Heater, Mother of Lance

The first nudge toward the edge of the nest

A couple of weeks ago I accompanied Leta to her kindergarten orientation where we met with her teachers and explored the various areas and features of her classroom, and y’all, there is a princess castle! IN HER ROOM! I mean, it’s not an Official Princess Castle brought to you by Hasbro or Disney or whatever, it’s just a set of wooden steps leading up to a balcony of sorts, but she didn’t know the difference and thought we were taking a tour of Heaven.

It is a magnificent kindergarten classroom, as far as kindergarten classrooms go, with tons of colorful letters and numbers on the wall, and blocks and games AND BOOKS! DON’T FORGET THE BOOKS! Mom, there is a whole box of chapter books, I just love chapter books, that’s what she kept repeating to me for three days straight, and when she’d go to open her mouth at any point during those three days I’d hold my index finger to her mouth and go LET ME GUESS! CHAPTER BOOKS! NOTED!

And then she’d gingerly remove my finger and go BUT I LOVE THEM!

I sat down with one of her teachers for a good half hour to go over classroom policies, and when the topic of lunch came up, I’ll just go ahead and be honest, I tried to change the subject. Because maybe once or twice this past week I have walked outside onto the deck in our backyard, far enough away from everything so that no one could hear me and yelled OH MY GOD I DIDN’T THINK I’D EVER LOSE THREE AND A HALF FUCKING YEARS OF MY LIFE TO HOW MANY FUCKING BITES OF THIS FUCKING BURRITO DOES SHE HAVE TO FUCKING EAT, but there they went.

A mother’s rant brought to you lovingly by three months of sleep deprivation.

I got really nervous because we once applied to a preschool before knowing that they had a really strict policy about lunch. Like, kids couldn’t pack anything processed in their lunches, and everything had to be fresh, don’t even think about sneaking in a fruit snack. Let’s just say we didn’t get our $50 application fee back.

So I’m looking around the room nervously, thinking oh no, oh no, please no, not the topic of food, and before I pass out from anxiety I just throw it out there, way out in the open, like unleashing a bull from its pen, I go LETA IS A REALLY PICKY EATER. With enough emphasis to communicate that she would rather starve herself to death before eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Because bread is just the grossest thing ever, you can quote her on that.

And her teacher, without skipping a beat, she waves her hand in the air and says, “Oh, they all are.” And then she moved on to something else. Like, no big deal, we see it all the time. I wanted to start bawling from the relief, it felt exactly like every appointment we’ve had with her pediatrician who starts by taking a cursory glance at Leta, and then he turns to me and Jon and says, “Are you okay?” Like he genuinely wants to make sure we aren’t four seconds away from falling over dead.

Drop off on the first day was as difficult as I thought it would be, she clung to my arm as if she were drowning, and even though I stayed for a good twenty-five minutes and watched her climb the princess castle seven hundred times, when it was time for me to leave she was frantic. And I knew exactly how she felt, I remember the panic I experienced when my mother left me in that strange room all those years ago, but I finally knelt down and took the hand I had just used to wipe the tears from my face to wipe the ones on hers. And I handed her off to the teacher.

I lingered outside her room for just a bit and looked in to make sure that she settled in okay, and within seconds she was sitting calmly with the other kids on the colored mat in the middle of the room, a sea of little heads starting the next chapter in their lives.

First day of kindergarten

When I picked her up that afternoon she ran to me, my little girl who we once thought might never walk, and wrapped her arms around my neck so ferociously that I couldn’t breathe. And when she finally released her embrace she said, “Mom, can I tell you a secret?” And then in her trademark yell/whisper she grabbed my ear and screamed I LOVE MY SCHOOL AND I PLAYED ON THE COMPUTERS AND THE PRINCESS CASTLE AND I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH! And then as we held hands and walked to the car she talked about the lunch room and the big tables and the playground and her friend with the yellow hair and the other one with the brown hair but it was much shorter than hers, and IT’S OKAY TO TAKE A BREATH, LETA.

