By Tessa Lemos del Pino
My 2-year-old son just went to his first day of preschool. It is the same school his 4-year-old sister attends.
It seemed he was ready. To be sure, I checked all the boxes: Last year, he cried every day at drop-off because his sister went to school and he did not. He happily plays independently. His teacher has reassured me she can safely deal with his food allergy.
In the days leading up, I had a knot in my stomach every time I thought of leaving my son at school. But, I have been more excited about having two days to do all of those things that I never get done when I have two little people hanging off of me.
I have joyfully imagined mornings of cafecito, writing the novel that enlightens the world to the struggles of the Mexican-American migrant farm worker. It is going to be epic, I tell you. My closets would look like they belonged in a home storage solutions magazine. I would listen to NPR. I would get through my book list. I’d shop for clothes that fit and flatter my small frame, reminding my husband of the girl he first met. I’d volunteer, I would take yoga. I would sew. I’d be the Mexican Martha Stewart and Oprah all rolled into one.
Fantasies aside, we prepped our independent son, hoping for a smooth transition. A while back, we started talking about school. The day before school, we decorated his lunch cooler with happy stickers. He loved running around in a backpack that matched his sister’s. We picked out a blanket and pillow for nap time.
Again, all of the boxes checked.
At drop off, I put on my best face and confidently walked him into his classroom. I told him it was time to have fun and that I’d pick him up after lunch. I reintroduced him to his teachers, assuming that, like his sister, he would go with them and have a blast until I returned.
Instead, he cried. Great big, soppy tears ran down his face. Cheeks reddened. He tilted his head back, his mouth forming a large O, like in the Charlie Brown cartoons. I walked him to the fish tank. That quieted him and I was hopeful.
A small girl with mocha skin and two beautiful little pom pom pony tails approached and they happily pointed at the fish together. He went off with his teacher. But, as I walked out the door, I heard that familiar scream. I prayed for the best and spent the morning distracting myself by checking errands off my long to-do list.
And his report when we picked him up? “Chacho crying.”
My heart broke as my little boy explained that he cried on his first day at school. I told him — and myself — that it would get better because there are lots of fun things to do at school.
Missing from my checklist, a box that reads: “Chacho misses Mami.”
Tessa Lemos Del Pino is a Chicana who grew up and was educated in the pacific Northwest and New York City. She is a lawyer by training, executive administrator by profession, and organizer by habit. She and her beautiful family live in Nashville, TN. If she had a free hour, it would involve coffee and a good read.