elementary school · preschool · slice of life

A Pang

This morning, Ari wanted to go to the park to feed the ducks and play on the playground. So that’s what we did.

I lost track of time and realized I needed to deposit a check at the bank. The two of us speed-walked through the park so we could get to the bank before noon. Afterward, we took a leisurely walk back to the car.

We noticed a white duck with a bright orange bill diving deep into the water. We stopped to observe.

“What do you think the duck is diving for?” I asked Ari.

“Hmm. I think he’s trying to take a shower,” Ari said as the front half of the duck’s body disappeared into the water. All that was left were the duck’s legs and its tail sticking up into the air.

“That could be. It keeps dipping under the water over and over again. It might be trying to get clean,” I replied.

As a dark brown duck joined in the deep dives, Ari started to giggle. “Maybe there’s food down there,” he said.

“It must be something good!” I replied.

“I’m going to sit down and watch,” Ari said as he sat on the stones beside the water. But then he looked down and noticed greenish-white splotches dotting the rock. “What’s that?” he asked, knowing full well what the answer was going to be.

“It’s probably duck poop,” I replied.

He stood up immediately and said, “I’ll stand and watch.”

Ari stood there, hands clasped behind his back, watching the ducks with delight. He giggled every time they bobbed their heads into the water. I stood back to snap a photo since it amuses me every time I catch him in what looks like an older man’s stance.

And that’s when I felt a pang in my heart. My son is going to Kindergarten this fall. While I’m so excited for him to begin his schooling journey, part of me is starting to get emotional about sending my baby off to school.

I didn’t feel like this when Isabelle started Kindergarten. Maybe it’s because I was entering my ninth month of pregnancy. Or maybe it’s because Kindergarten was at the same school where she’d gone to preschool. Back then, Kindergarten seemed to be a continuation of someplace she already loved.

That won’t be the same for Ari. He’s missed preschool because of Covid. (That’s a whole other blog post.) It occurred to me, as I watched my son observing the ducks, that by him not going to preschool, I never had the chance to separate from him. And while I think school will be great for him, the mom part of me isn’t ready to go let go. However, the educator part of me knows it’s time.

I know it’s normal to feel all of the feels when one’s child goes off to Kindergarten. I just didn’t expect to become verklempt while feeding ducks at the park.

Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slice of life stories.

37 thoughts on “A Pang

  1. What an enviable morning with Ari. I think it’s same for all the school kids, the separation after so many months at home or in the case of kindergarten, never going to school before that first day of kindergarten. All have needed just a little more care as we move forward.

  2. Having read your slice intro about not being ready to send him to K, as I read your well-detailed story of Ari taking the time to watch the ducks, I was celebrating this time. Time to walk and watch and wonder. And yes, the same can happen in K but school can also be loud and crowded and stuck inside a classroom. I get why you ended your slice with your innner feeling, a feeling of verklempt (thanks for teaching me a cool new word), I also am celebrating you as the kind of mom who allows her son to walk and watch and wonder. And I hope the hours he spends inside a school next year still allow you to have time to take walks to see the ducks. Thanks for sharing this moment with me.

    1. Your words truly touched me, Sally. Thanks for taking the time to notice the watching and wondering. I didn’t even realize that was what I was fostering. It’s something I do often with Ari, but never really thought twice about it. Thanks for highlighting that for me.
      I’m already looking forward to the 1:1 time I’ll have with him on the weekends next year. Hoping he will still enjoy the park with me.

  3. Perhaps it was the “old man’s stance” combined with his zest for duck poop mixed into our Covid-induced isolation from interaction that contributed to your “verklempt” condition at the duck pond? I agree with Susan that we all need a little self-love and careful-attention as we move into this next ear of seeing smiles without masks and for so many like your Ari, a first experience in away from home school.

  4. I love the picture of Ari watching the ducks! You’ve had so many special moments together and many more (of course) to come. I feel like parenting is all a series of letting go- they become their own little people with friends and a life that doesn’t directly involve us. Alex is leaving elementary school in June and I remember kindergarten orientation so clearly. Elementary school is a really special time (as you know) and I think you and Ari will both be happy when he’s in K! But I understand that pang….

