Today was pre-school orientation for the Boy, and so we went to be properly oriented. I don't actually know how the Boy really feels about pre-school since he can be so reticent at times, but I suspect it is a mixture of excitement and nervousness and a little bit of sadness -- the very same things I feel when I think about him going to school. I've been prepping him for school for the past few weeks, running through the entire trip from breakfast to pick-up time like a high school football coach running plays. The only thing I was missing was the white-board with all the little arrows and players, and don't think that I didn't think about making a stop at Office Depot (or the Office Despot as Hubby calls it . . .) So it is no surprise that school has been on the front burner for the Boy, and when he talks about going to school he is smiling and bright -- but almost too bright, you know? Like a brittle-bright, it looks good but won't it last. I know that feeling -- it's the way I feel after I've been home with a new baby for a week, and it's usually the first indication that I'll be filling a prescription in short order. I compare it to creme brulee; all shiny and pretty on the top, but easily broken with one well-placed tap of the spoon.
The first real indication of his true feelings came when we pulled up to the school. From the back of the van I hear: "Uh, you guys can just run in for a few minutes and I'll wait here." Nice try, but it's full speed ahead, buddy. Luckily, I love this school. It is like the cover shot for "Cute Schoolhouses of PA," and it is everything I want when I think of a place for the kids to begin their academic careers. It is a lovely old red brick home that was once a convent for the church next door (all that praying can't hurt), and his teachers are patient and funny and comforting.
As we walked up to the door, the Boy seemed happy, so I felt better -- I could even laugh when Hubby started singing "Welcome to the Jungle" under his breath. But still, I could feel that familiar pang at the bottom of my ribcage, that sense of time floating away like glacial ice floes. Change hung at my shoulder like a specter, and I felt it nagging on the periphery.
But then, almost suddenly, we were all inside and I remembered how much I really love school, especially pre-school. Everything is shiny and small, each toy has a labeled spot, each child has a special cubby to themselves -- it's how I want my house to be. The children were all milling around each other, such little citizens, with expectations of immediate friendship and goodwill.
Don't get me wrong, there were tears and assertions of ownership and shyness all around, and the room was as warm as an incubator from all the little bodies, but overall the Boy could see some promise in this place. When it was time to go, he was eager to help clean-up (a phenomenon I can never recreate at home) and happily walked out the door saying, "See you Thursday!"
He hasn't said much more about school since we came home, but when he does mention it, that brittleness seems to be gone. Maybe it was just a fear of the unknown for him, which is what I fear most about change myself. I can still feel it hanging there by my shoulder, and while I'm not ready to turn around and shake hands with the specter, I feel like I can lean into it.