Junior Kindergarten: Cutting Those Apron Strings

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Junior Kindergarten: Cutting Those Apron Strings

09.04.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

There’s a lot of hype that surrounds the First Day of School. But, for first-time parents or for those with little ones going to school for the very first time, it’s more than just hype, it’s a real milestone.

It isn’t necessarily about going to school. Junior Kindergarten is in itself an environment meant to teach and help children learn through creative play. That can be done at home.

It is, however, about your “baby,” growing up and going out into the world without you for the majority of the day when only a few years ago, kindergarten classes were only a few hours long, divided into half-day segments. With McGuinty’s proposal to create a more “competitive student” as well as encourage parents to return to work, the full-day curriculum was extended to include the primary grades, in particular for those in Junior and Senior Kindergarten.

I don’t know about you, but a full day of work for an adult can be exhausting especially when you’re new to the workforce or the firm. Imagine what is must be like for a four-year-old?

For me personally, it was exceptionally difficult to watch my daughter, Xara Mercedes Raquel, go off to school today especially because as a Stay-at-Home-Mom (SAHM), I’ve raised her at home myself from the day she was born. Prior to that I was a full-time editor, but as soon as she was delivered from my womb, and I heard her first cry, and the nurse put her on my chest, I was immediately taken. That was it. I was in love.

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Me and Xara, bonding and recovering from labour. (c) Photo by Esly Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Me and Xara, bonding and recovering from labour. (c) Photo by Esly Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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It was then that my priorities changed.

And since then, my daughter and I have really never been apart. Our bond was quick and lasting. It began as soon as I found out I was pregnant, strengthened each time I rubbed my belly, and quadrupled as soon as I felt her kick inside me.

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Me pregnant with Xara. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Me pregnant with Xara. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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You should have seen us when I found out from my ultrasound and my doctor that she was indeed a little girl! That’s when things started to go a little crazy. I went out and bought her five pink dresses, designed her nursery, and worked on a baby name list that spanned four pages and three columns using an Excel spreadsheet.

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xara - ultrasound
My ultrasound of Xara. (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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And as soon as she was born, she had no other babysitters. No daycare nor preschool. She even spent a limited time with both sets of her grandparents. She still does. Yes, she has her Daddy. And she even has an older brother. But she has been and always will be mine. And me? Hers.

Sound a little selfish? It is. A little. But, it’s also true. Perhaps it’s not so much that we belong together or to each other, but that we are also very much alike.

She holds my namesake. She was named after me. We’ve also been told that she looks a lot like I did when I was her age and that the similarities are striking. As for personality, she’s more of her mother than her father, for sure. While she has a great capacity to love, she’s also quite feisty and fearless when it comes to asserting her own sense of independence. Like me, the first word she learned was, “No,” and that was that!

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Zara and Xara. (c) Photo collage by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Zara and Xara. (c) Photo collage by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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But, her first day of school isn’t about me (though it feels like I’ve been the most worried about it to begin with). It’s been a tough process and definitely a learning experience for us both.

Last week, Xara, visited her class for the first time during Orientation in order to meet her teachers and get familiar with her classroom.

And since then we’ve been running around shopping for last-minute school items like long-sleeved tops for the upcoming season, new sneakers for indoor and outdoor play, and a water bottle for her lunch bag. Just yesterday, we were on a search and rescue mission for that very same water bottle that went missing for more than 72 hours. After making repeated runs to the car, the basement, the kitchen, and anywhere else we might have misplaced it, it was found on the floor, inside its original packaging, but hidden underneath my son’s toys.

The relief of finding the missing water bottle prompted a lesson and practice session of opening her lunch bag, water bottle, and lunch plastic containers in preparation of two forthcoming nutritional snacks and one lunch time break during the day. She was an expert by try three.

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Xara's lunch bag and lunch containers. Yes, she practiced opening and closing them! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara’s lunch bag and lunch containers. Yes, she practiced opening and closing them! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

And because she asserted that she no longer wanted to be called by her second name, “Mercedes,” but instead be called by her first given name, “Xara,” I had to make a special appointment with her teacher to yet again, re-do all her labels. I also had a go at that and because of my nerves moreso than my penmanship, did I have to rewrite her labels at least six times. Six times!

