We'd been talking about school with him for weeks - how he'd be there with the teachers and the other kids all day for two days in a row, how he'd eat his lunch out of his lunchbox and lie down to have a rest on a mattress on the floor. He'd been getting really excited about it and I was pretty sure he'd love it, but I couldn't help but worry that he'd get nervous or scared at the last minute. Not so.
On the morning of the first day he jumped out of bed and said he wanted to go to school. He insisted on wearing his backpack all morning, even at the breakfast table, and he happily brushed his teeth and washed his face and posed for the requisite first day of school photos. Here he his is with his backpack and special red lunchbox. (I've lost track of how many stores I had to go to to find a lunchbox that was red, insulated, PVC free and not covered in cartoon characters.)
When we arrived at the school, he happily greeted the director and told her his name. We were then directed to a recently renovated building where we discovered little Saskia settling in to the same classroom - (her parents were in our birthing class and we've kept in touch since). Next we found a cubby to put Riker's things in for the day and then we proceeded to explore the classroom.
Unlike some of the child care centers I'd visited that left me feeling overstimulated and anxious, this space was a sensory delight. Full of natural light, the play spaces and decor were thoughtfully planned and the ambience was peaceful. There were turtles in one tank and fish in another and a table with magnifying glasses and leaves, pine cones and shells. Another table held a light box with interesting pieces of glass and stones and several others were set up with paper and small bowls of paint. There were comfortable couches, shelves of books, a large wooden dollhouse, a construction space and a corner stocked with cars and trucks.
It wasn't just the space that left a positive impression however. The teachers (there are lots of them and it will take another week or two to remember all of their names) have a very respectful way of engaging with the children. It irks me when people talk to children in condescending tones and the way in which adults speak to children conveys a lot about how they view them. When an adult is clearly interested in what a child has to say (or not) that message comes across loud and clear. I was pleased to note that the teachers clearly viewed the children as competant and capable and I expect the children in turn to live up to the confidence placed in them.
After chatting for a while with one of the teachers and another child near the fish tank, the teacher mentioned that whenever I needed to go I could sign the book and head off. Riker promptly said, "bye mama" and turned back to continue chattering away about trains and chickens. I took that as a cue that all was fine, stole a kiss and a hug and headed off. I was so busy beaming proudly that I didn't even shed a single tear once I left.
Later in the day when I arrived to pick him up, this was the conversation that ensued:
Mama.Hi Riker.Mama, I want to come back.Okay, well we can come back to school tomorrow.
No, I want to go home and get Diesel 10 and come right back.
I convinced him that we should spend the evening at home and then return the following morning with his special train and he agreed.
The next morning I was up packing lunch and making breakfast when Riker stumbled sleepily into the kitchen, rubbed his eyes and said, "I want to go to school." And with similar ease and excitement, he settled into his second day.
I hope the enthusiasm continues and I look forward to hearing about the new experiences that await him!