First Day of School

For more than a year I’ve been pretty well obsessed with all things sailing, fixated on a distant dream, often to the dismay and irritation of family and friends.  I realize that dream is going to take a while (Our Boat?), and have recognized, at least conceptually, that I can’t neglect the present or wish it passed in order to reach the dream more quickly… I have kids to raise, a marriage to nurture, and a career to advance, not to mention time with friends to enjoy, new skills to acquire, more money to save, and generally, lots of fun to have… patience grasshopper (Henry recently asked me, “Why do Kung Fu masters always call their students ‘grasshopper’?”  He’s never even seen a Kung Fu movie… kid cracks me up.)

But understanding something and truly feeling something are very different things. This hit home for me last week during the first week of our district’s new school year.  Henry was beginning third grade, Hazel was beginning kindergarten, and Arthur was attending preschool on his own for the first time, without his big sister nearby all day.  I forgot how much I love these transitions.  Though somewhat arbitrary, these are such fun developmental and cultural milestones in the world more ordinary.

For the first time, Henry was not actually thrilled to be returning to school; he’s been enjoying his summer and has now come to recognize school as work… maybe not so great an omen for the year ahead, but a right of passage nonetheless… he’ll be singing Alice Cooper before we know it.

Big third-grader.
Big third-grader.

The first day of kindergarten is still the milestone of school-age milestones, except for graduation (the real one, that allows you to go to college, not the one that allows you to advance to the next grade).  Hazel was admittedly excited and nervous, but she had her new pink backpack with silver hearts, matching retro lunch box, and all the confidence, smarts and sweetness that she needed to get herself off to a great start.  Plus, it didn’t hurt that her big brother was in the classroom next to hers.

Kindergarten gear.
Kindergarten gear.
Picture of sweetness.
Picture of sweetness.

I was most worried about Arthur’s transition, now all by his lonesome on the 30-minute commute with me across town to his daycare near my office.  But it turns out that he and I both enjoy this one-on-one time with each other.  Yes, we’re sitting in traffic, but this is really the first time that he and I have had a regular opportunity to spend a little time, just the two of us. And I think he enjoys being on his own at preschool, almost like he gets to shine a little bit more without his sister around.

But my biggest surprise and favorite part of this whole shake-up has been watching Arthur say goodbye to Henry and Hazel each morning when we drop them off at their school.  After Candace or I say our goodbyes to each of them in their respective classrooms, Arthur barges through and wraps them up in a baby bear hug while he says his own goodbye in his best big-boy voice. Hazel eats it up, but Henry doesn’t seem quite sure what to do in the midst of his new classmates all sitting quietly, diligently working on their morning assignments.  It’s the sweetest thing, ever.

So now I feel like I’ve crossed my own milestone.  I’m still as determined as ever to chase that dream, but now I’m truly recognizing it for the marathon it is.  No longer do I feel compelled to try to maintain a sprint where every action and conversation must somehow be tied to attaining the dream.  Mind you, it’s never far from my thoughts, but now I’m comfortable with enjoying the journey as well.

As a side note, this post got me wondering, what milestones do cruising families celebrate?… first time at the helm of the dinghy?… first night watch on a passage?… first time radioing in to a harbor master? Let me know… I’m genuinely curious.

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