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Back to school: A tale of two first days

Submitted by on Monday, 24 August 2009 No Comment

One guy bolted out of bed, strapped on his backpack and bounced out the door, eager to get started at his new school.

The other trudged, stoop-shouldered, to his classroom.

It was exactly what I expected – except my mental images of which guy would leap and which would lag was the exact reverse of reality.


Big Guy was jazzed when we found out his new school was scheduled to start in less than a week. I was freaked out – I hadn’t even bought supplies, let alone filled out the mountain of additional paperwork his food allergies require.

He danced through the aisles at Target that night as we loaded the cart with pencils, fat pink erasers and notebooks – everything he’d need for the “6-year-old school.” Boots’ pout was partly erased when he got to choose his own new box of “Cree-olas.”

When we got home, he called his cousins and grandparents. If I hadn’t already tossed the phone book, he would have gone through it as well. “Guess what! I get to start my new school next week!”


When Boots last was in school, almost a  year ago, he wanted nothing to do with it.

He cried piteously as I dropped him off in the mornings. He wept again if Big Guy hadn’t arrived from kindergarten by nap time. He stomped through the start of every week, protesting his re-incarceration at that awful, awful place.

Absolutely nothing would mollify him – not a new backpack or a new Thomas lunchbox. Not being allowed to play in the older kids’ classroom, which featured a huge train table. Not even snack time, which ordinarily was his favorite part of the day.

The plan was to enroll Boots in pre-k once we moved. I was prepared for a few weeks of battle, but after a summer of battling both while I tried to work, I was ready for the final war.


We had registered both our first full day at Fort Irwin. Big Guy’s school actually started that day, but the staff couldn’t be prepared to handle his allergies in either the classroom or cafeteria that quickly. We agreed to delay his start until Monday.

“Can I see my class? What about my teacher? Can I look at the playground?” he asked as school officials scurried through the back-to-school chaos.

“No, hon. It’s just too busy right now. We’ll try to drive by over the weekend and check out the playground. You’ll get to meet your teacher on Monday.”

He was not happy at all. “Not happy” devolved to huffy the next day, when I went to orientation for Boots’ school and both kids got to preview the playground and classroom.

Boots grinned. “This is for me? A new school for me? I love my new school, Mommy!”

Big Guy growled. “At least you got to see yours.”


We never made it to Big Guy’s school that weekend – not that it would have mattered, because the playground is fenced, depriving him of the test drive he craved. To make matters worse, Big Guy’s school day starts only five minutes before Boots’ – that meant the Monday dropoff would be rushed.

We went to the office, where he met his new teacher. The three of us chatted for a few minutes, Boots tugging at my skirt the whole time – “Go, Mommy! It’s time to go to my school!”

We walked down the hall to his classroom, Big Guy’s sneaker scuffing the carpet the whole way. I dropped off a garbage bag full of the overflow school supplies that wouldn’t fit in his backpack.

“Can I see the playground now,” he asked his teacher pleadingly.

“Not just yet. I have to show you the rest of the building first. But you’ll be able to see it at recess.”

He frowned and slunk further into his Batman backpack. Hunched there with his arm in a cast, he hadn’t looked so small in years. My ability to sell the situation failed me. “I have to go now, babes,” I said, almost desperately. “You have a great day.”

“Let’s go!” Boots demanded.

It was Boots’ turn to be impatient when we had to wait to check in at his school. He  barreled over people in his rush to get down the hall to his classroom.

His teacher showed him where to hang his backpack and where to wash his hands. He pushed me out the door as soon as he’d finished.

“You leave now,” he said. “We don’t need no mommies at school.”

It was as if the world had started spinning in reverse. The school-hater, ordering me out. The school-lover wanting me to stay.

Big Guy’s misery intensified the second day as I dropped him off. “I don’t want to stay here,” he cried. “I miss my old school. I don’t have any friends here. Everyone else has friends.”

I repeated pep talk I’d given all summer. “You didn’t have any friends last year, but you made friends there. Just like you will here. Give it time.”

“I don’t want to go. Nobody will be my friend.”

“Try again today. Try walking up to someone and asking if you can play. I bet someone will say yes.”

“They won’t,” he said, so young yet so certain he was doomed.

I was afraid I was going to see more morose misery when I picked him up that afternoon. I was relieved to instead get one of his sunglasses-required smiles.

“Mommy! Guess what! I made a friend! Z played with me at recess. And he sits right beside me. And I made another friend, too, except I don’t remember his name but we all played Iraq Attack.”

Thank you, God, I thought.

“And I bet you’ll make more friends tomorrow, and the next day, too” I said.

“Yeah!” he replied. “I think I like this school after all.”

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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