She sat next to me, we were packed in like sardines, and her eyes took in everything around her. I wondered if the noise from all of the conversations and kids surrounding us made it difficult for her to hear and how that might add to the nervousness and excitement of the moment. She sat quietly, drawing comfort from me on her right, and strength from her best friend who was sitting close on her left. It was Kindergarten information night. Her two years of preschool helped prepare me for this, but I was still drawing strength from my wife, who was sitting by my other side, with the orange information folder in hand, as we waited for instructions. This was still a big night.
Soon after the principle introduced herself on the crackly speaker system, the eight kindergarten teachers lined up in front, each with a piece of colored paper on a stick that matched the colors on the hats that were handed out at the registration table. My first thought, Ella’s hat was blue, her best friend’s was pink, but I learned this did not mean they would be separated for the entire next year. It was just their room assignment for the night.
One by one the colors were called. The little girl next to us stood clinging to her mother’s leg as her mom and multiple staff tried to coach her off the leg and out of the room. When the teacher for blue came down the center aisle towards us, a string of kids in tow, Ella stood patiently and waited for a break in the line before stepping in stride and heading out of the cafeteria. Now that I think about it, I don’t even think she looked back.
The next hour was full of Power Point slides and mini-introductions to the staff. Handouts in the folder were discussed and I’m still getting over the sticker shock of the estimate for the kindergarten supply list; they said it might cost around $70! Relief swept over me when I heard everyone in attendance was walking away with a backpack with supplies, but I envisioned a twenty pound heavy duty bag loaded with gear and was slightly disappointed when I saw the thin drawstring sacks that only came with a pair of scissors, a box of crayons and a token pencil. But, I still checked the scissors and crayons off the list with enthusiasm!
We heard about everything they would learn that year, and should be able to do by year’s end. More than once I turned to Erica with a wink and a nod, confident she already knew all of her capital and lowercase letters, rhyming words and, of course, punctuation. It was good to know what things to work on with her, too, like comprehension after hearing a story, recognizing 43 sight words, counting to 115, and sentence structure.
When we picked her up at the end of the night, one of the teachers told us what they overheard Ella say on the way to the classroom. It made me feel confident and proud of my little girl, who is constantly growing up before my eyes. Apparently, she commented to one of her fellow classmates or perhaps only aloud to herself, “And I’m not even scared!”
I think the biggest lesson of the night for dad was that Ella will be just fine!
Now that Ella has learned about Kindergarten I can tell she feels a sense of maturity. She informed Pax at the dinner table tonight with great pride, “I learned about Kindergarten” Her badge of honor is the blue hat, which she sees as some kind of early diploma, an important symbol that only kids who have gone to the Kindergarten information night can share. It’s like a bond. If she is out at the store with Erica and happens to see another little boy or girl wearing their Kindergarten information night hat, they will simply smile and nod, knowing they have both arrived!