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By VICTORIA GRANTHAM | We were in P.S. 234’s cavernous cafeteria sitting at a long lunch table with a bunch of other families waiting for kindergarten orientation to begin, when I noticed the little boy sitting across from us was crying.
The child was telling his mother he was worried about leaving his preschool and his pals there behind. “Maybe I won’t make new friends,” he said through tears.
I butted into their conversation and introduced him to my son who muttered a tentative hello.
“All the five-year-olds are probably feeling the same way,” I said. “I’m four,” he clarified. Oh.
What I didn’t say was that even some of the parents were also feeling wistful and anxious. OK, at least one of the parents… me.
Shortly after we’d gotten the acceptance/confirmation letter from P.S. 234 in Tribeca I’d sent a note to parents of my son’s pre-K classmates to see if anyone else would be heading there. Some replied that their kids were going to Spruce Street School, a couple to gifted and talented programs, and several to private schools, but not one was P.S. 234-bound.
After three years I finally had a handle on who’s who and what’s what. My son’s pre-K class is a cast of characters. There are a couple of alpha boys, a handful who gravitate frequently to pretend play donning cop and princess costumes, and some early readers already confident with their pencils and crayons.
The parents are also a good mix – there’s “The Mayor,” an ultra-connector who knows everyone and always has the latest info on classroom happenings; the “Super Mom,” who juggles it all with ease; several amazing parents raising their kids solo; a couple of families who have transitioned from life abroad.
Now we have to change. I’m not a big fan of transitions. We’ve been in our apartment for more than a dozen years, and I’ve held the same job for nearly a decade. I get attached, sentimental and change-averse. Who are these other parents? Will we click with them? Oh right, we’re talking about the kids here.
The school administrator at the orientation broke us into groups and told us where to go – kids to classrooms to meet teachers and other students, and parents to the auditorium. My son went willingly – if tentatively – into the room full of strangers. He didn’t complain when we walked away.
In the auditorium, the principal talked about how letting go is typically harder for the parents than the kids. (Maybe it’s not just me.) She cautioned us against stalking our kids on the playground. She talked about the class projects, the buddy setup, and mentioned the afterschool program through the community center, which has amazing options like Taekwondo, French, swimming, and cooking. By the time we reunited with our son I was feeling more at ease. So was he, it seemed, judging by the way he was laughing alongside his peers during story time.
We’ve hatched a plan with the parents from my son’s pre-K class. My husband arranged a last hurrah soccer class for all the kids, and we’re going to reunite at his preschool’s “Family Table” program during the new school year. So, we’ve done what we can to maintain bonds with old friends, but what about building connections with new ones?
One of the dads at orientation asked about arranging playdates before school starts. I was wondering the same thing, but the school won’t facilitate them prior to September, so I took matters into my own hands and posted on the Hudson River Park mamas board to try to find moms of soon-to-be kindergartners at P.S. 234.
I was able to coordinate a quick playdate with one. We met in the park and let the kids run around while we chatted on a blanket. She was great – much better than I even hoped as we had a lot in common and she seemed like someone I’d want to be friends with regardless of the kid connection. Our tots, however, had a couple of disputes during our two hours together, so not an immediate love connection.
Meanwhile, pre-K graduation will be here at month’s end. My husband asked who we should invite. “We only have eight tickets?” Only EIGHT tickets?? (Apparently, I’m not the only sentimental one.) I reminded him it’s the very first of (hopefully) many graduations, so not every family member needs – or will want – to attend. He begrudgingly agreed and said we’d schedule a celebratory lunch with all instead.
My son started practicing his graduation song using his brother as audience/fawning fan while I surreptitiously shot video. He belted out: “All that I am, all that I see, all that I’ve been and all I’ll ever be is a blessing, it’s amazing and I’m grateful for it all.”
The sweet lyrics made me put my plans and anxiety to the side for a while and inspired me to find and reflect on a feeling of gratitude – for old friends and new, for the path behind and the one ahead. Like the song says, I’m grateful for it all.
Victoria Grantham, a writer and communications professional, is raising her family in Tribeca.