It felt like a Volkswagon commercial, here I am this disheveled suburban mom buckling in her kid who WILL NOT STOP TALKING, and it’s adorable, yes, but then all the words start to blend together, and the dialogue did not stop as I closed her door and walked around to the front of the car, I could still see her lips moving.

When I opened my door and climbed in it was still going on, the paragraphs and paragraphs of kindergarten awesomeness filled every available inch of space in the car. And I sat there for a second looking at her in the rearview mirror and thought, we just did it. We just lived that day together, she and I, we just took that monumental next step forward, and I’m so glad that I got to do it with her. And years from now when we’ve met for dinner and a glass of wine, we’ll talk about this day specifically. And I won’t even bring up the burritos.

  • Anonymous

    2009/09/14 at 1:08 pm

    It all just goes so fast!!!

  • Zoid

    2009/09/14 at 1:09 pm

    How has she been liking it since?

    By the way, that kid’s got style.

  • Erin

    2009/09/14 at 1:09 pm

    That’s beautiful. I’m not sure I will ever be a mother, but man, would I love to feel what you felt on that day…

  • Dawn

    2009/09/14 at 1:08 pm

    What an awesome first day of school story. You really know how to spin a yarn!!

  • RuthWells

    2009/09/14 at 1:07 pm


  • Kelly

    2009/09/14 at 1:08 pm

    So sweet. You hope they always want to tell you everything.

  • Candy

    2009/09/14 at 1:08 pm

    Bravo for both of you!!

    On my daughter’s first day of kindergarten, she got on the bus and never even looked back. Now she is in high school. Don’t get me started. I just might cry.

  • sara

    2009/09/14 at 1:09 pm

    I know it isn’t at all the same, but Heather, we’ve been living this with you. I’m so proud of Leta! What a big day. Hugs to you all.

  • Nicole

    2009/09/14 at 1:09 pm

    Glad it went well! Shes so cute!

  • Staci

    2009/09/14 at 1:09 pm

    My son started kindergarten this year as well. The first day on the bus, he waved to me. After that, it was like I wasn’t even there.

    I love the ramble of kid’s stories.

  • Chriss

    2009/09/14 at 1:10 pm

    I remember these days well. Sigh. As much as the talking drives you crazy, some day she will NOT want to speak to you at all.

  • Kristina

    2009/09/14 at 1:10 pm

    You’re absolutely right. My mom and I do still remember kindergarten together, and there are usually copious adult beverages involved when we do it. Wine is always a favorite, but g&ts, martinis and mojitos come in as a close second.

  • Lauren Tidmore

    2009/09/14 at 1:11 pm

    Aww this made me cry. I’m so happy for you Heather! I’m glad everything went great and that Leta had an awesome time!

    Keeping you in my thoughts!


  • Janelle

    2009/09/14 at 1:11 pm

    Sweet story. She will love to read this when she is older. I think I was as excited as Leta about chapter books. And those books where you got to choose your endings – remember? Probably a couple of years older than Leta, but I don’t think I left my room for weeks when I got those from the library.

  • Ashley

    2009/09/14 at 1:12 pm

    Aw, she looks like a such a grown-up! Congrats on starting this next chapter in her (and your) life!

  • Jill Put Up A Blog

    2009/09/14 at 1:12 pm

    pretty adorable. good sign – she likes school. My 1st day, I cried and then cried some more and didn’t want to go back.

  • Boo Mayhew

    2009/09/14 at 1:12 pm

    Oh wow, that brought back memories of my first day at kindergarten and my Mom leaving me 🙂 Well done Dooce, well done Leta

  • mommaruthsays

    2009/09/14 at 1:12 pm

    You handled it beautifully. I hate to think of how I’ll handle my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten. And it’s nice that you’re still able to make Leta-Heather memories and it’s not always Leta-Heather-Marlo memories. Kudos!

