Oscar sets his face, but the slight quiver of his bottom lip gives away his emotion. He’s just been given a rapid set of instructions about line-ups and backpacks and bells and doors. It has only now sunk in that he’s about to leave his parents and step into the relative unknown. It’s his first day of kindergarten and he is taking the first step of a journey that may decades and will fundamentally change his life.
As Oscar's mother, today a different journey begins for me. I feel a stab in my heart as I sense his fear and it takes a deliberate effort not to scoop up my child and take him home. He gives me a good-bye hug and I feel him bravely steeling himself even while he clings to the contact a fraction longer than usual. Today I sensed a shift. He became slightly more independent, more his own person. He grew up a little.
“The first day is often harder on the parents than the children,” says Oscar’s kindergarten teacher. She must have seen right through the smile and casual pose I had put on, partially to put Oscar at ease and partially as a defence against the unexpected emotions washing over me in waves. I attempted a nonchalant shrug but I’m pretty sure I didn’t pull it off.
I surprised myself when I burst into tears driving to work. As proud as I was of Oscar starting a new stage in his life, I also felt the loss of the stages past.
Oscar’s first day was a success. He had his ups and downs but he’s very excited about making gingerbread people at school tomorrow. I consider my day a success, if only because I resisted the urge to race to the school to check on Oscar. I did manage to develop both an eye twitch and a neck twitch though. And I may have snapped at a few of my workmates - okay, all my workmates.
I know tomorrow will be easier - for both of us.