Update: I’ve added Jennifer’s account of AJ’s first day in the comments section, for the interested.
Today we sent our little boy to school for the first time. Nobody wept. There was no gnashing of teeth, wailing, or sack-cloth and ashes. On our part, anyhow. Instead, we were excited to see AJ off to a new adventure in his life, one that promises whole new rafts of friends, future sleepovers, new books to read, realms of knowledge to acquire, and numerous — I repeat … numerous — parent-teacher conferences down the road.
Every parent believes their child to be the brightest bulb in the firmament — with the possible exception of overachieving, insecure parents who vicariously live through their childen, ever suspecting and fearing that their child will prove to be as colossal a failure as they imagine themselves to be.
Not us. AJ is not only bright, he is certifiably bright, even if nobody believes us the first time we warn them — err — inform them. My Bride and are enomously proud of our son (when we’re not enormously vexed by his impulse-control), and I’ve already been justifiably corrected by my son on many observations I’ve made. The days are few until he truly knows more about things than I do and I become the student. Nevertheless, I hope to remain in service as his father, mentor, and guide — even through High School.
More sun. Less Ferengi
Last night we all went to AJ’s new school to meet with the principal and the teachers, to visit his classroom, and to enjoy a bit of ice-cream while dozens of other kids worked out their sugar-frenzy in the cafeteria. After listening to AJ’s teacher’s first presentation to her incoming class of kindergarteners and the milling parents, Jennifer and I hung around till we were the last ones in the class (we didn’t want to seem to brag in front of the other parents — we tend to keep that kind of outrageousness on my weblog). We introduced AJ, introduced ourselves, and got to work on sounding her out — and setting expectations.
“I know every parent says this, but AJ is very bright,” I said. “He already meets or exceeds almost every one of the goals in your curriculum except for maybe social skills and social studies.” She nodded and looked to AJ. Of course, he was tight-lipped. No showing off on cue — too bad we didn’t rehearse this. We let her know that AJ is currently on medication for ADHD and that he’s reading at the 2nd or 3rd grade level at least, and that his hyperactivity, curiosity, and intellectual development might wreak havoc in her class due to boredom. She assured us that this was no problem, and she told us her strategy for teaching exceptional students. We liked it. We liked her. We were assured. After a couple minutes small-talk, we wandered down to the cafeteria for our ice-cream, then beat a hasty retreat to put the kids in bed.
The long walk to academia.
Now, today. We take AJ to school and escort him to the cafeteria. We do the hugs and kisses thing, I remind him to be good for the teacher, and to obey everything she says to do, and we send him off.
Within seconds, we became mere background. There were kids! Kids everywhere! Soon enough, AJ is edging his way to the front of the line as Mrs. Russell marches her new brood off to the classroom, where the government does its parenting best.
Our role has now officially diminished. Or, at least, changed. It’s final. We have the paperwork (and a quieter house) to prove it.
Three hours later, we’re back to pick him up. And what do you know? First thing out of the gate: “Oh, you’re AJ’s mom! We … uh … need to talk.”
Getting a head start, already.
So it seems AJ’s first day in class was a raging success. He even got the Special Ed teacher involved. What with his interrogating the teacher (“What happens if the filament breaks?”), correcting her use of language (“It’s a ‘backpack,’ not a ‘book-bag!'”), instructing other students (“Hey, that ‘Z’ is backward!”), spilling the puzzle-pieces (“We all had to help clean it up.”), and a minor territorial skimish (“Some kid stole my seat!”), the teacher and support staff are guaranteed to already know his name. I’m not even sure we need to send him off with his name-tag tomorrow. “Oh, you have somebody bouncing off the padded walls in the gymnasium? That would be AJ Tatum.”
:: sigh ::
But, don’t take my word for it. I have a 24-minute (16-megabyte) podcast interview with AJ that I recorded just this afternoon, while the events were still fresh in his memory. Sure, it’s no theological treatise, and it won’t win any Grammy awards for best audio interview, and it’s not up to NPR-snuff. But I found myself giggling like a silly dad when listening to it all over again this evening. This is totally unscripted and only lightly edited from the original.
If you’re up for that sort of thing download it here. Or you can listen online.
If you have any encouragement or words of wisdom for AJ, post ‘em here. I’ll be sure to pass it along.
Notes on the music used in this podcast:
[tags]back-to-school, BlogRodent, children, daddyblog, elementary-school, fatherhood, first-day, first-day-in-school, gunnar-madsen, interview, james-hersch, kids, kindergarten, mp3, podcast, school, secondary-education[/tags]