So, after all the reported trauma of Sam's first day of school (during which I never left the building) (and which lasted less than two hours), I could hardly be expected to make it through his first full day (Friday) (which began and ended with a solo bus ride) (and lasted eight hours) without shedding a tear or two.
But it was just a couple tears, and I held them back until the bus drove away.
I spent the day getting stuff done at home, where I could stay close to the phone, just in case. It rang lots of times, but it was never the school telling me Sam had already had three accidents and soiled his last set of clean clothes. Success!
I don't think Sam would have described his day as successful, however. In fact, moments after getting off the bus that afternoon, he was in tears again because his teacher wouldn't let him bring home his (stuffed) puppy. I also learned about a tall five-year-old named Barnaby* who told Sam he couldn't sit on the storytime rug. He didn't really have anything positive to say about school, and by bedtime that night Sam had concocted a plot for the two of us to sneak into the school and take back his puppy. After that, he planned to be done with school forever.
I'll admit I was a little bit worried about all of this. And he did get me a little vaclempt with his earnest pleas to let him stay home with me and Grace. "I just love you so much," he told me. But I made it a point to be upbeat and enthusiastic. I reminded him that last year he didn't like ABC School** very much at first, but once he got used to it he loved it. Always ready with his next objection, he said, "But I don't want to go to a school with a teacher."
I fretted all weekend, until we had an unexpected breakthrough. On Sunday night, when Sam saw the snacks I'd stocked for his lunches, he suddenly couldn't wait to pack up his selections and get going. "I wanna go to school," he said enthusiastically.
There were still a few tears about Puppy on Monday morning. I suggested that we pick out another stuffed animal to take to school so he could bring Puppy home. "That won't work," he assured me. He still didn't think his teacher would let that puppy out of her sight. "I'll write her a note," I explained. "She'll send him home if I write her a note." He looked doubtful, but finally agreed that we could pick out a new animal after school. "It has to be snuggly with soft fabric and have airplanes and frogs on it."
I wasn't sure I could really meet his specifications, but I nodded my agreement and we headed off to the bus stop without further incident. When the bus arrived, Sam took Ray's hand and boarded without looking back.
He came home Monday afternoon cheerful, without a mention of Puppy or the hypothetical new snuggle toy. He did mention that Barnaby said he wanted Sam's lunch, but Sam didn't give it to him. I'll wait it out a few more weeks before I raise the alarm about the Pre-K bully. But be warned, Barnaby. I've got my eye on you.
All in all, I'm surprised at how quickly Sam has transitioned from anxiety to enthusiasm. I'm still alarmed at how small he looks in that giant backpack. And I still think the school day is a little too long for a four-year-old. But I just love him that much more when he comes home. Look at him standing there. How can I not?
*Not his real name, just in case he's innocent.
**A once-a-week co-op preschool with a group of friends from church.