My list was close to complete:

  • outdoor shoes
  • indoor shoes
  • two sets of clothes (shirt, pants, underwear, socks) in a labelled Zip Lock bag
  • knapsack
  • lunch bag
  • lunch containers
  • water bottle
  • all outdoor clothing, shoes, and belongings labelled with her name
  • lunch
  • snacks
  • water, no juice
  • no peanuts/nuts allowed

And even though she and her brother went to bed at a reasonable time (9:00 p.m.), she woke up this morning, much to my dismay, playing “baby,” not wanting to get out of bed, get ready, nor go to school! When she was finally convinced that it was alright to get ready, have breakfast, and go to school—well, she didn’t want me to leave her.

We arrived at school early, if not on time, but she refused to go inside the fenced area. Even though she was finally coaxed by her teacher, Mrs. Abbott, she wouldn’t let me go. (And trust me, it was harder for me than it was for her.)

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Xara with her backpack on her way to school. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara with her backpack on her way to school. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Xara OUTSIDE the fenced area beside her school. And no, she didn't want to go in without Mommy. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara OUTSIDE the fenced area beside her school. And no, she didn’t want to go in without Mommy. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

I took her inside the play area, led her to her class line, and told her I would just be outside the fence, showing her the exact spot where I would be standing. She told me, “Okay, Mama, stay outside the fence, but DON’T GO HOME!”

Oh my.

***

Xara thinking about the consequences of entering Junior Kindergarten. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara thinking about the consequences of entering Junior Kindergarten. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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Xara's teachers, Mrs. Abbott and Mr. Vilku being there to give words of support. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara’s teachers, Mrs. Abbott and Mr. Vilku being there to give words of support. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Xara hanging out with her "new" friend. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Yawning from the excitement of the day. Not used to getting up so early to go to school yet! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Hanging out with her "new" friend. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Hanging out with her “new” friend. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Xara clasping her hands and behaving very well in line. Good girl! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara clasping her hands and behaving very well in line. Good girl! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

"I'll be okay, Mama..." (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
“I’ll be okay, Mama…” (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

Xara playing hard-to-get. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara playing hard-to-get. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

You can imagine my distress. I had already worked so hard to conceal my own anxieties about her going off to school, frazzled enough to create enough frenetic energy to fuel a large truck—and she didn’t want me to leave her.

Ever heard of that saying, “If you love someone or something, sometimes you have to let it go?” Yeah, that. I hate that saying.

But, I love her enough to do that. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do (other than actually going through labour or watch my son endure three months in an incubator.) But, I did it. And she eventually walked through the door to her classroom and into her future…

***

***

It’s a cliché, but I don’t care. I’ll admit it. I cried. I bawled on my way home. Thankfully, my friend who I affectionately call, Mama Florence, was there at the street corner waiting for me with hugs, words of empathy and encouragement—and a gift of freshly picked tomatoes and zucchini from her own garden! This blessing somewhat consoled me, if not distracted me from my separation anxiety from my daughter.

***

Fresh veggies from Mama Florence's garden. Such a blessing after a stressful morning! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Fresh veggies from Mama Florence’s garden. Such a blessing after a stressful morning! (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

***

It’s almost 3:00 p.m. and I haven’t received any alarming phone calls from Xara’s school, so I take that as a very good sign of her success for the first day.

And as I’m sipping a cup of coffee while I write this, I’m reflecting on what it is to be a mother, a parent, a person whose priorities change for the sake of her child. What it means to provide, as it is to worry. And what it means to be strong and “fake” confidence even if you’re terrified inside. What it means really to act out the love you were so taken by, the first moment you heard or laid eyes on your baby. And of course, what it means to unfortunately, but quite necessarily cut those apron strings.

Mine were cut today. Sheared really. And it felt bad. It felt terrible.

But it’s for her. As most things I do in my life, it’s all for her.

(And that’s what I told myself as I cried on the way home.)

***

Xara. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Xara. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

As a parent, how was your experience when your child went into Jr. Kindergarten?

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