We’ve had the list of items that my son, Eddie, would need for daycare for about two-and-a-half months, and yet it wasn’t until 25 minutes before his first day that I decided to see whether we had everything we needed. Of course, we did not. I jumped into my car and raced over to our local drug store to buy two rolls of paper towels, two boxes of tissues, two boxes of baby wipes, a box of diapers and two green gummy pacifiers (appropriately called “soothies”). I also bought a package of sticky labels because I was told everything we bring in to the classroom must have his name on it.
While I shopped, my husband, Bruce, made Eddie oatmeal and put in brown sugar, raisins, bananas and honey, leaving a sticky mess all over the kitchen table. As soon as I got home, I dumped everything I’d bought out onto the table. I spent the next three minutes wiping all of the items down with a warm sponge, to remove the honey. Ten minutes left until we had to leave.
With a Sharpie pen in hand, I quickly labeled everything, from Eddie’s sandwich to his slacks. I considered labeling the banana but thought it would appear like I was mocking. Bruce then wiped Eddie’s face, threw a sweatshirt on him – he insisted on wearing the orange down vest that was hanging next to it – and we ran out the door with five minutes to spare.
I put Eddie into his stroller, which Bruce had placed at the bottom of our porch steps, and saw a plastic yellow bag filled with some kind of fruit or vegetable in the compartment underneath.
“What’s this?” I asked Bruce.
No response. Bruce walked back into the house. I took the bag out of the stroller and left it on the porch steps.
“Okay. Don’t answer,” I said. Bruce frequently fails to answer my questions. Sometimes, it’s because he forgets to, or the words float off into space right by his ears but fail to go inside them. And then sometimes it’s because he simply didn’t hear me. At this point, the reason no longer matters. It just bugs me.
When Bruce came back out of the house, he saw the yellow plastic bag on the steps.
“I just asked you that,” I said.
“I didn’t hear you!” he snapped.
We headed over to St. Paul’s, where Eddie’s daycare is located, and as we arrived, the church bells were clanging as all the parents and children converged on the building. I felt like I was in Whoville. They arrived in their carts and their carriages to the square, they arrived in a hurry, to get to day care.
We took Eddie out of his stroller and opened the door to the building. Eddie walked in first and descended the stairs, backwards on all fours like he’s climbing down a ladder, just as we’d taught him to do. I could feel the tears welling up inside me. Get a grip, I thought. Be strong. I feared for him. He’s not going to want to see us leave. I also felt sad for me. He was already growing up so quickly. But I needed to be strong. I feared if I began to cry, Eddie would cry, and I wanted him to be able to handle this new situation. He was probably on the edge as it was. I didn’t want to add to it.
As soon as Eddie hit the floor at the bottom of the steps, he was off. He walked down the hallway a few lengths ahead of us, took a right, then a left, and stood outside the classroom door waiting for us to open the gate that was obstructing him from entering. He had remembered where the room was from orientation day. I showed him how to open the gate by pressing down on the metal pole with your finger. I was wrong on two counts: Don’t show your child how to open the gate to the classroom. That’s like showing the animals at the zoo where the keys to their cages are located. And that wasn’t even how one opens the gate.
“Hit that pedal at the bottom of the gate,” Bruce said.
I did. The gate opened, and Eddie marched right in, his arms swaying like W.C. Fields. He surveyed the room, doing some quick mental calculus about which toys he liked best and whether there was anything there he hadn’t yet seen. Most importantly, he was trying to figure out which toy he wanted to play with first.
I went over to one of the teachers and said, “Here are our bags. I labeled everything, like you wanted.” I think I expected a pat on the head.
“Where should I put these?” I asked. “And when I give him fruit, do you want me to cut it up or can I put something like a kiwi in his lunch bag, and you would cut it? Oh, and I wasn’t sure if you had a refrigerator. Can I give him a yoghurt? Today, it’s in this little cooler with an ice pack, but should I always bring it like this or do you have a refrigerator? And I lost my sheet with your phone number. Can I have another one?”
As I rattled off questions, Eddie had walked over to a table with a train set and sat down with a few other kids and one of the other teachers and began playing with the trains. You’d think he knew these people.
Bruce and I slid out the door and disappeared around the wall so Eddie couldn’t see us. We feared he would get upset if he saw us leave. We’d already seen another child crying in the hallway as we walked in and feared the kid’s tears would be contagious. Keeping our bodies behind the wall, Bruce and I peaked our heads in the doorway to see how Eddie was faring. He was happily playing with the trains with the boy next to him. Just then, he looked up and seemed to spot us. We quickly hid our heads behind the wall. We then ran down the hallway to get to a doorway on the other side of the nursery so we could take one last peak. Eddie and the other boy were now trying to fit two trains together.
As we left, I said, “I like that boy Eddie’s talking to. He seems nice. I hope they become friends.”
“Don’t worry about Eddie. He’s a great kid. He’s the best kid in there,” Bruce said. “Best in Show.”
I laughed. We then walked home arm and arm to our empty house.