Last week my son started kindergarten. His mother and I were cautiously optimistic that everything was going to go right the first day. We anticipated a few hiccups along the way but believed that his time in preschool prepared him for interactions with teachers, staff and other students a full day.

But as I saw my son hop on the bus and head off to school, thoughts about what he may encounter raced through my mind. Can he handle a full day at school? Will he make friends? Did we prepare him enough for all-day schooling?

These thoughts raced through my head as horror stories from year’s past raced through my head. I remember one family had to deal with a bully in the first week. Their child came home with a shiner from another kindergartener. They were confused how things escalated to the point of physicality.

Another story reminded me about the importance of being a good person. A child was ostracized from a group because of the way that she looked. A group of girls had made fun of her the second day of school and she was unhappy the rest of the year.

I also remember some of the obstacles that I had in kindergarten. I had made plenty of friends, but because there weren’t many in my neighborhood, I was usually getting in trouble for talking while the teacher was trying to get class organized. This led to missing out on several fun things that the teacher had to offer in class. Remembering it now, I feel that somewhere along the line a light switch went off in my brain as I began to care more about my education and less about socializing.

After a few minutes of thought, I remembered that kindergarten was where I grew my passion for education and drove me to pursue a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. I remember my teacher Mrs. Carolynn and how much time she spent with my classmates and me to make learning fun.

I remembered the fun bus rides to and from school. How you met a whole different group of friends riding the bus. How you get to see the city on a crisp autumn day.

The discovery of recess was also life-changing. A break from the “daily grind” and a time to get some energy out and play with classmates. Learning how to play in a group setting, instead of by yourself or with a few others.

This type of thinking changed my outlook on that first day of school. I thought, “This is the time that my son learns what it’s like to be independent-ish.”

But this made me sad as well. This was the first time I would be letting go. No longer am I giving him rides to preschool and picking him up. He now gets on and off a bus and comes home.

When I got home, I got to hear about how great school was and how he was excited to go back tomorrow. And with a little tear building up in my eye, I said, “That’s great bud. Glad you had a good day.”

Zach Stich is the managing editor at The Fergus Falls Daily Journal. His column appears each Thursday.

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