Suburban Snapshots

Anticipating Kindergarten

Monday, May 13, 2013

I picked up Anna's kindergarten registration papers back in March and promptly put them in the pile on my desk that I ignore until it cascades onto the floor. After a few weeks I filled out what felt like a thousand duplicates of the same guardian, medical, and emergency contact information, and put the blue folder in a less cluttered spot in my office.

On Friday, I tucked a utility bill and her birth certificate into the front pocket and carried the complete set to Anna's kindergarten evaluation. I was having pretty standard feelings about the day; excitement for her new adventure — my girl, already riding a two-wheeler and minus one tooth — pride at watching my now five-year-old walk confidently into the school and take her seat in line, and the hope that even when she's too tall for these small, plastic chairs, she will not have outgrown the friends she's already made.

A teacher came and ushered our fidgety children into a classroom while a woman from the PTA educated us on boxtops and fundraisers, and the school principal assured me that even with a full-time job I'd find time to volunteer making copies or popcorn or whatever needed doing to support her staff. It was all so optimistic and exciting. She mentioned that the kids would go to the library and the gym, have lunch in the cafeteria, and it seemed so far from the two rooms where Anna currently spends her preschool days — these halls of a big-kid school smelling of glue and pencils, the rows of desks, the walls papered with art projects.

And as we took the tour, winding through the halls, peeking into the classrooms, a thought: What are the escape routes? I wondered for a second how hard it would be for someone bent on harm to move from room to room in this floorplan, to slip in unnoticed. I caught myself scanning for safe hiding spaces, for solid doors and emergency exits. When we circled back to our chairs, the woman from the PTA showed us a past yearbook. I thought, These kids are no different than those kids. Sandy Hook could have been anyone's kids, Sandy Hook was everyone's kids.

Early on a September morning I'll no doubt be negotiating outfits, cereal, and the appropriateness of her shoes. Anna will be anxious to leave, she'll ignore me when I ask her to slow down and she'll run headlong for the friends we'll walk with to school. We parents will have our smiles on but our tissues ready, we'll have comforting good-byes on the tips of our tongues, and just the smallest nagging worry in the backs of our minds. On the first day of kindergarten we'll walk our own children to school and carry twenty more in our hearts.

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