Olive starts kindergarten today, at our neighborhood school, where I work as a counselor.
I told Nick last night, "I'm a little emotional tonight because I won't be able to be tomorrow."
I'll be the one in the hallway helping other people's children cross the threshold of public education, of eight-hour days away from family-- and my baby is crossing that same line.
"I'm a little bit scared," Olive said when I tucked her in bed.
"Everyone is who starts school, Sweetie. We all feel that way when we start something new."
And sure she's been attending full-day preschool since she turned three but there's something different about kindergarten.
Its the beginning of homework and tests and my child in a roomfull of others compared along a spectrum of success.
"You'll see me at recess. Recess is when you get to go outside and play."
"I may not want to play. I may just want to be with you. For the first day."
"You can come give me a hug if you want, but I bet you'll want to play." I joined Olive in her bed and for the first time in awhile, didn't want to rush out of her room for adult only time.
I know Olive is ready but am I?
I'm nervous about all the hidden and not-so-hidden rules and social norms Olive will learn in school, the social hierarchy of children and the violent images that children living in poverty hold.
Over 80% of the kids at our school live beneath the poverty line. Most of the families that live in my part of the zone choose charter or optional schools instead of Airport Heights. I understand their desire to give their kids an alternative educational experience, I get it, and I see the injustice this system does to the kids and schools left in their wake.
So my family chooses to walk around the corner to our neighborhood school instead of driving our children across town.
It helps that I work there.
And yet none of this is helping me this morning as I anticipate Olive in her new purple dress walking into room 12 for her first day at Airport Heights. I may need a moment in my office, with the door shut, as Mom, before I can face all the other families as Counselor.
Olive walked easily into room 12 this morning. I hung in the hallway for a moment before walking to the main office to share my "Words of Wisdom" as part of our morning announcement. When I said, "With something to think about this is Ms Christy..." I thought of Olive sitting at her blue table hearing her Mom's voice over the loud speaker.
I walked past her room afterwards and saw her sitting upright with play-dough in her hands. She glanced at me, her eyes lit up, but she quickly turned back towards her teacher.
On my third attempt to walk past and peek in the room another kindergarten teacher beckoned me to her room and I introduced myself to a 5-year-old girl standing apart from her peers, crying in the corner, my Counselor Hat firmly back on my head.
The morning flew past and next thing I knew I stood outside waiting for the kindergarteners to emerge from the building for recess.
When they finally made it out from lunch, missing at least ten minutes of their 20-minutes of outdoor time, Olive ran right past me to play amongst the birch trees. She rolled a tire across the grass and tried balancing on our new slack lines. She waited in line for the one tire swing and when the bell rang she sprinted to the cone and claimed the front of the line.
As I watched her stand still and tall, eyes focused forward, in line at the third most diverse elementary school in the nation based on the even distribution of our students: Hmong, Samoan, Alaska Native, Hispanic, Philippino, African American, Caucasian, I saw something else she can only learn at a place like this: Acceptance and compassion.
"I like kindergarten," Olive told me tonight.
"I'm so glad." We sat on the couch reading her parent newsletter together.
"Did you know your bandaids falling off your elbow?"
"That's OK. I'm better."
I kiss her on the head.
"Mom, I'm going to put some bandaids in my backpack to bring to school, so if someone gets hurt I can help them."