever, I’d probably selfishly do it.
I guess part of growing up means accepting the things we cannot change. I’m still holding to my strict rule of no tears – at least on the outside, anyway.
On a brighter note, I was reading the school handbook the other day when I came across this passage included in the rules:
“Due to the unsanitary conditions created by the improper disposal of gum, students are not permitted to chew gum during the school day. Students who violate this regulation will be subject to disciplinary action.”
It’s just another example this rite of passage thing knows no bounds.
Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.