I thought it would be a big hassle not to get to send Nels to school on the bus (a privilege we lost due to budget cuts and the fact that we live less than a mile from the school.) It turns out that there are all sorts of good things about taking him myself:
-We don't have to be out the door quite as early (15 minutes is an eternity in getting-ready-for school time.)
-I can do someone else a favor. Willem's pre-school teacher has a son who attends Nels's school, so when I drop Willem off, I exchange him for Isaac and then take the big boys to school.
-I can meet the families we live near! When school gets out, all of the kids who don't ride the bus funnel through one little gate past Mr. Cleary, the librarian. All of the parents of the "walkers" stand around and wait for their kids. I haven't branched out much yet, but I've chatted with the mom of one of Nels's friends and I am glad to get to know her.
-We can walk! Isn't life better when you can walk to the places you need to go? Friday garage sales are an added bonus. Willem is one remote-control car richer and Nels now owns a motocross helmet thanks to our decision to walk home one fine Friday afternoon.
Another misperception I had about this year is that it would be just like last year for Nels, only with longer days. But the difference between Kindergarten and first grade extends beyond the obvious quantitative one.
From birth through Kindergarten, I have held Nels's hand. His movements have been accounted for, his waking hours supervised. And now, this year, he is independent in a way he's never been before. When he walks out that school gate at 3:30, he's a free agent. It's nobody's job to keep track of him but his own. And it's been an unexpected thrill as a parent to watch him rise to the occasion.
For instance, Nels wanted to invite some friends from last year's class to his birthday party, but I had no contact information for any of them. So we put together the invitations and I sent them to school with Nels to pass out at recess, trusting him to get it done.
I thought it would be asking too much to put names on the invitations and have Nels match them to the right kid, so I left the envelopes blank, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. And it worked! (Well, mostly. I was very surprised to get a call from a girl's dad saying she could come to the party, because not only was she not on the invite list, but Nels was quite certain that he did not invite any girls.)
Another time, Nels came home without the water bottle from his lunch box. We told him to try to get it back the next day. To our delight, he came home with the water bottle. Whoop-de-do, right? But it was a big deal to me, because he handled it.
First, Nels went and checked the lost and found. The bottle wasn't there, so at lunch time he asked the principal (who apparently has lunch duty) for help. The principal didn't know about it, but he pointed Nels to the custodian, who helped him find it.
Initiative! Follow-through! The emergence of these grown-up qualities has taken me by surprise. It's a welcome development, but bittersweet. I am less inclined these days to roll my eyes at the folks (you parents get this all the time, don't you?) who stop me in the grocery store when I'm with the boys and tell me to enjoy it, because it all goes by so fast.
Because it does. It all goes by so fast.