  • beyond

    2009/09/14 at 1:12 pm

    heather, did you see this?
    almost as cute as a baby hippo…
    leta looks so sweet and… grown-up, somehow. i guess kindergarten is kinda grown-up.

  • Beth

    2009/09/14 at 1:13 pm

    I just got my two daughters down for their naps (ages (almost) 3, and 7 months) and I am sobbing at the computer thinking about doing this in 2 years. Your writing and tone on this are pitch perfect! I simultaneously dread and look forward to that day. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Kristin

    2009/09/14 at 1:13 pm

    We just did the same thing with our daughter, and when I got to the part about you wiping the tears I started to tear up. Can you believe it? Kindergarten. Amazing.

  • Joy101378

    2009/09/14 at 1:13 pm

    Leta is rockin’ that outfit.

    P.S. You will SOOOOO bring up the burrito on that day. That’s what mothers do. :o)

  • Larkhappy

    2009/09/14 at 1:13 pm

    One of the things I like about your blog is how you nail it, expecially when you write about Leta. I have followed this little one since late in 2004, and I still love hearing about her. I can still easily picture her in the old kitchen sink, taking a bath, and now look at her.

  • Anonymous

    2009/09/14 at 1:13 pm

    This made me cry!

  • Ann

    2009/09/14 at 1:13 pm

    Wow. Your last three paragraphs captured that awesome feeling after the first day so fully. The only time I had tears in my eyes the first day was when he met me after school and my little undemonstrative boy lept into my arms and hugged me with such excitement and happiness. It was the most warm, wonderful feeling and I will never forget it. And I could not stop looking at my boy, not my little boy anymore, in the rearview mirror all the way home. Thank you for this today. It was needed.

  • Labradoris

    2009/09/14 at 1:14 pm

    I know exactly what you mean on the paragraphs and paragraphs filling the car. My significant other and I will go pick up the little one, and for twenty minutes straight, I’m not even kidding, we cannot get one word in to him, to each other, or even to ourselves. It’s probably the most adorable thing ever (and slightly annoying if we actually need to communicate; we rely on hand signals instead). 🙂

  • Jamie

    2009/09/14 at 1:14 pm

    Adorable! I dread this day.

  • MK

    2009/09/14 at 1:14 pm

    Now I want to go ask my mom about my first day of kindergarten 32 years ago.

  • Nasrene

    2009/09/14 at 1:15 pm

    Way to go Leta. I still remember my first day of kindergarten and crying my eyes out too..fortunately I have a few more years before I have to see my own daughter off (since she’s not even two yet).
    Man, I wish they had Princess Castles in grad school…

  • Jess F.

    2009/09/14 at 1:15 pm

    I love the pose in her snazzy first-day-of-school outfit. She can take on the world!

  • Libertad

    2009/09/14 at 1:15 pm

    Congratulations on making it through your first day of kindergarten. She really is the cutest!

  • Claudia

    2009/09/14 at 1:15 pm

    OH HEATHER! You make me think that parenting might not be the weirdest thing on the planet. I hope this is just the start of a deliciously, deliriously pleasant school year!

  • Kim

    2009/09/14 at 1:16 pm

    My daughter is 20 months old and already does that constant talking thing – I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when she goes to school. I can imagine what I will be like: a blubbering mess.

    Thanks for this, Heather –

    oh, and I love her posing for the camera. So cute!

  • Brandy

    2009/09/14 at 1:16 pm

    My five year old just started kindergarten, she loves it, but I am a weepy mess!

  • Rachael

    2009/09/14 at 1:17 pm

    Your Leta posts are still my favorite. I hope to experience these wonderful moments one day!

    “And I won’t even bring up the burritos.”

    Depending on just how many glasses of wine you partake in, the hell you won’t!

  • Mumologic

    2009/09/14 at 1:17 pm

    I believe Dr.Robert Atkins said that in a press conference once: “Bread is just the grossest thing ever, and you can quote me on that.”

  • KeriG

    2009/09/14 at 1:18 pm

    Kudos, Dooce. You captured the moment perfectly.

