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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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First grade, holy crap

Two days ago, my baby started first grade. FIRST GRADE. How the hell did this happen? I remember first grade. I remember it all too well. Eating liverwurst sandwiches in the cafeteria and wondering why my friends moved their seats as soon as I opened my lunch box. Trying to teach the other kids to read, as they ran from my clutches. Wetting my pants with alarming regularity.

I was a weird kid. Are you surprised?

Henry declared before school began that he hated school. He was not even a little excited to go, he claimed. Nor was he nervous. He just wasn’t into it. Couldn't care less. There was a lot of shrugging and eye-rolling. On the walk to his first day, he asked how long college was, and when we told him it was four years, he balked. "No way am I doing that," he said.

"If you want to be an astronaut," Scott pointed out, "you might want to reconsider that."

"I’m not going to work," Henry said. "I'm just going to live with you."

Oh, kids. Kids who think they're going to want to live with their parents once they're grown up. Adorable! Actually I never felt that way. But clearly my son is nothing like me. For one, he has excellent bladder control. And he doesn't know what liverwurst even is. Which is probably for the best.

So we brought him to school with little protest—he wasn't scared or whatever, you'll recall, just so not into it—and when he got to his classroom he saw his friends and his teacher was all smiley and beautiful and full of bubbling positivity and I could see Henry thinking, "Don't act excited. Stay cool, man. STAY COOL." He shook our hands, then saw that his friend Nicky was kissing his parents goodbye so he figured that was okay. No hugs, though, MOM.

We high-tailed it out of there and Scott and I went for a celebratory, our-kid's-in-school-finally breakfast, but as soon as we sat down I abruptly morphed into The Angriest Person in the World. There were these kids (who I guess are in private school, which maybe hasn't yet begun? or they were truants and I should have called the goddamn authorities) who kept running in and out of the café, in and out, in and out, giggling loudly because apparently there was something hilarious and exciting about this journey, and they were wearing flip-flops so their feet were making these slappity slappity noises as they thwapped in and out, back and forth, and their mothers seemed just as delighted by their behavior as they were, for some reason, and I was like, Scott? Is it just me, or should these girls be killed immediately? And then I saw that Scott was on his iPhone posting to Twitter so I muttered angrily at my muffin for a while, which by the way was sub-par. He kept on Twittering, oblivious to my loud and insistent glaring.

Finally I said, "I wish I had that crazy vampire strength they have on True Blood where I could just reach over and crush your phone into bits."

That got him to look up. "What? Why do you want to crush my phone?"

"Don't Twitter when we're having quality time together as a loving couple," I hissed, and he actually said, "I can't imagine why I'd want to be on Twitter when you're such delightful company." Can you believe he said that, Internet? CAN YOU?

Okay, fine, be on his side. Whatever.

After we finished our breakfast—him all irritatingly good-natured, me filled with bile and rancor—Scott headed off to work. I had the whole day to myself! For once! With all this work to do, and stuff, so it was about time. And I got home, and tried to work but there was this pain in my midsection. I couldn't quite figure out where it was. It floated about. Was it my heart? Was I dying? Or was it the muffin? Unclear. The only thing to do was curl up on the couch for an hour or three and think about how much everything was terrible and awful.

That's when it occurred to me, in the fetal position on my couch, feeling the furrows between my eyes deepening as I scowled harder and harder, that I was sad. Because my baby was growing up. Goddamn it all to hell.

I swear I'm usually not this clueless about the workings of my psyche. Usually I am on board with crying right away and getting it all the hell out. It's all right to cry. As we know. Take it, Rosey Grier!

For whatever reason I couldn't get past the discomfort and horror of time passing and just let it all out so I laid there curled up, whimpering and mewling, and I actually tried to squeeze out some tears but could not. So unsatisfying.

Henry's having a great time in school, by the way. It's only been two days and he's already announced that he loves school and can't wait for homework. Today was the first day they all got to walk into the school without their parents. He was so excited to find his classroom all by himself. I tried to catch his eye as he followed his friends into the school, but he didn't look back.

Reader Comments (60)

Yeah, my son told me on the way to his first day of Kindergarten this week that he was definitely not going to college. He was going to open a restaurant on the planet Pluto instead. Pluto is no longer a planet, sadly, but we haven't broken the news to him. Turns out he met a boy named Henry today and said to me, "I don't like Henry." I was disappointed. Then he said, "I LOVE Henry!" So thanks to Henrys everywhere.

September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
That "my baby!" feeling comes back to bite you even after you think you're over it. When my daughter started fifth grade on Tuesday, it occurred to me that we only have seven more first days of school before she goes to college, and that freaked me right the hell out. It doesn't help that she's on her laptop right now, chatting with a friend and looking alarmingly teenagerish. Ack.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa
I remember being broken up when my oldest turned 5. "The good years are over," I sobbed. Really. I did that.

He just left for college. And I was glad at the time. But now? 3 weeks later? I'm sort of losing it.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent
If I remember correctly, our kids are close in age, but in our district Declan actually ended up going to 1st grade last year. So we have started SECOND GRADE this year holy crap.

One thing I noticed - and this was for ALL the kids not just my son as the hound one in the class - 1st grade is a period of HUGE HUGE HUGE developmental change. It's like they morph into pre-pre-teens or something.

