First grade is a very big deal in Israel. It is the focus of newspaper articles all through August; there are special sales in the stores; this coming Shabbat there will be a little tekes (ceremony) for all the first graders at our synagogue.
I understand the focus and the hysteria. It is, I am theorizing, the equivalent of sending your baby off to kindergarten in the United States. First time in a big school building. First time mixing with bigger kids. First time with a lot of responsibility–for themselves and their stuff and their work.
But knowing Miss M, me worrying about this, even talking about it with her a lot ahead of time, isn’t going to come close to her (and my) experience of it. We need to pass it through her headspace together. Hopefully with the cooperation of her teacher.
And furthermore, I refuse to get worked up about things because she is not nervous. At all. Unlike last year, when she was (understandably) a basket case over new house! new school! new teacher! new language! new people! new life!, this year she is walking into a classroom with familiar faces and friends. Hebrew is, from my perspective, not rolling off her tongue with ease, exactly, but it does not seem to bother her. Therefore, I? Am not getting worked up.
She is so excited to go to first grade, to pack her backpack, to wear her shirts with the school logo on them. “Ema,” she says, breathlessly, about 12 times a day, “did you know that I am going to primary school?” (Readers, did you know that she has spent the summer memorizing the key words of the Ramona oeuvre? “AM, are you cross?” she asks all the time. “That means,” she continues in a stage whisper, “are you angry?”)
I have my worries about her deportment in school in general, how she will manage to SIT and PAY ATTENTION and NOT INTERRUPT, but that is not specific to first grade or a new school/new teacher. (We are slowly trying to figure out where to go with that. I foresee future posts.)
And just to prove that the world getting a little smaller, the allergy questions have appeared here too.* Two of Miss M’s classmates have severe dairy allergies (in addition to her friend who just can’t eat it–these two can’t touch it). They are instituting a school-wide “wash hands after snack” policy, and children in Miss M’s class are not allowed to bring any dairy items in their mid-morning snack. (The ripple that went through the meeting when the principal announced this was more like a tidal wave. Taxman and I just looked at each other and shrugged, thinking we’d have swap cheese sandwiches for cucumber sandwiches.)
Miss M, who tends to eat avocado sandwiches during their season and cheese sandwiches when they’re not around, accepted this decree with surprising equanimity. “I’m lucky I’m not allergic to any food,” she said. “I’ll try peanut butter again. But I’m sad I can’t take cheese sandwiches to school.” I explained how even touching cheese could make two of her new classmates very sick, but she could still have it at home. (“Pita pizzas!” she exclaimed.) And that she was going to have to wash her hands with soap after breakfast to help keep everyone safe. “And I’ll drink a big glass of water to wash away the milk from my cereal,” she added. I thought that was kind of sweet.
I guess we’ll see if I crumble like a slab of halvah when I see my baby dressed in her school shirt for the first time. (I did get a little misty when we were at the store, watching them press on that logo.) Stay tuned.
* If you haven’t read Persephone’s posts about school policies and food and allergies and parenting, you really should.