  • CarrieB

    2009/09/14 at 1:18 pm

    Heather – this made me weep. Thank you for sharing, and again, reminding me that we parents (scratch that, we people) are all more connected than we generally realize and give thought to.

  • Jesi

    2009/09/14 at 1:18 pm

    I love that story. I can’t even imagine what it will be like when my babies start school, but I know it will be special. Thank you for sharing your life with us!! You always make me laugh and help me feel a little less crazy 🙂 At least I am not the only mom out there that needs to step out on the deck and scream obsenities sometimes!!

  • Jon_and_Kate_Plus_Dooce

    2009/09/14 at 1:19 pm

    Did you mention this precious child on The Bonnie Hunt show? hmm….

    “asshead in the building” came in over the loudspeaker when you walked in

    Now go pop pills and have your assistant and creepy houseboy (i mean husband) make fake comments to this post…

  • Wild to Child

    2009/09/14 at 1:19 pm

    OMG! I’m SO not looking forward to the first day of kindergarten. Leta looked absolutely adorable. You should be so proud!


  • Anonymous

    2009/09/14 at 1:19 pm

    Does her shirt say Leta or am i just illiterate? If it does, FABULOUS.


    She’s gonna be one of those genius-types I tell my parents I am.

  • Sara

    2009/09/14 at 1:19 pm

    I wrote about the same event for my daughter just a few weeks ago on my blog. It is quite a transition. I’m still not quite sure what has happened to me! My daughter loves it as well, and I’m so proud of her, but it is hard to let go.

  • Jill

    2009/09/14 at 1:20 pm

    I’m 43 and still flashback to those initial waves of fear whenever I happen to walk into a kindergarten room.

    Sounds like Leta will be fine.

  • Ann

    2009/09/14 at 1:21 pm

    Tears are falling on my keyboard! My little girl started middle school in a new town a couple of weeks ago and I cried! She also still talks non stop!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Lauren

    2009/09/14 at 1:22 pm

    I love a Leta story…and I must say, your blog has been awesome these last few weeks.

    I have been reading for about a year now, and how I found your blog is hilarious (at least to me). One of my dogs had an intestinal obstruction, and of course I consulted the Internet about it. In my searches, I came across the post about Chuck pooping out a whole corn dog stick. Hooked ever since.

  • Anonymous

    2009/09/14 at 1:23 pm

    She is adorable!!!

    Jack used to throw out his lunch. THROW IT OUT. The teacher had to take me aside one day and asked me if I was forgetting to pack his lunch.. I was horrified. What, they think I don’t feed my child?!! then she explained that he was going to the staff room to pick out some leftovers which included very delicious food from SUBWAY, and donuts. donuts. They gave him donuts? And yeah, I would have caught on to that too if I was 8 yeas old…

    THe very next day the teacher caught him trying to huck his fruit cup in the garbage, and has had her eye on him ever since. He doesn’t so that anymore now that she told him only vegetables are in the staff room, I love her.

  • Momastery

    2009/09/14 at 1:23 pm

    Wow. My little guy used to get in the car after preschool and before I could open my mouth to ask, he’d say:

    “MOM. I don’t want to talk about it.”

    Congratulations, Heather.

  • jackie

    2009/09/14 at 1:23 pm

    Woah, there, 41, do you really want to call someone with as high a loyal readership as dooce an asshead on *her own turf*? Because aside from the fact that its just incorrect, you’re in an arena where THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE are going to think *you’re* the asshead, whether you agree with them or not. What are you trying to accomplish? This doesn’t seem like an effective way to work out all that anger towards your mother. You’re just going to be more hated than you already are. OK great thanks.

  • Peggy

    2009/09/14 at 1:24 pm

    My MIL talks about my husband(JP) starting kindergarten and the first day went great. The second day she got a call from a friend and they asked what days JP was supposed to be in school and it was every day. They called to tell her that JP was at their house helping replace a water heater. When my MIL shows up to take him to school he whined because he has already done school!

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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