This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

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.

  • Great post. I’m wondering if the first day of Kindergarten will hold the same significance for me, what with my kids in daycare now. I do remember the first daycare drop-offs, though. Cried my eyes out over the boy, thanked my lucky stars with the girl.

    And I know this isn’t really the right forum to say this, but I want to tell you how much I admire you. You put it all out there, bringing transparency to the limit. I feel bad about the repercussions, the judging and the negative comments. That really must suck, and I’m sure you’ve had to grow a tremendously thick skin.

    But damn are you a kick ass writer.

    Thank you.

  • Stephanie

    We dropped our oldest off at kindergarten this year as well. My husband and I barely got a wave goodbye before she was off doing her thing in her classroom. Glad to hear Leta loves kindergarten. That definitely makes it easier for both you and her.

  • Mary

    I’m right there with you, Heather. My little guy started kindergarten this year, too. He’s also a picky eater and THANK GOD the teacher understands and doesn’t care (read: won’t give me grief about it). I don’t know whether it’s a boy thing, but he doesn’t talk as much about it. I have to pull the information from him (I know he loves it from the comments sent home from his teacher, the fact that I often have to physically remove him at pickup, and his overall level of contentment at home). Isn’t it nice to breathe (about this issue anyway)? Thanks for sharing.

  • Sue

    Wonderful first day story. The pink sneaks pretty much put me over the edge. So many, many pink memories of our two girls (now 27 and 22. Old old old!)

  • Valerie

    The shoes are Keen’s… I know they have black ones and another pair with some orange and maybe green.

  • But the big question…
    What did she eat?

    🙂

    She’s adorable, and I’m glad it was a good first day.

  • Susan

    My 22 year old still remembers her first day and it is still a fun subject.

    Your writing inspires me on a daily basis. I love giggling!!

  • Anonymous

    Why does this post seem like a repeat??? Srsly, I think I’ve read this already before.

  • This is so cute. I’m glad that you and Leta survived her first day of kindergarten!

  • Katie

    I was wrong – Scurvy, not rickets. The kid from that show had scurvy from only eating oatmeal. Which I am sure is a risk if all you eat is refried beans.

    So tell her to wash those beans down with some orange juice!

  • Elizabeth

    As a fellow mom of a newly-minted kindergartener, I was looking forward to your post on this subject. Glad Leta enjoyed the big day!

  • Wow, what a great story. I have loved reading Leta stories over the years and can’t believe she is already off to kindergarten. I wondered how she would fare in school, but it sounds like it is a wonderful place for her, due in large part to your preparation of her for school. Congratulations – can’t wait to read more stories!

  • Bailey

    Thanks, you just made me cry and miss my kids even more than I already did. It seems like I just did the kindergarten thing, and now they’re all grown up. My daughter has two kids of her own and my son just turned 21 and went skydiving yesterday. SKYDIVING. But actually his first day of kindergarten was more traumatic. He was one of the kids who cried a lot so I stayed, and the teacher asked me if I wanted to volunteer in the classroom. I did, and ended up working there all year. It was one of the best and most rewarding jobs I’ve ever had, and I didn’t even get paid.

    I’m glad Leta’s first day went so well!

  • Colleen

    Congratulations to Leta! Where is that little frog legged baby? When did she get so big.

    Don’t leave us hanging though, what does she eat for lunch?!

  • Sarah Vhay

    So wonderful! We also just experienced our son’s first day at Kindergarten. He also went on and on about how exciting it was so I asked him if he enjoyed himself and he tells me no. When I ask why he says, “Because I missed you, Mom.” I never had any idea what it would be like to be a mom until now.

  • My last will start kindergarten next year. My oldest will start 11th grade at that time. (There is one starting sixth grade too.) We’re the same age Heather. GAH.

