Well, we survived the first day of school. But before I get to that, a couple of you asked what it was like when the school figured out that Kembe and India are not biologically twins, even though they share a birthday and last name. It was a funny moment. The big reveal happened prior to the first day of school, because I had to take in some paperwork last week and had the kids with me. The woman that I'd been speaking to over the phone, whom I'm assuming is the school secretary, saw us come in. She asked to we were, and I told her that we had spoken on the phone just a few minutes prior. She looked confused, and said she didn't recall. And then I clarified, with a hand on each kid: “This is Kembe Howerton, and this is India Howerton?” And slowly it registered on her face. She pretended not to notice, and was almost apologetic for not recognizing who we were, but there was definitely a flash of confusion for a few seconds, followed by some flustered attempts at acting casual about my ebony and ivory twins.
Back to this morning . . . I really wanted the morning to be a peaceful and positive time for our family. I feel like I sort of failed this weekend, because Mark and I were really focused on new house stuff. We had to order our kitchens this weekend, and there was a whole fiasco with the cabinets we wanted no longer being available . . . which led to me driving to four different IKEAs in the greater Los Angeles area over the course of labor day weekend. I don't even know how to describe what it's like for a crowd-hating introvert to spend several hours at multiple IKEAs on a holiday weekend. I think I'm suffering from some PTSD from the experience.
All that to say, we didn't have a big celebratory sendoff the night before school. We didn't make crowns, or bake a cake, or read affirmations, or read The Kissing Hand, or do any of the wonderful things that it seems like every single other person on Pinterest did the night before the first day. We ate fast food from Del Taco, gave the kids baths, and hurriedly put them to bed.
So this morning, I was really hoping that things would be a little more positive, and I would be a little more… SuperMom-ish? I woke up before the kids, and I put on my cheeriest face. This is no small task for me, given the fact that I am the opposite of a morning person. I am horrible and crabby and cranky in the morning. I’ve tried to change this, but it's there. So this morning, I had my game face on, and all was going well. And suddenly, the kids staged a mutiny on me. First of all, I had laid out new, matching outfits for each kid the night before, and every single child decided that they hated what I’d chosen for them. Each of them somehow wanted to wear something that was either stained, or worn, or ripped. Jafta wanted to wear his purple skinny jeans with rips in the knees so big that they're practically shorts. And Kembe was fighting to wear his baseball cap. I don't know the school rules but I'm assuming that's a no-no. And then there's the fact that, this weekend, I asked Mark to get Jafta a haircut and new shoes while I was doing the IKEA tour. Two simple tasks. Jafta was in desperate need of new shoes, so Mark took him took him shopping and got two new pairs, in a size that seemed suspiciously too big. He also took Jafta to get a haircut, violating the cardinal rule of African-American hair: he took into a nonblack barber. Yeah, I see you guys nodding, you parents of black children. You know what I'm talking about. YO U DO NOT LET NON-BLACK PEOPLE CUT BLACK HAIR. Let me just tell you, it is the worst haircut he has ever had. So I'm already bitter about the fact that he has a scraggly hair cut for the first day of school, and when he puts his shoes on and it's glaringly obvious that these shoes do not fit him – not even close, I about lost it. So Jafta goes to school wearing blown-out tennis shoes, a ratty Tony Hawk shirt that he insisted on, all topped off with a bad haircut. I'm feeling badly about sending him to a new school looking like we didn’t even bother for the first day, and of course all of this culminates in a fight with Mark, with me tersely yelling under my breath about how THIS IS WHY I CANNOT DELEGATE I AM SUCH A MARTYR WAHHH. I was really successful with that chipper, happy morning face.
So just to recap, by the time we leave for the first day of school, I've had a fight with three of my four children and also with my husband. And all of this negotiating over outfits and shoes has made us late, and I am stressed to the max.
We took the “twins” to their school first, and prior to school starting they have a “flag deck” every day. I'm not really sure how it goes on most days, but today it was a pretty big production. They had the fourth grade choir sing, they made us all sing together (with motions!), we did the pledge, and there were numerous announcements from the principal. If I didn't have another child whose first day was happening at a school several miles down the road, it all would have been lovely. But instead, the whole time I'm just thinking “hurry this thing up or I’m going to miss seeing Jafta off”, which is exactly what happened. Mark had to leave midway through the flag deck ceremony, and I thought that I would catch up with them over the other school. I was tempted to just leave the flag deck thing, but I could see that all of the other parents of kindergartners were still hanging around. I assumed (correctly) that after the flag deck, there would be another big goodbye, with kisses and hugs to all the new kindergarten students. I didn't want to leave and risk the twins watching everyone else get love and attention from their parents, while I was nowhere to be found. So I stayed, and gave them the requisite hugs and kisses before they walked off to their classes. But in doing so, I totally missed Jafta's morning. Mark texted me that Jafta had already gone to his classroom just as the twins were walking away. Cue tears.
Fortunately the kids held it together better than I did. Kembe and India seemed excited and positive for school to start. There was no clinginess, no tears . . . they were all smiles. There was a point when Kembe looked at his teacher, and then looked at me, and said, “Mommy, where is my REAL teacher?” I think he is still thrown off that he has a male teacher who looks like a Marine, and is waiting for some maternal figure to materialize. We said our goodbyes, and then like the sap I am, I cried all the way back to the car. I have been waiting and waiting for this moment, when the kids would go to school and I would have a little more time to work and a little less stress about childcare. And yet, here it comes, and I'm wondering where all that time went, and wanting a do-over of their preschool years. I should have been more present! I should have done more crafts! We never learn took that mommy-and-me class! (Because I never wanted to, but still!)
I went home, and I looked at Karis and wondered, what in the world are the two of us going to do together all day? We survived today, but it is going to be a really big adjustment for me to be alone with one kid. Having four kids has a lot of unique challenges, but one way that I'm spoiled is that my kids always have someone to play with. Karis seemed a little bored today, and I think I'm going to have to up my parenting strategy beyond yelling, “go outside and play in the yard”, which is my usual daily activity roster for the kids. In a moment of desperation for some excitement, I let Karis make her own sandwich. She INSISTED on peanut butter, bananas (that she cut herself), and mustard. And then she refused to eat it. Yeah, we’re gonna need some destinations.
I was nervous all day, wondering how school was going for all of the kids. When I picked them up, all of them had good reports. Kembe said he really liked his teacher and that he made a new friend. India also reported having fun playing with girls at recess, trying somersaults and running around in the grass. Jafta was able to find the boy that he met at a playdate this weekend at his recess, and they played together. He also played a lot of handball, which is his favorite thing to do at recess. In fact, seeing the handball court made this transition completely okay for Jafta. I asked how the school compares to his old school, and he said “it's the same”. It doesn't hurt that both schools were built at the same time and look identical to each other. You’ve got the exact same building, and the presence of handball court? If I hadn't explained it, he might not even notice it he's at a different school. I don't think he's really missing a beat.
So, this morning was rough, but it seems like everybody had a good day. No one sat alone at lunch on cried at recess, which is pretty much my measure of a good first day. Phew.
P.S. I’ve talked about my disdain for homework before, especially for younger grades. Now that I have three kids in school, I’m really wondering about what it might look like to opt my kids out. I’m talking about that very thing over at Babble today. I’d love to hear your opinion – click here to weigh in!