It seems I’ve been writing virtually nonstop for the past two months about death, war, privation, political hypocrisy and human cruelty. That’s why it’s almost a breath of fresh air to write about something personal, very personal: my eldest son starts kindergarten tomorrow.
I don’t know who’s feeling more trepidatious, Jonah or us. He hasn’t expressed any overt anxiety about the milestone. In fact, we believe he’s more than ready for the challenge. He’s the sort of kid who thrives on such challenges. He’s outgoing, creative and inquisitive. New environments don’t phase him much. But how else do you explain a child who’s not tried to sleep with us since he was an itty bitty baby, suddenly snuggling in bed with mommy in the middle of the night several nights in a row? My wife just called me up from the computer to see him curled up and sleeping in the very corner of our bed.
Jonah has always been precious to us since we’re older parents who required an egg donor fertility procedure to have him in the first place. But when you see something like that it makes him even more precious. You just want to take him in your arms and cuddle with him saying: “It will be all right sweetie. I swear it will.” Of course, he was sound asleep when I carried him back to his bed. I know my wife half wanted to have him sleep next to her all night as a way to compensate for whatever worries he might be feeling about the upcoming transition.
So tomorrow I get to wake up early (I’m usually writing this blog till 2 or 3 AM), pack Jonah and my wife into the car and haul him off to his first day of kindergarten. He’ll be going to TOPS, a Seattle alternative school. It is one of Seattle’s better K-8 schools with an excellent reputation for teaching, parental involvement and innovative programming.
When he got in we thought we’d won the lottery. That’s literally the way this particular school admits its students–by lottery. I don’t know how many applicants there were but it must’ve been in the thousands. Only 17 new students were chosen. And Jonah was one. How lucky!
I remember back a few months when we first found out he’d been selected. We were going through a particularly bad streak of luck. My wife had a detached retina which scared the living daylight out of her since she’s a lawyer to whom her eyesight is critical in her line of work. She had a bad patch at her job and we were contemplating having to move back to New York City (where we both grew up) in order to find legal work appropriate for her senior litigation background. Things just weren’t looking good. Each day we had to face new things about Seattle which we loved and which we’d miss when we moved back to NY. We thought sadly about selling a house we’ve loved; about losing our beloved kid-friendly parks like Madrona Beach and Volunteer Park; about losing our perfect NW summers. It was all so heart-rending.
That’s why Jonah’s acceptance at TOPS came like a bolt of lightning out of the blue. We thought: “Is this some kind of attempt to ameliorate our suffering just a bit by giving us at least one single silver lining amidst all those clouds?” Of course, at that time we weren’t even certain Jonah would get to go to TOPS since we were teetering on the brink of leaving.
Luckily, Lane Powell, another Seattle law firm recognized Janis’ talents and offered her a position. And her retina has healed quite nicely (though in these cases they never return precisely to their previous state) thanks to the wonderful care of Dr. David Saperstein at the UW Medical Center (alas, he’s leaving too).
Now, we’re sitting pretty and Jonah gets to go to TOPS after all. But his parents are slight basket cases about it all. Maybe someone who’s been through this can shed some light on why we feel this way: all sentimental and slightly teary. After all, it’s not like he’s leaving us. Last year, he went to Secret Garden Preschool (oh how we love that place!) four hours a day and four days a week. At TOPS, he’ll have a 6 hour day. So what’s the difference? It’s not like he’s leaving home for college (ugh–another milestone to face). He’ll be right here with us every day. Maybe it has something to do with our tender feelings for him and realizing that he’s making a transition to a more independent state in which he’ll need us less (or differently, at least). Who knows?
But one thing’s for certain: Jonah starts kindergarten tomorrow whether we’re ready or not.