“Honey just stand there on the steps for a minute while I take this picture.”   Zach let loose a tooth filled grin, his collared polo shirt and dress pants looking crisp yet comfortable.  I snapped the photo of him, his new Lion King backpack proudly carried on his shoulders.  Today was his first day of Kindergarten.

I was fortunate that the school where I’d enrolled Zach started today, a full two days before the public schools in the area, including the one where I taught.  Zachary would attend a Catholic elementary school for his kindergarten this year.  While I was indeed Catholic (having converted to the faith that promised forgiveness for a multitude of sins, some of which I’d already committed at the time), what drew me to the school was more of their convenient location and their willingness to work with Zachary’s daycare for transport.  I would still drop Zach off at daycare as usual every day around 7:30, and the daycare would round up all of the kids who went to St. Mary’s and drive them over to the school, just a mile away, in a van.  Then the opposite would occur at the end of Z’s half day (and of course at the end of the regular school day).

This might sound like standard fare for the 2011 crowd, but in 1994, finding daycare in a world of half time kindergarten was a nightmare.  Many schools provided before and after school care on site, but that only worked for children enrolled in full day programs from first grade and above.  In our area, there were no full day kindergarten programs.  Very few daycare centers would provide transport between their site and the school due to liability issues, which made it extremely difficult for a working parent.  I wondered how other working mothers did this; did they have family or friends that would watch their child in the afternoons and put them on the bus in the morning?  I had no idea, because I had no other working mothers to ask in my peer group.  A few of the teachers at my school had kids, but many of them were older and so the situation was not the same.  The younger teachers that were my age either didn’t have kids or had babies that were in full time daycare, which didn’t give the same headaches.  I felt lucky to have found the set up I did, even if it meant shelling out a few hundred bucks in tuition for Z every month in addition to the daycare costs I already shouldered.

But this day was not a required work day yet at my school, so I would be driving Zach myself to his school rather than to the daycare center.  I buckled him in the front seat of my little car (again, back in those days there weren’t requirements on back seat placement for children or booster seats after age three or so) and drove the ten minute drive over to St. Mary’s.

When we arrived, I parked the car and walked my eager little boy into the building and marveled.  This building was at least as old as the building I currently taught in, but somehow everything was spruced up to the best it could possibly be.  The desks, which looked much like those in my own classroom, were placed in small groups with plenty of room to spare in the classroom.  The hallway walls were decorated and cheerful, and staff members were waiting at all of the doors to greet us as we walked in.  It was like someone had taken my building but put a shiny veneer of What It All Could Be Like on top of it.  I was pleased, happy I’d made a good choice for Zach’s kindergarten experience.

Z raced to find his name on one of the desks in the classroom we entered, shuffling around until he found an apple shaped nametag with his first and last name on it  I counted the desks as he did so.  Fourteen!  My goodness.  Fourteen kids in this class.  That was less than I had on a six inch snow day.  I snapped more pictures and looked around as other students and parents filtered in.

It took me a few minutes to really figure out why a knot had suddenly fixed itself in my stomach.  Then I realized; I was a good fifteen years younger than any other parent in attendance.  Most of the parents came in twos, happily transporting their charges to their first day of kindergarten.  I didn’t have any peers with kids Zach’s age;  some of my older sister’s friends did, but they were also older.  And married, as my sister was.  I could feel eyes stealthily slide over me without trying to look obtrusive; was I that little boy’s sister?  Maybe a day care provider?

I kissed Zach one more time and followed the line of parents leaving the classroom, speaking to no one.   Was I going to spend all of his school events feeling this miserable, comparing myself to the rest of the parents, wondering if I’d given him the best possible outcome with my choice?

I was starting to think that the answer was, indeed, yes.


2 Responses

  1. I’m reading this and I know it was a long time ago, but I really hope that you were able to find some parents with whom you had things in common. 🙂 It’s funny, I feel at the other end of the spectrum–I’m a good 15 years older than most of the parents where my kids go to school. It’s been four years now–and I’m definitely considered ‘an older’ mom. It took time, but I have become good friends with a couple of other “old” moms!

    I’ve been following your blog via RSS since you had your post syndicated on BlogHer. I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your story.

  2. Actually, Margaret, I’m sorry to say that I really never did. I was always so different from the other parents; first in my youth, then when I had more children (nobody else in seventh grade had a pregnant mother). I would go to the family nights at school and my son and I would sit there alone, or I’d sit in the back at the choir concert and realize I knew no one else there.

    Now that I have other children, I have found other moms with whom I have things in common with. I had no idea how much I had missed out on by not having a peer group of parents to commiserate with about my child. None of them are preparing for a college graduation and a First Communion within two weeks of each other, but I’ve still been able to find common ground…finally.

    Thank you for your comment! I often wonder if anyone is out there reading this.

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