    1. Yes, parenting is a series of letting go. I remember moments in Isabelle’s life, when I had to let go, that were so hard. I know it all worked out. And it will work out for Ari. I guess it’s just harder now since we’ve really been together — day in and day out — for so long.

      1. Yes! I agree with every word. Parenting is but just one letting go after another, one heartbreak after another. It does all work out, but they leave you in a mush forever. And Covid has kept us all together – for better or for worse – and we’ve just gotten mushier maybe. Love Ari’s ‘older man stance’! Does he remind you of his granddad or someone when he does that? I also love your Saturday morning walk!

  5. There’s a short story that Barbara Kingsolver wrote about watching animals with her daughter at the zoo, and this post reminds me of it. Except for the bank, there’s no rush– just however long it takes to sit or stand and contemplate the behaviors of ducks. I hope he keeps having and taking that time WAY after he heads off to kindergarten!

  6. The moment came unexpectedly. Ari will be ready- he has already had so many educational experiences. Maybe you haven’t had the separation yet by going to preschool, but you’ve created so many strong family ties, you will both be fine…even when you have those pangs. At my urban school, we have seen this year that our kindred, 1st graders, and even 2nd graders weren’t really ready after the interruptions from Covid. Quite a few kids cried and cried. Even as far into the year as we are, many just want to go home!

  7. I’m having so many similar emotions with Rose, who will also go to kindergarten in the fall. I think it’s because she’s the baby. I love this little moment you had to just watch him. Now you have it forever because you wrote it down.

    1. I do think it’s because they’re the babies. I recall so many times that I indulged things Ari did/needed since I knew it was a last because he was the baby of the family.

  8. ​​My momma heart connected to this post. I am the mom of a current kindergartener and I felt many of the emotions you described in your post. There is something so final about sending your baby off to kindergarten–into the real world all by themselves.

    I also could connect to the duck story you shared. Right before school started in August, I was at the park with my soon-to-be-kindergartner and we saw this duck waddling around by itself. I asked a similar question, “What do you think that duck is doing?” She replied, “She is a super spy on a super sneaky mission.” We laughed and continued to watch her as she waddled, then swam, then waddled on land some more. Hmm… this sounds like a slice! Thanks for the inspiration! Sending love from one momma to another!

  9. I’ve so enjoyed your Ari stories over the years. I feel as if I know him and you! As a Kindergarten teacher for over 20 years, I’ve comforted many a weepy mom (and a few dads) on the first day of school. It’ll be ok, and think of all the Slicing material he will continue to provide!

  10. Ari has had a great foundation. He will go forth unafraid and so will you. Take it slow, be kind to yourself, treasure his growth as you always have done. And think about all the stories he will tell!

  11. I just sent my oldest to kindergarten this past August, and man, that was so hard. I also was 9 months pregnant at the time, and blamed my embarrassing sobbing on that fact! The last picture in your post also resonated with me. My middle son stands like this all the time. It makes him look so grown up. These are sweet, special moments.

    1. What I think I’m realizing is that I’m going to need wear waterproof mascara and to hold it together until I get to the car. Then I will cry my eyes out!
      Love that you have a kiddo who stands this way. It’s adorable!

  12. Such a great morning with Ari! I just love the photograph! I think Ari will love kindergarten and have lots of stories to share with you! I am so glad you are recording all these tiny, precious moments. Such great memories to revisit over the years!

  13. I have a son going into Kindergarten this fall too. I completely relate to those feelings sneaking up at various times. Most recently for me it was when he fell asleep before I finished the bedtime book. He looked so young and innocent and such a big transition is nearing closer.

  14. I wonder what exactly prompted that leap from duck watching to the forthcoming kindergarten move? Was it the intimacy of the time together, knowing that would be coming to an end? Will you be reminded of these feelings, the next time you see ducks at the park….I’m always fascinated by the way our heads and hearts make connections.

  15. Stacey, thank you for this sweet post. I learned a new Yiddish word, verklempt. I like how you distinguish between the parent-you and the educator-you. They can both have different values.

    Thanks again for the fun meet-up on Sunday morning, Stacey. I enjoyed it.

  16. It’s so great that your writing will help you to hold onto these precious, fleeting moments with your son, Ari. I haven’t heard the Yiddish word verklempt in so long. (Reading it today made me miss my father!)

I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s