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The Truth About Sending Your Child to School for the First Time

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Illustrations by Tim Foley and Abby Musial

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How I envisioned Amelia’s first day of preschool: tons of tears, with me possibly being escorted off school grounds for refusing to leave her classroom, then sitting in the parking lot audibly sobbing whilst watching videos of her until pickup. Her daily sheet would say she cried the entire time, refused to eat and maybe even wet her pants a few times for good measure.

How it actually went: She happily sprinted into school, gave me the Heisman when I tried to hug her goodbye and then sat down to play with her BFF without even a second glance in my direction. I spent the next few hours watching trash TV and grazing on anything my heart desired at a leisurely pace—instead of hovering over the kitchen counter shoveling it down my throat before someone needed me for something.

It. Was. GLORIOUS.

When we first started our school search, I did what every clueless first-time mom probably does in this day and age: I perused our local moms’ Facebook group page and compiled a list of the top choices, then took to the interwebs to look up costs. Somehow, I resisted the urge to pass out crunching numbers and I was able to narrow our list down to five schools.

A couple of weeks later, our good friends told us they’d enrolled their daughter at St. David’s Episcopal Day School, which was one of our top choices. We had already decided that she and Amelia were going to be best friends whether they liked it or not, so I set up a tour in the hopes we’d love it, too.

Five minutes in I knew it was the perfect fit for us, but I assumed my husband, Wes, would pull his typical “let’s think about it” routine while I pouted like a petulant toddler until he gave in. My jaw dropped when he asked the head of school to hold a spot for Amelia. When I realized he was serious, I almost burst into tears and then asked if I could hug her.

When she didn’t look at me like I was a lunatic, I knew we’d found our home.

It’s not easy to send your child out into the world for the first time, especially into the care of people you’ve met only a few times. One of the hardest lessons we’ll learn as parents is how to let go, and to teach our kids to be independent while allowing them to develop their own personalities.

A week before school started, I emailed Amelia’s teacher asking if I could add an extra page to the “getting to know you” form; she told me to “write away.” Three pages later and I’d written more than they’d ever need to know—essential tips like “she inherited my ADD and Wes’ OCD, so good luck with that,” “she points with her middle finger (she’s not flipping you the bird)” and “hopefully you’re not offended if she says ‘I have to go potty, it’s turds.’”

I would still be writing if Wes hadn’t told me to shut it down and let Amelia get settled into school before I showed the extent of my crazy. I finished my sentence and scribbled “my husband’s telling me to stop writing … I promise I’m not insane” across the bottom of the page.

Our main goal in enrolling Amelia in school was socialization. We didn’t realize how much she would gain from just two half-days a week, but in less than six months her confidence (and vocabulary) have grown exponentially, and her already-active imagination is off the charts.

It’s not easy to send your child out into the world for the first time, especially into the care of people you’ve met only a few times. One of the hardest lessons we’ll learn as parents is how to let go, and to teach our kids to be independent while allowing them to develop their own personalities. All we can do is hope that they’ll carry the values we instill in them and make good decisions, even when we’re not around.

If we’re really lucky, there will be people along the way who bring a little bit of magic into our child’s world, people who see them for who they truly are instead of who the world wants them to be.

Our first parent-teacher conference was a week before Amelia’s third birthday, where her teacher described her as “bright, happy and kind.” She told us Amelia is always quick to help people and gravitates toward “cerebral” tasks most kids her age don’t care about. She called her an old soul who is probably capable of teaching us all a little something about life.

I envision that one day, when everyone else in Amelia’s class is carefully coloring inside the lines and writing the same old boring book reports, our daughter will be onstage bursting into song or performing an interpretive dance she choreographed herself.

All of that is Amelia, in a nutshell. In that moment I knew there was no one else in the world I’d trust more to help cultivate our fierce little lionhearted girl’s kind spirit, creative nature and brilliant mind.

So now we just need St. David’s to add grades K through 12 or find a way to convince her current teachers to travel with her from grade to grade until the end of time, and we’d be all set.

I know, I know.

A woman can dream, though.

Published as “Steady As She Goes” in the April 2020 issue of Delaware Today magazine.

Author Bio

Munchie Morgan Clement is a Delaware native and a graduate of Tatnall School and the University of Delaware. She lives in Bellefonte with her husband, Wes, their 3-year-old daughter, Amelia, a pit bull rescue named Lola and a tortoise named Molly.