Hang on for a wild ride.
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteraimee greeblemonkey
Young, not hound. :)
September 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteraimee greeblemonkey
My youngest just started primary school and I cried all the way to the pool, where I read - uninterrupted - for three hours straight! Been years since I did that.

All the same, she loves school - and me? Not so much. I miss my baby.

September 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterViv
Thanks everyone... sometimes it feels like I am all alone in my "babys are growing up-ness". Sometimes, I almost (ALMOST) feel like having another one...
September 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShannie
I like liverwurst and I think Rosie Grier does too.kudos on your son's bladder control
September 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBostulla
My oldest just started kindergarten. I miss her terribly; the school day is so long.I totally get your pain -- it's the beginning of the long, brutal separation that culminates in them making their way into the world. As adults. Alone.But with us still, really. Because if we do it right, they're always with us.At least, that's what I keep telling myself.
September 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana
Rosie Grier and his excellent shirt collar extending past his lapel is the only reason I'm not crying right now. Good for Henry, though. My daughter (4) piped up in the car the other day that "next year I'm going to kindergarten and the next next year I'm going to college." (she has step-sibs) I hated to break the whole grades 1-12 thing to her, but at least that will give me time to adjust to her departure.
September 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterk a b l o o e y
Reminds me of the Kahlil Gibran poem:

Despite being able to philosophize these things, I agree, the whole thing sucks. You spend hours, sometimes days wishing your little one would leave you the hell alone and then when you aren't the center of their universe anymore you get all choked up (I mean me, not you, but you can take the sentiment and run with it if you choose to).
September 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichele
"Free to be You and Me" is the BEST PROGRAM EVER!!! I love that you referenced the Rosie Greer song. Just remember, "Mommy's are people. People with children!" Henry is still your child, he's just playing it cool.
September 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMissey
" I tried to catch his eye as he followed his friends into the school, but he didn't look back." -- That really got me, Alice.

Ive got a 17 month old and a 6 week old. Most days, Im running around my house trying to get everything done, wearing the infant in the sling, while my toddler chases me around and cries when I dont pick her up. Many times Im carrying both of them, like a mule. Im sweating so much these days that Ive started wearing my husband's Mitchum deodorant.

So, naturally, the idea of them both being in school someday had seemed like a wonderful thing. And then I imagined them running off to class, and not looking back at me. And I wanted to curl up and cry too.

Thanks for reminding me to savor these precious few years.
September 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea, 32
" I tried to catch his eye as he followed his friends into the school, but he didn't look back."

When my youngest was in the second grade, I brought cupcakes to class for his birthday and he refused to acknowledge me at all! I stood there like an idiot while he acted like he didn't know me.

We had a little talk when he got home.
September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSerious Replies Only
That is the worst. When you're upset about something and you KNOW a good cry would ease it a bit and all you can do is LAY THERE AND HURT
September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDani
My oldest started first grade this year too. He just turned 6 in August, so I feel like there's no way he's ready for all this, but there he is, heading off all by himself. We live just two blocks away, so I walked him all the first week, but the last day I only walked him to the corner and watched him cross (with the crossing guards) two streets all by himself, not even looking back to see if I was still there. Fortunately (if you don't consider the fact that he's made entirely out of knees and elbows) he still likes to curl up on my lap.

But you know, first grade sucked for me. I had just moved halfway across the country, had never experienced a true winter, got pneumonia, was scared of everyone all the time... And here he is, one of the kids I was so jealous of then, all confident and with friends already made. And I know he's doing a lot better than I was at that age, which makes it a little more bearable.
September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKendra
Oh, boy. I hate to tell you, but this is only the beginning.
September 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterreadersguide
Free to Be You and Me. The best. I crack up every time you reference it here. I play the disc in the car all the time and my son wants to know why they had freaky songs like that "back then".
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSharon
It's so painful...the way they grow up. And time waits for no man.

I know, on the first day of school this year, I spotted a walking stick I knew my budding entomologist would love...I called for him upstairs, and then it hit me...he wasn't home.

Tears falling into the coffee cup.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra
I LOVE liverwurst. I am not ashamed of this.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSwedish Pankakes
Made me cry. My baby is in 4th grade and the first day of school still gets me. We talk a lot about college too and the other day he asked "do kids WANT to go away to college?", as if it's the most unbelievable thing in the world. At this stage he can't imagine being away from us. So sad that will change. Sigh.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdwjonesak
I used to get liverwurst sandwiches for lunch too. On whole wheat. Delightful right?

You don't have many bargaining tools in your lunch bag to trade for treats when everything smells like ass.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin@TheLocalsLoveIt
LOVE Free To Be You and Me! Way to throw that reference in...even in the midst of your pain and angst.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnjie
First? Try SECOND. Eeeek.

It's all right to cry...that was excellent. : ) Did it make you feel better? Oh right, no tears. But watching Rosie made me feel better.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristin aka Krisco
And I was feeling wheepy when I learned that Moanna (only 2) knows what school is. She is so excited to have a back pack and ride a school bus. I hate to break her little heart but my goal is to home school her, and if she does go to public school, there is NO WAY she's riding a bus... Buses are a wealth of knowledge that I don't think children should hear about until they are 18 at least!
September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

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