The End of an Era

Thanks to the modified calendar, Ella and Dominic both started school this morning. I walked them both down the street to the predictable chaos of first-day logistics. Yesterday we visited the school to drop off supplies and meet their teachers. Dom has Ms. Pendergast, the same teacher Ella had for kindergarten, which we’re happy about.

Ella’s response to it all was no surprise, having been through it several times before. She got a little case of cold feet the morning of, and was relieved that since I was taking a kindergartner in I got to go past the lobby drop-off point and walk all the way to the classroom, and didn’t have to say good-bye to her until the base of the steps leading up the second floor. There were a few tears but I knew she’d be fine as soon as she got to her classroom – between three years under her belt at Mount Vernon and soccer last spring, she was pretty much guaranteed to have a few friends in her class no matter which teacher she ended up with.

I was much more curious to see how Dominic handled it all. I can tell he’s had Starting a New School on his mind a lot, and was dragging his feet this morning (appropriate snarky response here: “How could you tell?”). But while he’ll fall on his back and kick his legs like a toddler when asked to help pick up the living room, when it comes to emotional matters of substance, he remains, as he himself put it, Ferb-like. And that held true this morning. I’m sure he appreciated that I was able to walk him to his classroom, but I’m not sure he really needed it. When it came time to say goodbye there were no tears – he was perfectly ready to get down to business.

Of course, I know for a fact that he’s going to be exhausted when I pick him up later today. And I also know that he’ll be flabbergasted at how crowded and noisy the cafeteria is, and may spend lunchtime with his hands over his ears rather than eating his lunch, and even if that’s not the case there’s no way he will eat more than a quarter of his lunch in the allotted time. But I have a feeling he’ll have a smoother time getting used to it all than Ella did three years ago.

Once everybody else starts their school year in another month or so, they’ll get in gear with soccer practices and swimming lessons and maybe we’ll bite the bullet and shell out the big bucks for piano lessons this year, too. Quite a change from their abbreviated summer, which consisted of a whirlwind two-and-a-half-week vacation bracketed by sweltering weather at home and a ton of board games and reading.

But now, for me … freedom. Last year I had a modicum of it, when Dominic was in preschool for a few hours each morning, but with all the commuting, that amounted to enough time to exercise and do a little reading, or maybe run some errands. But today I dropped the kids off, went to exercise, and am now sipping coffee at St. Elmo’s, typing away, with another three hours ahead of me before I have to pick them up. It’s rather dizzying. Lots of people have been asking me just what I’m going to be doing with this time. The answer, more or less, is “Writing of one stripe or another, at least for now, while remaining receptive to other possibilities as they may arise.” Preparing for that has largely been an exercise in plotting out what I will not be doing with this time, to wit, checking email every ten minutes, reading my RSS feeds, reading novels, checking Facebook, browsing on, playing games. Systematically removing those activities will either drive me to some productive writing, drive me to find something else to do with that time, or drive me insane. Time will tell!