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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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Friday
Sep112009

First grade, holy crap

Two days ago, my baby started first grade. FIRST GRADE. How the hell did this happen? I remember first grade. I remember it all too well. Eating liverwurst sandwiches in the cafeteria and wondering why my friends moved their seats as soon as I opened my lunch box. Trying to teach the other kids to read, as they ran from my clutches. Wetting my pants with alarming regularity.

I was a weird kid. Are you surprised?

Henry declared before school began that he hated school. He was not even a little excited to go, he claimed. Nor was he nervous. He just wasn’t into it. Couldn't care less. There was a lot of shrugging and eye-rolling. On the walk to his first day, he asked how long college was, and when we told him it was four years, he balked. "No way am I doing that," he said.

"If you want to be an astronaut," Scott pointed out, "you might want to reconsider that."

"I’m not going to work," Henry said. "I'm just going to live with you."

Oh, kids. Kids who think they're going to want to live with their parents once they're grown up. Adorable! Actually I never felt that way. But clearly my son is nothing like me. For one, he has excellent bladder control. And he doesn't know what liverwurst even is. Which is probably for the best.

So we brought him to school with little protest—he wasn't scared or whatever, you'll recall, just so not into it—and when he got to his classroom he saw his friends and his teacher was all smiley and beautiful and full of bubbling positivity and I could see Henry thinking, "Don't act excited. Stay cool, man. STAY COOL." He shook our hands, then saw that his friend Nicky was kissing his parents goodbye so he figured that was okay. No hugs, though, MOM.

We high-tailed it out of there and Scott and I went for a celebratory, our-kid's-in-school-finally breakfast, but as soon as we sat down I abruptly morphed into The Angriest Person in the World. There were these kids (who I guess are in private school, which maybe hasn't yet begun? or they were truants and I should have called the goddamn authorities) who kept running in and out of the café, in and out, in and out, giggling loudly because apparently there was something hilarious and exciting about this journey, and they were wearing flip-flops so their feet were making these slappity slappity noises as they thwapped in and out, back and forth, and their mothers seemed just as delighted by their behavior as they were, for some reason, and I was like, Scott? Is it just me, or should these girls be killed immediately? And then I saw that Scott was on his iPhone posting to Twitter so I muttered angrily at my muffin for a while, which by the way was sub-par. He kept on Twittering, oblivious to my loud and insistent glaring.

Finally I said, "I wish I had that crazy vampire strength they have on True Blood where I could just reach over and crush your phone into bits."

That got him to look up. "What? Why do you want to crush my phone?"

"Don't Twitter when we're having quality time together as a loving couple," I hissed, and he actually said, "I can't imagine why I'd want to be on Twitter when you're such delightful company." Can you believe he said that, Internet? CAN YOU?

Okay, fine, be on his side. Whatever.

After we finished our breakfast—him all irritatingly good-natured, me filled with bile and rancor—Scott headed off to work. I had the whole day to myself! For once! With all this work to do, and stuff, so it was about time. And I got home, and tried to work but there was this pain in my midsection. I couldn't quite figure out where it was. It floated about. Was it my heart? Was I dying? Or was it the muffin? Unclear. The only thing to do was curl up on the couch for an hour or three and think about how much everything was terrible and awful.

That's when it occurred to me, in the fetal position on my couch, feeling the furrows between my eyes deepening as I scowled harder and harder, that I was sad. Because my baby was growing up. Goddamn it all to hell.

I swear I'm usually not this clueless about the workings of my psyche. Usually I am on board with crying right away and getting it all the hell out. It's all right to cry. As we know. Take it, Rosey Grier!

For whatever reason I couldn't get past the discomfort and horror of time passing and just let it all out so I laid there curled up, whimpering and mewling, and I actually tried to squeeze out some tears but could not. So unsatisfying.

Henry's having a great time in school, by the way. It's only been two days and he's already announced that he loves school and can't wait for homework. Today was the first day they all got to walk into the school without their parents. He was so excited to find his classroom all by himself. I tried to catch his eye as he followed his friends into the school, but he didn't look back.

