First day of kindergarten

walking backpack kindergarten

First Day K run-tych


stroller boy dad phone


first day K playground scene


boys on playground first day K


  first day K 8 friends


  sparkly sneaker envy first day school


first day K 10

I love most the progression: excitement, trepidation, near panic, joy, contentment, fashion choice dissection. Later, in the post-school photo: exuberance hurriedly filling a hole left by weeks of anticipation and anxiety.

I don’t remember the crush of a schoolyard entrance. I remember Mrs. Calvin’s pre-fab skirt and top outfit patterned with fish, a sunny spot on the rug, the confusing discovery that some kids were already reading.

It seems unfair: to send the kids inside while that hard blue sky waits and no one is on the swings. But maybe September is for parents. We can read the paper in the sun and pretend for a minute we are a dreamy students skipping class.

Remembering a lyrical ode to early September days I just googled “poem Auden September.”  It’s not like that at all. But I feel close to the poem, even if I forgot the details. We shared a vulnerable time after 9/11. And I guess it came to be because it’s now as September-ish as fair high-pressure skies and  seed pods about ready to burst. 

The poem does–with its gray talk of the State–tie into the start of school. I fret about how my son might be changed in by all-day kindergarten in a NYC public school with the ogre of high stakes testing, the lack of outside time, the missed chimerical nature walks we’d be having-–i.e., the crushing of his tender soul.

I try to remember that I also went to school and came out as dreamy as ever.

The last stanza of “September 1, 1939,”[2] by W. H. Auden:

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Here’s to a soul-broadening, wonder-blossoming year of school.

  1. My mom might tell me this is yet another case of making up my own mythology. My husband calls it exaggerating. To me, it’s a better form of truth. Supposedly once I went missing from school. Maybe I walked to school and never made it, maybe I wandered out the front door. I was found calmly picking dandelions in the front lawn.  ↩
  2. For more on this poem, later renounced by Auden as “dishonest,” and the 9/11 attention it received check out this piece.  ↩

One thought on “First day of kindergarten

  1. Dear Meghan,

    A child psychologist, Dr. Dwyer, once drove home for me, the idea that our children want us to be strong, need us to be strong for them even when we don’t feel strong. We can’t be children taking charge of children. For some reason this helped me a lot, to hide my insecurities as I tried to parent.

    But I felt so strongly, all the concerns you have so beautifully written here. Even as a grandmother, I imagine my grandchildrens’ first days of school each year, and wait with anxiety to hear how they have settled in. I remember a speaker who emphasized that perhaps we have to bend the will, but not break the spirit…another helpful thought for me. Another thought was steadily saying “You can’t stop me from loving you, even if you say you don’t love me.”

    I had many grand September days, when I would walk through the park near our home, stopping on a bench to breath in the air. Watching the leaves turn colors. Thinking finished thoughts. Having lunch on the back stairs or front porch, luxuriating in that holiday of sorts.

    And I must balance this with my memory of the year all six children went to school. Close neighbors were all smiles for me, thinking Maureen must be ecstatic. But that was the year of what they called the echo virus. It had a three-week incubation period and actually did echo, coming back randomly. It started about the second week of September and went almost to Christmas, as it took its time visiting the family. I don’t remember who got it first or last, or which children were sick together, and that is good. And I think I recall sweet moments, between taking temperatures and mopping up the messes, changing sheets and pajamas, when I secretly allowed myself to be glad they were once again home with me.

    Thanks so much for the photos and your writing.

    Much love,


    Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2013 14:52:45 +0000

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