I wound my bike between the dozens of other bicycles, motorbikes, and cars pulled up in front of the kindergarten. All around parents led their 3-5 year old children through the gate, past the alluring playground equipment, and toward the castle-looking school building. The children all carried backpacks - covered in princesses, cartoon characters, and superheroes - half as big as themselves and mostly empty.
I helped Juliana down from the bike seat, her own Minnie Mouse backpack bouncing on her back. "Look! It's my school!!" Juliana cried excitedly. She had been talking about starting school for the past year, and the day finally arrived. I could tell she was feeling pretty important, albiet a little confused, because for a long time we have been telling her she would start school when she was four. Technically, she will be in school for three weeks before she turns four. Almost-four-year-olds don't deal in technicalities.
We stopped first at a nurses station just inside the door where a nurse checked each child's hands and throat. She handed Juliana a red plastic chip to show she was healthy.
As we climbed the stairs to the second floor, where the 4 year old classes are held, Juliana held the child handrail and carefully placed her feet on the painted footprints leading upstairs. Her teacher greeted her kindly as we entered her classroom, and Juliana remembered her "laoshi hao." I put Juliana's backpack and jacket in the cupboard while she happily placed her red health chip in its slot.
When I returned at noon, Juliana ran happily to me. The teacher told me Juliana cried a little bit before I came, but she ate well (she eats breakfast and lunch at school). Juliana cheerfully waved to all her classmates. The other children were finishing their lunch and climbing into beds pulled out for naptime. They stay at school until 6pm.
On the ride home, I asked Juliana what was her favorite part of the day. "Dancing!" No surprise there. Every day the whole kindergarten gathers outside on in the play yard to dance or exercise together. Dancing has been her favorite part of every day, along with time on the playground "running and screaming."
Finding out what else happens at school is a little trickier. "What else did you do today?" "Oh, I played. A little boy hit me." Every day, there is some variation of a little boy hitting her. It's hard to tell if that actually happens every day or if it happened one day and just makes the account every day. Either one seems like a decent possiblity.
We have a lot of exchanges like this:
"What did you eat for breakfast today, Juliana?"
"Hot milk. I like hot milk."
"What about for lunch?"
"Hot milk. Just hot milk."
"Wait a minute, you were still eating lunch when I came, and I saw you had some soup."
"Oh yes. We had soup. We had some orange bubbly drink. It tasted strange."
"Hmm, I don't know what it was. Maybe something with vitamins?"
"They were yucky vitamins."
Halfway through the week Juliana's enthusiasm was momentarily dampened. She got up saying, "I'm a little bit sick today. I don't think I should go to school. I'm grunting a lot." But by the time she was heading out for school, she was excited again. On Saturday morning when I told her there wasn't any school, she said, "But whyyyyyy??" She quickly recovered when I told her she could stay in her pajamas. She would be happy to stay in her pajamas all day, except that I don't let her wear them out of the house.
Kindergarten is off to a good start. I am really grateful for my super-social, crazy-energetic little girl to have somewhere to go every day to enjoy being around kids (even if she can't communicate well yet). And I'll be honest, I have been enjoying my calmer mornings hanging out with Adalyn. I can even get some things done since Adalyn doesn't usually demand constant attention.
Every day I also ask Juliana, "What was your least favorite part of school?" And most days she says, "Nothing! There is nothing I don't like!"