Feb 23, 2009: Who knew our kids would be accepted into Notre Dame at the rip young ages of 3, 3 and 5? We knew they were special, but you have to admit that this is beyond anything ever encountered. This exceeds Doogie Howser. OK, not really. He was just a sitcom character and my girls are just attending a school called Notre Dame - not the real one. But today seemed to be just as an important of a day as if they had been starting at the real Notre Dame. Andrew and I were dropping them off at a school where French is spoken, real food is eaten, no snacks are given and where the girls know nobody! We had been talking about this for months, preparing the girls for the challenges and triumphs they would experience going to school in France. Up until today, we focused mostly on emphasizing how exciting it would be to learn a new language, to eat chocolate croissants all day long and watch Dora the Explorer and Boots in French. But today was the real deal. No more sugar coating.
Getting ready for school today was pretty similar to that of getting ready in Colorado. Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, do hair, brush chompers, get on proper coat attire and off we go. But today all of us walked to school instead of the typical drive. It takes about 10 minutes to get there and the whole way Ella was chatty and on cloud 9 - very excited. Grace and Mia were excited, but they had no chance next to Ella. She was soooo excited that this day was finally here and nothing was going to stop this train from moving. That morning we rehearsed a few key phrases that might be important, such as "where is the bathroom", "I am hungry", "I am thirsty", "I don't understand what the hell you are saying" (OK, not the hell part), and "My name is Ella. What is your name?". And of course "please" and 'thank you". But in the end, Andrew and I had both told Ella just to use hand motions if she couldn't convey what she needed. Point at your mouth if you are hungry or thirsty, you get the point.....So we felt that she was ready for school - as ready as she could be. Grace and Mia, though we tried to train them in some phrases, were just going to have to be an experiment. We had no idea how they would react in a class full of non-english speakers. Grace could pee and poop her pants every other hour if we were unlucky and Mia could push a classmate so hard that the school would kick her out until next decade.
We dropped them off at 8:30 a.m. promptly. After connecting with the right teachers, I took Ella to her room and Andrew took Grace and Mia to their room. Ella had actually beat me to her room, following her new teacher. When I got up there, she was looking at some books with some kids in class. My heart just broke! Not bad breaking - good breaking. Breaking for the bravery that it takes for a 5 year old to just come into a new class with little ability to communicate and hope you can make some friends. Breaking for the anxiety that comes with hoping kids like you and want to play with you at recess or sit next to you at lunch. Ella is SO brave. When I saw that she was OK and her teacher told me everything would be just fine, I decided I should take my exit while things were going well. I looked over at Ella, she came and gave me a great big hug and I told her to remember that no matter how hard or frustrating or happy today might turn out to be, she should just shrug it off and tell herself that tomorrow might be even better. She gave me smile that meant she was unsure but ready to see what happened, and off I went. My brave little Ella was growing up. I left Ella's classroom and went to meet Andrew dropping off Grace and Mia. When I arrived, they were reading (or looking at pictures, I should say) books in the book area with the other set of identical girl twins in the class. Coincidence? Not sure. But the other set of twins were quiet and timid and the first thing I thought was, "Oh Dear Lord, please protect them from my rambuncious twins. But thank you for helping them find a comforting place to be in the first moments of a new school." After Andrew and I saw all was well, we departed. We just looked at each other and knew it was either going to go really well or really sour. The number of times our cell phones rang would tell us which...
Around 4:15 p.m. Andrew got home from work and we walked to pick up the girls from school by 4:30 p.m. Again, Andrew picked up the twins and I went to get Ella. She saw me through her classroom door window and she was waving and happy as can be. Upon the teacher opening the classroom door, she ran right out and told me how she ate her whole lunch (I had told her that she had to try three bites of everything, even if she didn't like it, to be polite) and that they had dessert. I asked her if she made any friends and she said she hadn't but that a few kids talked to her longer than others so that was nice of them. Then she said she really had to go potty so I said, you go girl! We met up with Grace and Mia and Andrew outside and off we walked to get home. Grace and Mia didn't have much to say about school, but they agreed that they had fun and didn't mention not wanting to go back. So I think today was a success in every aspect. All smiles, no tears. What more can you ask for in these circumstances? All we hope for is another great day tomorrow.
Pictures shown above are Ella getting home from her first day of school, happy as a clam. The next photo is Grace and Mia riding in the schoolbus of a local carousel. The last photo is a picture of Andrew standing in front of his office building.