Reader Comments (60)

Maybe blogging gets the sad out of you?

"It's all right to blog..."

P.S. Right here with you, BTW. My youngest just started first grade. I was all sad about my baybee growing up too fast, right up until I returned to my empty (for the first time in eleven years) house and drank an entire cup of coffee without having to reheat it in the microwave even once.

I hope Henry's love of school tempers your sadness a little bit.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSheila
The tears will come soon...maybe while watching a random old episode of Roseanne which has nothing to do with anything and then suddenly your bawling because...Oh, wait, that was me! I'll bet they'll come soon anyway and then you'll feel SO much better!
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarahd
Aw. You made me well up, if that helps. (No?)I would have totally said the same thing to Scott, btw. Well not the same thing because I don't watch True Blood so the reference would have eluded me, so I would have said something less pop-culturally zeitgiesty but with a matching sentiment.

September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdiane
I ate liverwurst too.

My children haven't looked back. Now they are in college, or working. They use electronic media to contact me. There is a place, for electronic media, in love.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLPC
The day will come when he will call you from college to tell you that his roommate has swine flu. Just thought you should be warned.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCandy
i remember my first day of first grade. i was terrified. it was my first school day in an english speaking country. i spoke only a few words, understood a few more and oh it was awful. it was awful for a while, but i survived.years later my mother told me that she would cry on her way home every day for a few months.



September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbeyond
my youngest just started first grade yesterday. i hoped and hoped she would go in with no fuss and she did. and did again today. and didn't even notice me waiting at the window of her classroom for one final wave goodbye. i hoped she would be ok with this major big kid stuff because life is so much easier when they are ok with things. but you know what? it'd be nice, too, if she wasn't quite so ok with it. momma needs a little bit of fussing, after all.

after school she said she was have the most awesome day of her life.

i guess she doesn't remember all those awesome days with me before the awesome stupid grade one came along and broke her poor mother's heart.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdenice
Oh, Alice. I'm so glad I'm not the only one. People have been staring at me like I have antennae when I mention I'm still not over my daughter starting kindergarten ON AUGUST 18. I thought it would be no big deal. I don't even like babies. I just don't want her to ever leave me. But I don't want her to stay. I just don't know what I want.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRita Arens
Aw, Alice.

It's like Rosey sang, while swaying awkwardly but sincerely. It's all right (to cry).
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTherese
I am so completely on your side about the tweeting.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
The not-looking-back part is painful, isn't it? I hate the not-looking back.

*sniff*
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChookooloonks
I know. My youngest started first grade this year. Ow.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhi kooky
Although, in fairness, the thwapping of the flip flops could drive even a sane person to hurl a muffin.

I hope you're feeling less sad-like as the weeks progress. I'm already sad about my daughter going to preschool for a full day next week. But I think mostly that's about me having to pack a lunch every day.

September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermom101
I'm with you. My baby, my only child, started first grade August 24. I got a bit choked up watching her file into the school--they never let parents take kids into the school, not even in kindergarten, something about developing responsibility and independence, and they always have this ceremony on the first day when the kids march off by classroom to the Rocky theme music. But the worst was yesterday, when she woke up and ran to me to tell me that she had a loose tooth. And she did. I couldn't believe it. She's going to lose her baby teeth and get adult teeth, and that means she's not a baby anymore.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen
My 2.5 year old daughter started pre-school yesterday and I was TERRIFIED. That she would FALL APART. And DIE. Without her LOVING PARENTS. Except that she's been shuffled off to one of her grandma's houses 5 days a week since she was 6 weeks old and she knows we always pick her up after work so it didn't really matter at all to her that we were leaving her in a strange place where she didn't know anyone because 1. "THERE WERE SNACKS!!!" 2. "AND A TURTLE! NAMED NORMAN!" and 3. She knew we'd be back at 4:30 like we always are. There were no tears when we said goodbye, just a cheerful "OK, bye, see you later!" and a little wave. My husband grilled the teacher when he picked her up..."did she cry? no? not once? she didn't ask where we were? she had fun all day? really?" Hrumpf.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBertha
Can't believe Henry's in first grade...I know what you mean, time goes so fast and you want to hold it still.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMauigirl
"oblivious to my loud and insistent glaring" - I love it! Can I use that on my husband?

