About Erin

Deputy Editor, Southern Living Magazine. Digital and social media girl who learned everything with a pen and a reporter's notebook. Mom. Florida native celebrating all things kitsch, accidental Birminghamian. Is probably getting back from somewhere or heading somewhere. Knows: Elvis, journalism, pop culture, Southern artisans and emerging neighborhoods, vintage clothes, pugs, Yacht Rock. 

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Monday
Aug152011

First Day of Kindergarten That Wasn't

I walked out of Nate's new elementary school with tears in my eyes this morning, but not for the reasons one would expect. I had to remove him from the school, minutes after a teacher walked him in with his bright eyes, because we didn't have the right paperwork. Specifically, we did not have the "blue" immunization form Alabama requires.

So, instead of this being the joyous day that it started being -- our only child's first day of school -- it was a humiliating walk of shame, as I held his tiny hand and walked him out, his new backpack and lunch box in hand. Because he did not have the correct paperwork, he missed his first day of school, and will miss half of his second. First the facts, then what it really means. 

So here are the facts: Every child in the care of an Alabama school must have a blue form documenting their immunizations. We knew this from having him in daycare for the past four years. It was briefly mentioned to us in the spring, but not on any official paperwork from the school. (They also dropped the ball in informing new parents that an information session had been rescheduled, but that's another story.) We were told we could provide them with the "Blue Form" later, after he finished daycare (as they must hold that card until the child is released from their care).

Over the summer we went no fewer than three times to the school to fill out other paperwork -- eight zillion proof of residencies, forms about ordering yearbook, PTO dues. And last week we took Nate to meet his teacher, where we filled out more forms. In the many, many visits, including four days ago, there was no checklist, no mention of the necessity of the Blue Form. Until a phone call came at 6 p.m. last Friday saying he needed one. Um, a little too late for that. 

This morning at 6 a.m. I drove to the daycare and they pulled the blue form from their box. As the administrator looked at it she said, "uh oh, this is his original one. I don't think it's up to date." No worries, I thought, it had all his other immunizations. 

We took the proud pictures in front of the house (actually my Dad did). Dad even rode in the back of the car documenting the special morning. And when we got to school there was a kind teacher who took his hand and walked him back. My tough, laid-back kid just smiled and didn't even look back. I didn't even cry. Until Shane walked out and said they would not let Nate into the school because the blue form was not up to date. It was missing his five-year-old immunizations.

Here's the part where I admit we goofed. Nate was ill all spring with a bad GI infection, and though we took him to the doctor for many, many appointments, he never got his five-year-old shots. Daycare apparently didn't care. I pleaded that we could take him later -- "Please don't make him miss his first day of school." The thing is, I do understand where they are coming from -- it's Alabama Law. But it was needless for it to happen this way.

Even worse, his doctor is gone until tomorrow, 10:15 am., and must be the one to administer the shots. 

Damn.

Had the school had a more effective, streamlined process for communicating with parents -- especially first time parents, this didn't have to happen. A simple check-list -- done weeks ago at enrollment or even last week at "Meet The Teacher" day would have prevented this painful experience.

Were we wrong? Yeah, we forgot. Were they wrong? I think so, if not for how they handled things today than in the many communications that came before. (I have written them a letter volunteering my services if they need help with creating more streamlined documents and better communicating.)

Now for what this stirs up in me.

*** 

I'm a working mother -- by choice. Last week, at "Meet The Teacher," I booked it back to Hoover after a morning-long meeting to introduce Nate to his teacher and label his glue sticks. Then I rushed back to the office to make it to an afternoon-long meeting. My work, like having a child, is a choice and a joy and a privilege. My writing is as much as a part of me as being a mother. And I am far from Mrs. Cleaver (thank God). 

I adore my kid and I adore my writing -- they're both my calling. I am a perfectionist at both duties. Fierce.

Nate is my only and I pour all my heart into him. (I'm sure people with multiple children feel the same, but this is just where I am and my perspective.) So the silly, overlooked form that resulted in his mom walking him out when he should have been with his friends? Well, it probably affected me more than him.

Yes, this is for sure. He had a great time with his Dad, who took him to McWane Center, where he probably learned more than he ever would the first day of kindergarten. 

So maybe this is more about me. And expectations. 

But, can you blame me for having high ones -- for myself, my family, and the schools to which I entrust this little boy?

Last week I fretted over so many things -- his last day of daycare, the "Back To School" Cocktail Party that now seems like a joke. (Maybe next year's drink should be the "Blue CardTini" -- ha.) Yes, very funny that the mom who tried to do everything right got such a simple thing wrong.

***

I roared today, posting Facebook status updates talking about the fact that I have doubts that we made the right choice. (I struggled with sending him to this school, when we had a spot at an excellent private school. Today I wondered if I should have trusted my instinct, especially as I think how thorough the private school was in telling us everytihng we need. I am still wondering.) 

People were kind (well most of them; there's always one know-it-all). Moms understood how upset I was. I started to spin the story to the place I want it to be -- a funny tale about the day my child was kicked out of kindergarten. It's gonna be funny, right? That's why I keep going, right? To raise a great kid and tell stories.

I just didn't know that I'd send him off with this particular narrative.

 

 

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