First Day of Preschool

I don't remember much about my first day of school. I don't remember what I wore or where I sat or the colour of my new backpack. But I do remember something: I remember being NERVOUS. I remember not wanting my mom and dad to leave me in that strange new place with all those other kids and that tall kindergarten teacher. Sure the sandbox was alluring and the crayons all sharp and new, but I was so unsure of myself; scared to do the wrong thing, sit in the wrong seat, or find the bathroom by myself. It was a scary new world and I felt entirely un-brave.

I was prepared with armfuls of empathy, ready to wrap around my little boy on his first day of preschool.

He needed none of it.

After visiting the school on an open house day last winter, Arie had been asking frequently when it would be time to go to "Ben's school?" (His big buddy Ben attended two years ago and Arie has decided to name the school after him. Never mind that Ben's sister currently attends… it's still "Ben's" school!) After an explanation of how long it would be until Ben's school started (first the snow will melt, then the spring flowers will come, then it will be summer time, and then you go to school!) came Arie's second question, "And I go all by myself right?!" Right.

I wish he would make his bed in the morning with equal all by myself enthusiasm!

Last year Arie attended an enrichment program one afternoon per week just for two months to introduce him to the concept of school. I was interested to see how he would do in his first large group setting that mirrored orphanage life. As I might have predicted, Arie stuck close to his teacher for the first few weeks, seeking her approval and looking to her for reassurance in the crowd. It was hard to watch him revert to that behavior but I knew he just needed time to feel safe. Sure enough as the weeks past he began to separate from her and interact more freely with the other children. It is truly incredible how resilient these little ones can be!

Anticipating a potential repeat of this behavior, I armed Arie's preschool teacher with some tactics (pushing reassurance over independence and passing on our family's "comfort phrase" Mama, Papa, and Arie are forever and ever and ever), but I'm not sure she'll need them. Arie walked into the preschool room on his first day, heart brimming with excitement. He picked out a space for his coat and backpack, found his name tag, and clipped it on with gusto. After clipping the tag onto this shirt by his little belly, he surveyed the activities and showed me just the slightest moment of apprehension, "Mama will you come with me to the sandbox?"

"Sure buddy."

I stood and watched with other nervous parents for a while, all of us contemplating our escape plan when finally I went for it.

"Hey Arie- I'm going to leave now but I'll come get you at the end."

Moment of truth. 

He flung his arms around my neck for a brief moment and chirped, "Okay Mom!"

And that was it. First ever preschool drop off complete. The sounds of a few other kids crying anxiously for their parents escorted me out the door and I wondered for a moment if their tears would become contagious for my sensitive little man, but he kept on playing happily in the sand.

It's a little strange to have a kid who is so different from you! I was still a nervous wreck on my first day of seminary for goodness sake. Whatever my little man has to make him so optimistically brave, I'd like a little of that!

On this first day of class, the preschool provided a light breakfast and coffee for parents, inviting us to stay in the building and meet one another until our children were done. Normally the class runs just over 2 hours but the first day was shortened to one, to ease the adjustment. I chatted and sipped my orange juice for the hour until finally it was time to go get the littles.

This was the best part of the morning for me! The children were seated on the floor in a circle, benches placed behind their backs where the adults could find a seat and listen to the day's closing storybook. Of about 20 parents, I came in halfway through scanning the circle of faces for the one that means the most to me. When my eyes met his, I saw his little neck straining up to catch my gaze. His face was absolutely glowing with anticipation, as if to say, "Mom! I'm right here! I know you're looking for me! I'm here!" A long white cord with a handful of beads and a hole punched paper frog hung around his neck. "I made this!" he whispered.

My heart beamed.

As an adoptive parent I find these moments deeply moving. I thought immediately back to the day when we picked him up from the orphanage and his nanny handed me a stack of pictures (scribbles) he had drawn along with photos from his babyhood. It was such an overwhelming emotion to think that for 2 1/2 years there had been no one to marvel over his meager creations like only a parent can, no mom or dad to search for his eyes in a sea of faces, to catch them and to say in an instant, "There you are! You're mine. You belong with me."

I remember poignantly what it felt like to not have him home, too. To walk around with an empty space inside, where he belonged.

Now he's here. Now he's home. Now he's the one I look for in a crowd. The little hand I reach out to hold. The one whose scribbled pictures and cut out frogs adorn our counters and tables and walls.

I'm so proud of my little boy on his first day of preschool. I'm excited to drop him off to share his beautiful smile and contagious happiness with his teacher and class three mornings each week. Most of all, I'm excited to drive over to his school at the end of each morning, to search for his little face in the crowd, and to take him home. Because he's mine and we belong together.



  1. So. So. Sweet. This post is perfect :)

    1. Thank you Amanda. I love reading your words!

  2. I am in tears reading this. As I get ready to drop Sage off and leave her for the first time EVER other than with grandparents. I love that I am not the only one who is excited to drop her off because I know it will be good for her, but even more excited to pick her up and hear all about her day!

    1. Hearing about their day is the best part! I hope it goes well!!

  3. Krysti W9/10/2014

    After following your story since my days on the Bump adoption board (around the time of your first trip to Russia), you'd think I would know better than to read your blog at work. In tears in my office.

    1. Oh that made me smile! Sorry about the tears; hope I didn't ruin your makeup! ;-)

  4. Love. Beauty. Perfect. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Anonymous9/10/2014

    I love this. How funny we posted our "first day of preschool" posts on the same day. Gus's was actually over a week ago, but I just got around to it today!

    1. I loved reading yours too! They are becoming such big boys!

  6. Happy first day of preschool, Arie! Too cute. His smile is beaming.

  7. Sweet, sweet sweet! LOVE the photos!

  8. Anonymous9/11/2014

    Love it!!! Well done Arie! And well done Mama! I have no doubt that he is going to be treasured by his entire class!


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