The importance of the first day, and the second

Published 10:31 pm Thursday, August 29, 2019

I don’t recall many of my first days of school when I was growing up. I can’t pull up the Memories section on Facebook and find it, and it wasn’t tagged and shared across Instagram or other social media.

And with my family not big on taking photos for things like that, I’m not sure how many of those first days were even photographed, either on a traditional film camera or with the Polaroid camera we owned, to even be found in a photo album.

That makes me more aware of trying to preserve such moments for my daughter, even though I don’t think we’ve ever taken a first-day photo of her until Wednesday.

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My wife and I have taken many a photo and video over the course of my daughter’s three-plus years, and she’s adept now at taking selfies with dad, though she tends to hold the button down so long that we end up with 50 or 60 such photos before I can get her to let go.

But with my daughter starting her first day at her new preschool, this one felt different, and worth preserving in the memory bank. It’s the sixth such first day she’s had, but it was the first one I can recall specifically wanting to take a photo of.

Her school was ready for the photo crush. It had a backdrop of the school’s name, logo and even suggested hashtag, and her school itself posted the photo it took of the two of us.

More important to us was her going into her classroom and getting a fresh, positive and happy start, especially given the rough year we had with her in two different preschool and daycare environments.

So, when she cried on the first day as I was dropping my daughter off with her new teacher, I had a brief moment of déjà vu that she was going to be unhappy and that I should ready myself for another year like the last. Still, I told myself that she was going to be fine, and that my wife and I felt positive that her new teacher and assistant were going to provide a great environment for our daughter.

Those instincts proved to be on point.

We heard nothing but glowing words about how our daughter had done on her first day, and though she greeted her mom — my  wife — when she picked her up, it wasn’t one of those, “Hey, get me out of here” hugs. It was more relaxed, and our daughter chattered about what she had done, and even mentioned the name of a girl in the class as a new friend.

Still, when I dropped her off the next day for day two, I prepared myself for another outburst.

Instead, she gave a high-five to the school’s director, took stickers that were being handed out, and shook the hand of another teacher before getting to her classroom, where her teacher greeted her at the door with a smile and asked about her stuffed animal family she had brought with her.

After briefly hiding from me, she smiled and walked to the teacher, who held my daughter’s hand as she went to sit on the carpet with other children. My daughter didn’t say goodbye or look back, and there were no tears — my wife did admit to a few, though. I left beaming, feeling confident that our daughter was going to have a good year.

With everyone else’s first day either already here or fast approaching, it’s been heartwarming to see on social media what Suffolk’s teachers and staff are doing to not only prepare for the first day of school, but also to prepare for the second, and the other 178 days of the school year.

I hope every parent and guardian has that same beaming feeling and, should they feel it, to shed a few happy tears in the process while preserving and hashtagging the moment if they want.

However you remember your child’s first day of school, I hope those memories are positive and priceless.