Well it truly is a day of firsts — 1 August, first day of Ellen attending 1st grade.
Ellen’s school is quite close to our home, and given traffic this morning, her dads and she walked to school. Most of the weekend I tried not to think of Ellen’s milestone. I focused on her writing, her back-to-school outfit, a go-to number that doesn’t miss (black lace in a subtle pattern over pink), spending time with her at her favorite museum exhibit, watching her finish off a banana-strawberry smoothie in record time.
As soon as we arrived at the school, though, my stomach started to go. I carry warm memories of my aunt taking me to first grade, a year when my huge German nose really started to grow but my reading abilities also started to take off. Ellen is in much better shape. She already reads beautifully and her nose is gorgeous. So in some ways, compared to me at least, she’s ahead of the game.
And in some ways she is not. Ellen wrote me a note this past Saturday. I should have gushed, but I told her that her penmanship needed work, that her lovely thoughts needed to find their way down to paper in a more legible form. It was not one of my most shining moments as a parent. But Ellen is extremely resilient. Later she grabbed one of her favorite German stories, Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse or The Princess and the Pea, and read it in its entirety to me. Her accent was lovely and authentic.
So I took as deep breaths as Ellen when I met Ellen’s teacher for the first time this morning. Ellen is in a mainstream setting — the subject of another post. I tried like the dickens to be brief, explaining that Ellen has many strengths, that Ben and I set the bar high, that we’re working on hand-eye coordination that could translate into better writing, that we’re in this as a team. My voice was calm, but I felt my words were full of intensity.
My poor husband stood very still. The teacher smiled warmly. She said she had met Ellen at Ellen’s summer school and was very impressed by her. She said we were right to set the bar high. Together we walked into Ellen’s classroom. We did what parents do: helped get her settled, met other parents, took in her surroundings, made first impressions of her classmates. Ellen’s teacher took gentle control of dozens of parents and first graders. Within 10 minutes, the classroom was organized, parents’ faces showed relief, the kids found their desks and started interacting with each other. At the same time, Ellen’s teacher complimented Ellen and her classmates in ways that were personal to them, that made them feel welcome. How does she do this? I wondered.
At that point I felt like it was probably time to say goodbye. Ben and I walked home before we headed out to the school where both of us work. I stifled a few tears. I turned on my computer, answered emails, made calls, and began to move through the rest of the morning, all the while wondering about my daughter’s first day.
My husband later sent me these photos of Ellen and her new teacher and of Ellen at her desk. The next chapter of Team Ellen has begun. Her teacher had written, She is faring well. So glad to have her. Thank you for your blessings this morning. It will be a glorious year.
Yes, it will be. Thank you Ellen, thank you Ellen’s teacher, thank you Ben, thank you universe.