Nerves, excitement, tears mark first day of school
By JACKIE BORCHARDT - Star-Tribune staff writer
Standing outside Park Elementary School, Cooper Castle watched kids scuttle past and through the front doors.
He shuffled his weight from one foot to another — nervous yet excited for his first day of school.
His parents, David and Erin, stood on either side of him, doing the same.
It was their first day too.
Cooper woke up at 5:01 a.m. but went back to sleep. Just before 7, he got up and got ready — showered, brushed his teeth, ate breakfast.
Well, he tried to eat breakfast but was too excited to finish his bowl of Life cereal.
Once inside the school, Cooper made a beeline for his classroom, the one he visited during Monday’s back-to-school night. Teacher Cindy Hill met him at the door.
“Hi, Coop! Let’s find your hook for your backpack,” Hill said, leading Cooper down the hall and away from the classroom. Cooper ensured his black, flame-decorated bookbag stayed put and turned to go to class.
Hill directed him toward the back door to the schoolyard to play before the first bell rang.
Outside, Cooper froze. He knew the classroom and the school from back-to-school night. He didn’t know the playground.
Kids ran around, hugging old friends and saying hi to new ones. Erin suggested they play on the monkey bars and Cooper nodded. He crossed the playground pinned to his mother’s side, right hand hooked in the flap of her pants pocket.
Cooper didn’t play but held his mother’s sides and buried his face in her shirt. Erin held his hands and whispered in his ear.
It’s OK. This is just like preschool. You’ll be fine.
Cooper moved toward the monkey bars and jumped up to the lower of two bars. He didn’t need help.
A few minutes later, Cooper pointed to a student about six feet away.
“That girl’s from my swimming lessons.”
“Yes, she is,” Erin confirmed.
Cooper pointed to a higher bar. He needed help.
He may be on his own at school, but he still needs rides to and from school, packed lunches and help getting dressed in the morning.
The bell rang and Cooper jumped in line with the rest of his class, looking back at his parents every few steps. Seated on the classroom carpet, he joined his classmates in a group clapping song.
Uneasiness faded. Mom and Dad slowly walked out the back door.
Halfway down the hall, Erin started to cry.
Erin and David did their best this summer to prepare Cooper for the first day, for the first week, for the first year. They talked about what school would be like. They talked about the new friends he would make. They drove past the school often.
They didn’t do much to prepare themselves.
“We’ve been trying to prepare, but it’s still hard,” she said, inconspicuously wiping tears from the corners of her eyes.
David smiled at his wife.
“It’s fun to watch him grow up and move on in life,” David said.
Both were comforted knowing they’d see him in a few hours — the first day ended before lunch.