Dor to Dor: Kindergarten Drop Out

By Rebecca Brown, Special to the Light

A few weeks ago we made our annual summer trip with the kids to visit my mother and father-in-law, affectionately known as Granny and Granddaddy.

My mother-in-law is one-in-a-million. Beautiful and stylish to boot, she introduced me (for better or worse) to my first real hairdresser. She taught me to love a fine five-course dinner and a greasy bag of Crunchers potato chips. Just not at the same time. And she taught me that being strong not only means knowing how to grin and bear it in public, but also knowing how to fall apart behind closed doors and accept the support of family.

All lessons I have tested repeatedly.

Granny and Granddaddy’s house is designed for, well, Granny and Granddaddy. Not Ben and Sarah. This gave me plenty of opportunity to break out all of my best “Parents As Teachers” dialogue praising “good decisions,” defusing meltdowns and trying to curtail massive property damage. I even worked in a lesson on respecting the body that God gave you right after Granddaddy suggested Ben get a tattoo. Really? What’s next? A belly ring for Sarah? He was joking. I think.

But when all of my usual tricks fall flat, I reach for my trump card. The threat that always works.

Keep doing that and you won’t get into kindergarten!

This phrase is enormously self-serving. Not just because it (usually) stops the behavior. But because I’m secretly hoping, no praying, that somehow the first day of kindergarten never comes.

Of course it is. August 17th. Mrs. Fallstrom just sent Ben a postcard letting him know.

Dear Ben, Looking forward to seeing you. You can bring your supplies on August 17th. See you soon! Mrs. Fallstrom

And just like that Ben went from being my precious baby to a school kid who gets his own mail and schleps his own supplies. Next week I suspect he’ll be sneaking out the car and begging for a later curfew.

I remember my first day of kindergarten. We have a picture. Me dressed in my green jeans shorts and patchwork blouse. (How could you not love the 70s?) I was stepping onto the school bus. But from the photo you can’t tell if I’m upset, scared or the least bit nervous about the milestone because I didn’t look back.

Thankfully Ben will not be taking the bus. I’ll walk him. And cling to his leg sobbing like a mad woman as he crosses the threshold into independence and hopefully looks back, even if only to shake me from his leg.

Each time I think about it I wonder …

Did I hug him enough? Hold his hand enough? Should I have called in sick more for “Mommy/Ben dates?” Did I teach him everything he needs to know?

Is he ready?

Am I ready?

On August 17th I fully expect to institute, yet again, the lesson of Granny: grin and bear it in public and then come home and fall apart with family. From experience, I know that each day will get a little bit easier. I trust I’ll find a way to support Ben as he grows, so that we grow together instead of apart. But just in case, I’ll be sending Ben with his own letter to Mrs. Fallstrom:

Dear Mrs. Fallstrom:

Please take care of the best thing that has ever happened to me. The person who changed my life.Who gives me strength everyday simply by existing.

And who I promise you in no uncertain terms is cute for a reason! Good luck.

Your friend, Rebecca

Rebecca Brown, a lawyer and the mother of two young children, works as an adviser at Washington University’s School of Law. She is married to Steve Brown, a lawyer and former Missouri legislator. The Browns live in Clayton and are members of Central Reform Congregation.

• “Dor to Dor,” is an intermittent Jewish Light series looking at various aspects of “grown-up” life and generational connections through the lens of Jewish writers living in the St. Louis area. If you are interested in contributing to Dor to Dor, please email [email protected].