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Back to School [Stay at Home Nerd]

My son made a break for it. He cried when I pulled up in front of his new preschool and as I carried him inside he cried, “home, home, home,” while pointing in the general direction of our house. He tried to wiggle free of my grasp and I had to set him down to sign him in. That’s when he broke for the front door. He earned the name toddler by wobbling left and right as he stomped down the concrete path that led back to the car. I signed him in anyway figuring I could close the distance between him and the great outdoors before he got too far, but I was wrong. Fortunately, a second impenetrable gate proved to be his undoing. I scooped him up, told him it was going to be okay, and watched him cry “daddy” as I gave him off to his new handler. That was the third day of school.

On day one he didn’t see it coming. We’d visited the school a few times and every time we did he managed to find something to play with. He was happy to be there. New toys. New kids. New people. I’m pretty sure he just thought this was another outing we were taking together. I said goodbye, told him I would pick him up later, and left. It was hard not to look back, but when I left him he was more interested in Legos than anything else. I have no idea when it occurred to him that I wasn’t coming back, but at some point on that first day he got sad. When I picked him up he was so relieved to see me that he attempted to run up a small set of stairs two at a time. His little legs couldn’t quite keep up, and he crawled the last couple of steps until I picked him up. He was ready to go home and never come back.

On day four he slept through nap/quiet time. This was a good sign. He’d adjusted to his new surroundings and felt relaxed enough in his new routine to sleep. His teacher even said that he took his little socks off and nicely put them next to his cot. He participated fully in the day’s activities including the creation of some sweet refrigerator art involving the letters Q and R and the number 7. He still didn’t want to be dropped off and he still loved to be picked up, but maybe preschool wasn’t so bad after all.

My son’s temperature hit 101.4 on the first Sunday after that first week of preschool. My wife was out of town and I woke up almost every hour on the hour to check on him. 101.4 is not an alarming number, but it is only the second fever he’s run in his limited existence on this planet. His doctor affectionately referred to preschool as a “community of diseases” and told us to expect him to get sick 6 times in the first 3 months, 9 times in the first 6 months and 12 times in the first year of school. It doesn’t matter if that first year of school is preschool or kindergarten. As soon as we release our children into the wild we can expect them to return home covered in germs. He also said that if kids didn’t go to school with runny noses there would be no schools. If there were no schools, then I wouldn’t also be sick while I write this.

He’s been in school for three weeks now. Even though he was sick the second week, his fever was gone in a day and he wasn’t communicable after Martin Luther King day so we let him tough it out. It seems to have worked. He still doesn’t like being dropped off and he loves being picked up, but he knows his teachers and he likes them. Even when he cries in the morning he reaches for them with the knowledge that he is in fact going to school that day. He’s doing well during the day and his language skills have exploded. New words and phrases pop up every day. He knows a good chunk of the alphabet. Since he’s only two he’s the youngest in his class and doesn’t really acknowledge the existence of other kids, but they know him and they say “Hi, Grady” in the morning and “Bye, Grady” when he leaves at night. It’s only a matter of time before he has a little friend. He blows kisses to his teachers.

I remember thinking as I neared my High School graduation that I would never again have to deal with back-to-school sales, school supplies, textbooks, new back packs, school clothes and the like — that I would somehow be free of this yearly event for the rest of my life. When I think about dropping my kid off at preschool now, it occurs to me that he will be in school five days a week for most of the year for quite possibly the next twenty plus years of his life, which means I will be dealing with back-to-school sales, school supplies, textbooks, new back packs, old back packs, parent/teacher conferences, report cards, school clothes, gym clothes, school holidays, pick ups, drop offs, bag lunches, hot lunches, open lunches, bullies, teachers, principals, reading lists, camps, after school activities, testing, placement, teams, clubs, musical instruments, art, and more for the next twenty plus years of my life. And I can’t wait.

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