Remembering This Particular First Day

He was smiling ear to ear, excited yet patient. The same way he was at the mall that day in December. The day he waited to ask Santa Claus if he could go to the North Pole with him and be an elf.

Dressed in his brand new Mickey Mouse T-shirt and shorts and holding Little Brown Bear, he stood in line with the rest of the kids waiting to enter the school. He was noticeably smaller than all of them, by at least four inches. He was the youngest to enter Kindergarten that day because his birthday landed on New Years Eve. The cut off day to start school in Ontario.

But JT was already seasoned and experienced. By then, he had been attending a structured day care that included nursery school for over two years. This stuff was old hat for him.

A group of teary-eyed mothers stood off to the side, anxiously watching and waiting for the moment their children had to enter the building. A milestone that appeared to be upsetting for them. I didn’t join the group. I have never been an anxious, teary-eyed mother. I was happy my kid was going to school, happy for both of us. He needed much more stimulation than I could provide. I always needed to be more than his mother.

At the time I worked contracts and even when I wasn’t working, JT stayed in daycare/nursery school. He loved it. We loved it. The structure and stability was good for both of us. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my kid more than I loved anything else, but we did much better with quality time over quantity time. We could easily get on each other’s nerves. We still can, and he is now thirty. Yet we still enjoy spending time together, either in person or on the phone.

As a mom, my approach to parenting wasn’t the same as a lot of moms I met back then. My world didn’t totally revolve around my child. I didn’t treat him like he was some sort of miracle that only happened to me. Yet I could have as I was once told, after major surgery at twenty-one, that I would never have children. I was thirty-four when he was born and I didn’t treat him like he was any more than what he was–my son. A little boy who was special to me but shouldn’t expect the world to think of him in the same way. I didn’t gloss over all his warts as he now doesn’t gloss over all of mine. And as much as I wanted him to succeed, I certainly didn’t do everything for him. I provided access to resources; but he had to do the work, or in some cases–especially in one particular high school class, not bother to do the work. As he grew, I let him make his own decisions while other parents questioned my decision to do this. Especially when he eventually decided to study music. But why wouldn’t I let my son study music? Sure it may not be as lucrative as accounting, but some people aren’t cut out to be accountants. 

When the Kindergarten line started to move, the other mothers stood there holding their breath. Were their kids going to cry? Were they going to cry before their kids entered the building. Then JT turned around, smiled his big smile, waved at me with his free hand and said, “Bye mom. I love you.” That’s when all the other moms melted. AWWWWWW. And, in that moment, I felt like I must have done something right. 

Being a mom is an exhausting job. What I remember vividly is how tired I was for years on end. I also remember all the mistakes I made along the way. But, more importantly, I remember all the moments like JT’s first day of school, when I suddenly realized that I also must have done some things right. 

Thank you for reading. 

Photos:  Jenn Stone

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23 thoughts on “Remembering This Particular First Day

  1. Awww thanks for sharing your parenting thoughts and experiences with us. I on the other hand was quite opposite. I was that mother standing with the other parents wondering who would cry first, me or my son. But no matter how different our parenting was, we both had that moment when we realized we did something right. 😁😁

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  2. I haven’t been a mainstream kinda Mum either, having moved to the city for a few years while he stayed living in the country with his Dad & new stepMum. It wasn’t easy, but it was the best choice for him, I knew that. We spoke on the phone every day, & now we have an easy, respectful relationship as we come out of Covid times when he moved back in with me- he’s 22 now, & left home at 18. Everyone’s path is unique indeed, & we must resist the pressure to ‘conform’ to certain patriarchal ways… ❤️

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  3. I found parents who insisted on always trying to do everything for their children to be one of the biggest obstacles. Failure is part of life. Letting a child fail and pick themselves back up again is one of life’s most important lessons. Parents who equate love with doing everything for their kids are in for a rude awakening.

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  4. I think you got it completely right. Particularly love your comment “A little boy who was special to me but shouldn’t expect the world to think of him in the same way.” – so few parents seem to think like that (same as dog owners I think).

    I started school at 4 instead of 5 as my birthday was in the school holidays. I cried on my first day – I slipped on the metal doormat-thingie on the way in and landed right next to a huge worm. I’d never really noticed them before but found it horrifying and have found them horrifying ever since! My Mum was probably glad to get me out of her hair but then she ended up being the school dinner lady for quite a few of the years I was at primary school.

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    1. Oh definitely the same for dog owners. Especially those who treat their dogs like kids and want to dress them up and take them everywhere.
      I always figured the first day of school as a happy day for many moms. I know I did a happy dance every year when it came around.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this lovely memory! It is good to remember all the times we got it right as parents. It’s sometimes easy to cringe at our shortcomings instead of revelling in our shining moments! Love the photo!

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