My little girl started 1st grade back in August. We went to the school the day before school started and met the teacher and saw some friends. The next day I watched her get on the bus and off she went. Then I cried.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMitzi
Oh my god - that last line just killed me. Alexander started 2nd grade a few weeks ago and for the first time I am really starting to feel him pulling away - that thing that you absolutely want to happen because it's really good for them but...wait! already? I am glad that Henry is loving 1st grade and know that you will too. xox Shwen
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShwendels
I remember when my daughter started school. I came home after dropping her off and sat on the couch. Just sat there. I was paralyzed with the freedom and didn't know what to do with myself. I mean, I had a million things to do, but I couldn't seem to get moving without her little body around me. I missed her and it had been so long since I had had that kind of freedom.

After a while of this I finally decided to take a baby step and watch some television. Of course, it was set to a PBS station, and there he was - big, fat Barney - singing away about manners or something.

And then do you want to know what happened? I WATCHED IT. The whole show. When I didn't HAVE to. BECAUSE I WANTED TO SEE WHAT HAPPENED. I wanted to see how Barney and the kids figured out this manners issue.

Yeah, that was a low point.

My daughter is 13 now and the pain of letting go doesn't go away, but you do get better at it. Give yourself some time and hang in there.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel E.
long time no-commenter here.

thanks for getting it and writing it down for the rest of us. i'm still wiping at my tears.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjenn weber
I remember when I was in kindergarten, we had to walk past the first grade classroom to get to the gym.

Oh, how I coveted the first graders and their classroom. They had DESKS! They got to use WORKBOOKS! They were huge,got to bring lunchboxes, and I loved them.

Congrats Henry! You have arrived.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhighlyirritable
Oh, Alice, I am right there with you! My daughter started kindergarten last week, and in the days leading up to the big First Day of School I stomped around the house, kicking things out of my way and snapping at everyone. I couldn't figure out why I was so grumpy (not PMS, definitely not work stress because I am not working at the moment).

It finally dawned on me that perhaps, just perhaps, I was a wee bit sad about my baby growing up and heading off to elementary school and then college and then meeting someone in the Peace Corps and deciding to live abroad for the rest of her life and BREATHE, already, it's just kindergarten.

At least Henry plans to live at home forever!
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Today is my son's first day of full-day kindergarten. I've been holding it together pretty well, but reading this has released the floodgates, and it feels pretty darn good. Thanks, Alice. (Longtime reader, first time poster.)
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Today was my son's 2nd day in his first year. He didn't look back today or yesterday, so I was in a bit of funk of doom as well, over these couple of days.

I'm currently on maternity leave with our 2nd boy, so after I dropped him off at the school I went round to the shops to pick up some bits and pieces. On my way back I have to pass the schoolyard, and just as I was walking by, Ben's class started to spill outside for their morning break. He saw me straight away and came running to the fence.

AND THEN he gave me a little kiss THROUGH THE FENCE.

I went home and burst into tears. GAH!

Be strong, Alice!

September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicola Proctor
Ok, Alice. I thought I was handling the fact that my first baby was in COLLEGE, AWAY FROM HOME, just 6 miles away. (I still do not believe I am old enough to have a COLLEGE STUDENT-aged child). Then I walked my 8 year old baby girl to class this week and was thinking how I was really missing her and that she is the neatest kid etc etc etc and her assistant principle stops me in the hallway and tells me that baby girl is getting SOOO BIIIG. I almost fell into her arms and sobbed... then she went on to tell me that she noticed baby girl's face was losing its baby fat and she was getting taller and more mature... I swear my chest was heaving and my eyeballs were going to explode.

I'm better now. Baby girl just came in from playing in the rain, wait, in the mud (go see www.erthsongs.blogspot.com) and I haven't heard from oldest son since he moved out... three days ago. He hasn't even texted me.

And, for what it's worth, 13 year old middle son is fine. I think...

September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Nowak

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