First-day fears

Columnist Chris Hunt spent his first day of kindergarten pining for his mom. Years later, he wonders if the same was in store for his toddler son

Chris Hunt’s son, Riley. Photo Courtesy Chris Hunt

I remember sitting in my first circle group on my first day of kindergarten. Everyone was staring at me.

My memory is a bit foggy as this was decades ago, but I believe it may have been because I was wearing a Monkees T-shirt with beige shorts, a true fashion faux pas at any age.

Or it could have been because I was crying like a drunk banshee. I was one of the youngest in that class and it was the first time I was really separated from my mother.

I was crying so hard that even the other kids were worried. One kid threw a toy car in front of me, hoping to shut me up. I threw it back. I didn’t want Hot Wheels. I wanted my mommy.

That was probably my worst back to school memory, and it was on my mind when Riley went to preschool for the first time.

For many parents, there’s at least a touch of fear the first time they send their little ones to school.

For some, that fear can be pronounced.

Will they be OK without me? What if the other kids are mean? What if they hurt themselves? How fiscally difficult would it be for me to quit my job and homeschool my kid?

But for my son’s mother, his first day of preschool was an ordeal like none other.

I remember waiting for my phone to ring, expecting the worst.

I should preface the rest of this column by saying I’m cheating a bit.  His preschool also happened to be the preschool where his mother worked.

Her fears were rather more specific than the ones listed above.

What if Riley refuses to listen to his teacher? What if all he wants to do is be in my group? He’s too young for my group, he’ll have to go to his own group. But what if he doesn’t want to? What if he pitches a fit at sleep time? What if he embarrasses my skills as a mother in front of my professional peers?

Suffice to say, she had some concerns.

I also had concerns.

I wasn’t sure if he’d adjust well to being in an environment populated with other children. His mother stayed home with Riley for two years, and she did a fantastic job of making sure he was always exposed to healthy social interactions, such as regular playgroups.

But intermittent playtime isn’t the same as being in a regimented learning environment.

In short, I was worried Riley would have a day like I did.  I had visions of him weeping inconsolably, wanting nothing more than his mommy, while his mother was worried he’d embarrass her.

Sure enough, early in the afternoon, my phone beeped.

I knew there was a good chance it was a message confirming one of our fears were realized.

But which one?

Here was his mother’s message, paraphrased:

“Your kid! He comes in and starts hugging all the girls in his group! And at nap time, when everyone was trying to sleep, he started to sing!”

I still think about that day and smile. His mother, not so much.