Today I experienced a strange sense of déjà vu when I dropped my daughter off at her first day of nursery school at the same school where my son went 3 years earlier. She posed in front of the same sign as I snapped the pre-requisite "backpack shot" and popped it on Facebook.
But everything else was different.
Let us compare and contrast the first day of nursery school for my first child three years ago and my second one today.
1st Kid: Though he would only be there for 2 hours I packed a water, an apple and some goldfish crackers, JUST IN CASE. I packed extra pants, socks and underwear should he have an accident. I included an extra page with my cell phone number, my mom's cell phone number and our pediatrician's office information.
2nd Kid: Her backpack (comprised of the Hello Kitty sack that usually holds her sleeping bag) was completely empty. A mere prop for photos. I'll send in her extra clothes by the end of the week. If I remember.
Walking Into School
1st Kid: My husband took off work so we could walk our son in together. I made an effort to suck up to the teachers and engage the other mothers standing around. I waited in a conference room down the hall for the first hour in case my son needed me, nibbling cookies and trying to make charming conversation with other parents. After all, these would be the parents of my son's lifelong friends.
2nd Kid: I skipped the refreshment room altogether just in case some accidental friendly eye contact would lead to a birthday party invitation that we couldn't possibly fit into our calendar. I sped off in my car as soon as possible, preferring to go home and fold laundry without it being dumped on my head by my two year old while I had the chance.
1st Kid: I sob in the car all the way home, get home and sit with my son's trains and listlessly run them back and forth on the track as I miss him and wonder how my baby got to be three years old.
2nd Kid: I cry a few tears in the car, then begin singing Boyz2Men's "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" and then start cracking up at how my voice sounds. I think this might be a good song to belt out on my sister's work voicemail, especially if she is picking up her messages on speaker. I do so.
1st Kid: I arrive back at school 15 minutes early, nearly knocking over another mother as I careen breathlessly back into the school, panting. As soon as I see the teacher's aide I shriek "How was he? Was he okay? Can I see him?" like a complete maniac. She looks at me strangely and grimaces at the fact that I seem to have zero awareness of just how ridiculous I am. My son runs to me and I burst into tears once again, picking him up and squeezing him to my ample bosom, so grateful am I to be reunited with my child after the eternity of 2 hours has passed. "I missed you!" I cry dramatically, acting as though he has just returned from 3 years in the Civil War
2nd Kid: I rush home to frantically do as many dishes and as much laundry as I can, cursing the shortness of her nursery school day. "Damn," I think when I realize its time to leave. I didn't even think of my daughter once or wonder what she was doing, so thrilled was I to have an hour alone to do housework. I arrive 5 minutes late. Her teacher exclaims "She did great!" I look at her strangely thinking "Like I care" but instead I mumble "Of course she did."
1st Kid: I take my son out to lunch and pelt the poor kid with questions all about his first day. Who did he play with? Was the teacher nice? What did he learn? When we arrive home I've surprised him with homemade cupcakes in the shape of little apples with green stems made from an organic pureed fruit rollup. I field calls from every aunt and grandmother who ask me about his first day. I save his paper apple nametag and tape it on the fridge. I claw at the papers in his backpack (with such an interest that one might think they hold the secrets to the universe) and pour over his upcoming schedule memorizing when he has Show and Tell and what time to arrive for the class tip to the beach in a month.
2nd Kid: I throw some chips, baby carrots and a tub of hummus at my daughter and put away the laundry. No one in the family calls to ask me how it went because I don't remember even mentioning she was going today. I think one of the grandmas saw it on Facebook and called me, a bit put out I kept this vital information from her. I think Little D's backpack was left in the backseat. I throw away her red apple nametag. I still haven't asked her how her day went. I'm sure it went well. She seems fine.
I don't think I'm being neglectful here, it's just that with my second child I tend to be way more laid back. I think it's good for her that I'm not hovering about her, freaking out about her every move. I tend to let her be and Little D is extremely well-adjusted and happy....a far cry from the bundle of nerves and emotions her brother was at this age. (He was really just a mini version of me). I think he was feeding off my anxiety. It took a while for me to reign myself in and become a more relaxed parent (and to dial Big A back along with me.) If I could I have been more chill with my first child, it only would have been to his benefit.
But c'est la vie. Live and learn. A least he got the specially made apple cupcakes.