Memoirs of a new dad: School daze

Angela Jacques photo

When my son Riley was born, his mother suffered serious complications. She lost a significant amount of blood, so much he was only afforded a scarce moment on her chest before a nurse pulled me aside and asked if I was ready to take him.

I didn’t realize it, but she was subtly telling me there was a pressing need to provide medical care for the beautiful new mother lying before me. The nurse walked me over to a chair and placed my son in my arms.

He was crying. I looked into his wrinkled, furrowed face and thought to myself: Don’t worry. Daddy’s here. You’ll be fine, just wait and see.

Later that day we discovered he had problems latching onto his mother’s breast, so I had to feed him through a tiny tube connected to my finger. Each time I fed him, I thought the same thing: Don’t worry. Daddy’s here. You’ll be fine, just wait and see.

And I have been. I’ve been there for him his entire life. So has his mother. She took two years off work to stay home with him. When she went back she took him with her, one perk of being an early-childhood educator.

In short, save for those much-loved sleepovers at Grandma’s, he’s never spent a significant amount of time away from us. That’s about to change.

This September he starts school, and I’m honestly not sure if the transition is going to be more traumatic for him or for us.

There was never a doubt as to whether we’d put him in kindergarten. We both believe it to be an important first step in not only his intellectual development, but in his emotional and social growth.

And a 2012 study by Queen’s and McMaster universities with the Ontario Ministry of Education suggests children attending full-day kindergarten will be better equipped for scholastic success. Overall, their grades for reading, writing and math at the Grade 1 level were at least five per cent higher than kids who didn’t attend.

It makes sense, of course. The sooner one starts learning, the better one gets at it. The sooner one starts to interact with their peers, the easier it gets.

But as his start date inches (races) closer, I find myself fighting anxiety. I can’t stop asking myself if we’ve prepared him properly. Not with regards to the scholastic aspects. His mother has been smartly grooming him for months.

We need to teach him his ABCs, she said. He needs to be able to count to 10. Oh, and we mustn’t forget shapes and colours, either.

She’s taken exceptional care to make sure he understands the basic skills that will be taught at school.

It’s the social part I’m concerned about. Mommy and Daddy have always been there. How will he react when he’s on his own?

What if something happens? If he falls, we won’t be there to pick him up. When he cries, we won’t be there to wipe away his tears. I worry I’m launching him in the air and just hoping he lands on his feet.

Will he be inconsolable that we’re not there? Or will he not even care? I’m not sure which would bother me more.

I told his mother I wasn’t ready for him to go to school. She just smiled at me, and I knew what she was thinking: You’ll be fine, just wait and see.