    Anyhow, I’M MORE THAN READY TO HAVE MY LAST GO TO KINDERGARTEN. I’m ready for my oldest to graduate high school and figure out what the hell he’s going to do with himself now. I’m getting ready for my middle to begin puberty…Oh God.

    I don’t want any of it to be precious. (Not to say that it isn’t, just that it is what it is.) I’m ready for my kids to grow up and do and be and thrive. I’m ready to move onto other parts of life that weren’t a priority when I became a mother so young.

    Let’s just hope they keep their pants on longer than I di.

  • Look at her with her style and fierceness. She’s your daughter, alright.

    Glad to hear it went so well. It’s always a little heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the same time when they’re ready to take another little step in that direction.

  • I never leave comments here, but I had to today. Your post made me cry. My older daughter just started Kindergarten too. It was a super-emotional day for me becasue she was born 12 weeks early, and I kept thinking back to when she was all of 2 lbs., and we had no idea if this day would ever be ours. Your last paragraph made me tear up the most. It’s beautiful and I think I will print it out and save it. And I wonder how mine will remember it years from now. I’m glad you guys had a great first day….we did too.

  • Wonderful! I’m glad Leta’s so in love with her school. I remember your posts when you were concerned about her legs. Look at her now! Pretty baby!

    Pat yourself on the back, Mom. Dad too. 🙂

  • Cathryn

    Reminds me so much of my first day of kindergarden. I just sent this to my mom :=)

    I pride myself on being an excellent Google-er but I cannot find that commercial ANYWHERE online – the cute little girl who won’t shut up. Anyone ?

  • Michelle

    lovely, just lovely.

  • Jesus H. Christ! Could you make me cry any harder! That was absolutely beautiful but I believe Kanye would say Dadgonemad could do it better! Ha! Just kidding! LOVE reading what you have to say!

  • wow great story.

    But yes… we all wonder – what did she eat?

    You will def. always look back on this day; when she starts high school even. I did.

  • Her sneakers are awesome!

  • Lisa

    Precious story…it brought back a tons of memories. I bet Leta’s appetite will change. They keep those kids so busy, they end up eating anything they are so hungry!

    I cried when I dropped my daughter off on her first day of high school.

  • Jane

    My oldest just had his first day of Kinder last week, and so far, every day when we pick him up, he’s upset because we are too early! Even though he’s been in daycare since he was about 5 months old, I cried the first day of Kinder, and fought the tears BIG TIME during Kinder back-to-school night. Part of my crying was excitement and pride for this big boy who, holy cow, came out of my body 5 plus years ago, and now is on to what I hope is an exciting, wonderful adventure with school for the next oh, 25 years of his life! I am so in love with this kid sometimes I cannot contain it. And I know that is how you feel about Miss Leta, it shows up in your writing so much, the pics, all of it. He told me the other night that he would love me forever, even when he’s dead. Awesomeness.

  • NoL

    YAY for a great 1st day!!!!! and her picture is stunning- her hair looks SOOOO long. My kindergartener had her 1st day last week- time is FLYING!

  • Cheryl S.

    This cracked me up — “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. ”

    I’ve lived that on many days, and my little girl doesn’t go to Kindergarten until next year!

    Hooray for a great first day!!

  • Carol F

    Indeed, as a mama of a 20 yr old and a 15 yr old, let me say….you’ve done your job, and you really wouldn’t want it any other way. Some days are long, but the years fly by.

  • Harmony

    WOW! thank you for sharing this beautiful moment in your life, my daughter is 7 months old and also I had a rough start with her but its getting better everyday, but to also see this in our future brings me to good happy tears:)
    thanks Dooce

  • Yay for first day. Isn’t it the most gut-wrneching thing ever? It’s so hard to pull yourself away from the window.

    It’s amazing, you know… Leta may just start eating other foods just because her friend with the yellow hair, and the other one with brown {only shorter} do. I found this happens a lot.

    The second day is quite often the hardest. I hope it does smoothly for you. x

  • Coolest kid in the world.

