Someone came up with a rule that on your child's first day of school, you are supposed to take a picture of them by your front door holding a chalkboard sign that says (in fancy lettering, of course) "First day of Kindergarten 2016." Naturally your child will be dressed in the latest back-to-school fashions with their hair styled perfectly. The whole point of this is to subsequently share the photo on social media.
Well, we broke the rule. Mornings do not agree with Sunny and i, so there was no expertly styled hair nor was there any spare time for pictures by our front door. Instead we hopped in the car with oatmeal residue still on her face and zoomed like escaped convicts to the school so that she wouldn't be late on her first day.
The same rule applies to the last day of school, except on the last day you have two options. You can either 1) retake another picture in the same spot as the first day and collage the two side-by-side to illustrate how much your child has grown, or 2) take a picture of your child hugging his/her kindergarten teacher with glowing smiles on both their faces. Option Number Two also involves a write-up about how wonderful the teacher was and how thankful you are for his/her role in influencing your child for good.
For a couple of weeks in May/June, facebook is filled with these end-of-the-year pictures. When i saw people posting pictures from Option Number Two, it really got to me. The reason it affected me was because the image of a happy, hardworking teacher hugging a beaming, fulfilled child was the exact opposite of our experience.
Sunny's first year of school was a huge challenge. She herself thankfully didn't know how difficult it was because she had nothing to compare it to. My problem was that i had way too much to compare it to. I don't remember my kindergarten teacher, but i sure remember the teacher i had in first grade. She was a legend. She was the epitome of everything a godly teacher should be. She was nurturing, caring, and wonderfully soft to hug. It's as if when God invented the job description of a loving first grade teacher, she was the prototype He used to build all the others.
I attended a private Christian school and Sunny is in public school, so of course i didn't expect her teacher to be exactly the same as a Christian teacher. But i did at the very least think that a kindergarten teacher would behave like someone who likes young children.
A couple of months into the school year, i found out that our school is a struggling, over-crowded, low-performing Title I school. I learned that the teachers were all horribly burnt out and exhausted. I could look in their eyes and see that on some days they wanted to quit on the spot. There are way more children with issues than can be accommodated. A couple of times a month, one of the troubled kids in Sunny's class would have a violent outburst of aggression that resulted in either physical damage to the classroom or physical injury to other students.
So when i was faced with other families' joyful pictures on the last day of school, i decided that we needed to have a major celebration. Sunny's kindergarten experience was awful but you know what? SHE DID IT. She made it through. Every day she returned to a room full of crisis, anxiety, and yelling. We all made it through, because it took a lot out of the Professor and I too. Because she wasn't aware of how tough her school conditions were, she wasn't aware of how admirable her perseverance was.
We kept the whole thing a surprise. The Professor picked her up from school while Bright Eyes and i set everything up (with Dimples following around trying to undo all our work). There were balloons, posters, noise blower things, and confetti. We sat in the front yard straining our eyes to catch a glimpse of the car coming down the street. As soon as they were in range, we held the posters up high and went to town on our noise blowers. The Professor pulled into the driveway and when Sunny got out of the car we cheered and threw confetti into the air.
At times she can hate being the center of a big fuss but i could tell she was touched. I feel confident that our little family party communicated what i wanted it to: that she is special and we are all behind her.
Who knows what her first grade year will hold, but i am so proud of her and thankful that the Lord carried her through that experience.
Dimples and Sunny