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First day of kindergarten has this dad feeling a little blue

August 29, 2006|by BILL KOHLER

Dear world,

Today is the day I share with you my most precious possession - my daughter.

Today is her first official day of kindergarten and Daddy is a little shaky. Mommy seems to be handling it all OK, but she, too, is a little nervous about Madison's first real day of school.

Oh, she's been away before. She went to preschool for the past year and a half and she's traveled with her mother to Florida, Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

But this is something totally different.

This is the real deal, the genuine article, the Madden '07 of growing up.

Madison will always be Daddy's girl, but kindergarten in any school - public or private - is when she starts to learn a lot about the outside world from which she's been sheltered.

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I've been lucky. By working an evening shift, I've been able to spend more time with her than most fathers spend with their children. A year from now when she goes to school all day, that might change, but for the first five years of her life, we've had it pretty good.

Yeah, there's been moments when I've wanted to sleep in a little longer or would have rather gone to the YMCA and worked out instead of playing hide-and-seek or doing puzzles.

Mornings were our time - Maddie-Daddy days.

Those days are numbered, and like millions of parents before me and like countless mommies and daddies did this week and last week in the Tri-State area, we have to let go.

Even if it hurts. Even if it's for the best.

Fathers of girls can relate, I'm sure. Boys at this age are almost at the boiling point - yours and theirs. You almost feel as if you want to see them go on to the next challenge. They need some time away as much as you.

Not girls.

I want to keep her locked in a castle at the top of the highest tower in a faraway land. No boys, no Internet, no TV, no Disney Channel. Did I mention no boys?

Does she really need to go to school?

Can't we just freeze this time for eternity?

Of course, I'm dreaming. I love my child and I know that school is the best place for her. I know she will grow and blossom and shine and laugh and play and explore. And, some of her best buddies are boys.

All good things. I loved school. I think she will, too.

So, world, here's what I'm asking. This is not just for me, but this is for all the moms and dads like me, like fellow Herald-Mail editor Meg Partington, like my brother Jim and his wife, and all my parent friends from the YMCA preschool who are about to send their children off to school for the first time.

World, a few requests:

1. Be gentle. Remember that these are children and sugar attracts more flies than vinegar.

2. Slow down when you're driving near schools. Obey speed limits and stop at crosswalks. Don't pass school buses and most certainly stop when buses are dropping off kids.

3. Support the schools. Yes, we homeowners pay taxes, but when the little cherubs are selling items for a new playground or a trip to the zoo, please help. We also can help by volunteering at schools or by attending athletic and musical performances.

4. Keep an eye on her when I'm not there.

5. Help her learn about right and wrong and winning and losing. Let her scrap a little and fight for her place in this big, bad world. Let her know it's great to win and OK to lose, but not to like it and that she can learn from it.

6. And finally, world, let her know that girls can do whatever boys can do and vice versa. Help her to learn that tolerance and kindness are virtues that will serve her well in school, and for the rest of her life.

Oh, I almost forgot. Remind her that no matter how old or sassy she gets, she'll always be Daddy's little girl.

Regards,

Bill

Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Herald-Mail. Reach him at billk@herald-mail.com or at 800-626-6397, ext. 2023.

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