24 Aug, 2010

I’ve been on the other side…

Sehba Sarwar
24 Aug, 2010

I’ve been on the other side, the teacher setting up the classroom, decorating, greeting the kids, preparing for a semester. That was a long time ago. Today is my first day as a parent.

We wake up at 6:30 am, get dressed, eat breakfast and are in her classroom before the “tardy” bell. That’s already an accomplishment. I sit beside her in a newly scrubbed classroom with with clean desks and shiny wood floors. The walls have panels with Spanish words—months of the year, numbers, seasons—and on the yellow bulletin boards are the names of all the kids. Minal looks for hers and smiles when she finds it.

When the bell sounds, it’s loud and jarring. Minal’s eyes open wider. And then, the principal appears at the door and reminds the parents that it’s time for us to leave our children for the day.

Today, the first day of school, there is a coffee gathering for new parents, and I head to the back of the building to meet and mingle for just a little bit. By 8:20 am, I step away from the school to my parked car. I’m not sure where I’m going to go, or how I’m going to structure my day which stretches before me like a marathon that I have to run and appear on the other side, fresh and ready for the next day, week, year, lifetime. Dropping Minal to pre-K at Wharton is different from pre-school, where we could come and go as we pleased, she could dress as she wished, and have unstructured play time.

This is school. There are absolutes. She must arrive at a certain time and be picked up at a certain time. She has to wear a uniform, eat lunch in the cafeteria, and play recess outside. We are entering a whole new world (isn’t that a disney song?) and I’m not sure I’m ready for it.