    Thanks for letting us in to your lives.

  • Michelle H

    I just went through sending my 5 year old to kindergarten also. She jumped right on the bus, waved, and off she went.

    Regarding the, “How many more bites?” game that we play at each meal, I read somewhere to have the child roll dice to determine the amount they have to eat. We have been just using one die, but you could use 2 to increase the bites. It has worked really well for us. Give it a try!

  • J. Bo

    I’ve said it before (and I’m sure I’ll say it again), but little Miss Leta is SO LUCKY to have you and Jon for parents.

  • Sheryl

    Wait, just wait. Today you walked her down the hall to her first day of school. Then in the blink of an eye (I’m not kidding) you will look at her and say “You can’t possibly be starting your first day of your last year in elementary. I just walked you down the kindergarten hall last year!”

  • Julie in Virginia

    This was so good to read and it made me cry – I just did the very same thing with my FRESHMAN college MAN BOY. You have much to look forward to. Savor every moment. You are a great mom.

  • Andi

    UNFOLLOW!

    kidding…

    Well said & well done. Have a 14 year old who now picks and chooses what she tells me of her day, making virtually drag it out of her, and forbid the use of the word gay to describe anything without emotion or sexual orientation/preference. If I didn’t that would be her response to 98% of the questions I ask about school. The other 2% would be comprised of retarded and stupid.

    Thank you for the sweet reminder.

  • kim

    Awesome. Just beautiful. I’m in tears and mine are only just over 3. But I know it’s coming. I know that I will bawl. But I know I’d never be able to capture it like this. Thank you!

  • Katherine

    Okay, I don’t remember the first day, but I do remember dropping out of kindergarten because they didn’t have any books to read and this woman kept coming around and whacking me on the top of the head with a star on the end of a wand to tell me it was naptime. I was so over that I refused to go back. Started first grade at the Catholic school the next year. (Thankfully, the parents didn’t have enough money to sustain that particular expense longer than one year.) I don’t think it hurt me any to miss the year of kindergarten. I even used my early dropout career in my college application essay. Worked quite nicely, actually. Good luck Leta!

  • Vana

    How is it possible to tear up over a story about a kid I don’t even REALLY know? Man, she has come a long way. Good job!

  • Go Leta! I’m so happy for all of you that she’s moved into this new stage of her life so happily!

  • Congratulations! How fabulous Leta looked on her first day of school!

    Thank you for sharing another very special moment. Even more special for those of us who have watched Leta grow up in this space. We too worried about her walking (I remember the scary horse device) and when she didn’t poop and when you were feeling less equipped to deal with all of this.

    With no right to feel this way – so proud of you and your family and grateful that you share these life adventures and milestones. That is a gift to all of us.

    -Lori

  • You made me cry. My son is only two!

  • Pearle

    I have the biggest smile on my face after reading this post. So cool that you took the time to really appreciat the moment.

  • Katherine

    I’m not even a mom, and I’m all teary…

  • I’m crying. Sweet Leta girl in kindergarten. And I remember when she was born! Thank you for sharing this. =)

  • Amy

    This is why you are an awesome Mom. You can appreciate the craziness of kids and their little quirks and yet you revel in the joys like first days of school. Leta is a very lucky girl, and so is Marlo. I hope someday we get to hear about that conversation over the wine. Love your blog.

  • Heidi

    I am a 7th grade teacher who just had one heck of a day… a student asked me if I was Indian because I had hairy arms, another student accidentally said “asserrole” instead of “casserole” while reading out loud, and by 3:00 I was deliriously wondering why I do what I do. But then I read this post, and you just reminded me of why I work with children. It’s those priceless connections and it’s those irreplaceable instances when you share moments together. Thank you, Heather! I am ready for tomorrow!

  • Lizzy

    Well… just… awwwww.

  • Tasha

    Wasn’t it just yesterday you were posting pictures of Leta after she was born? Where does the time go????