Could this be the place? 2024? This must be a picnic for kids much, much, muuuuch older than my 5-year-old. I glanced around the park, hoping to spot another group.
“What about me, mom?” asked the older one pointing at the sign, “when do I graduate?”
“Give me a minute to do the math even though you were born in 2000 and I should know it off the top of my head.…..2018. You’re the class of 2018.” That couldn’t be right either; I think that’s when my New York Magazine subscription expires.
We’d pulled up to the kindergarten picnic and mixer a few minutes late, which had not been my intention. Unsure of current kindergarten party etiquette, I was shooting for an on-time arrival, but it took 15 minutes to find the 2024 graduate’s shoes; the black shoes, not the blue shoes, because you only get one shot at making a first impression. (For future reference, 15 minutes seems to be exactly “fashionably late” for kindergarten social events, unlike the 20-30 minute late arrival expected at your standard 3rd or 4th grade mixers.)
There were kids all over the play structure, hovering at the food table, and running off into the trees. I greeted a friend and asked where her son was. “He’s over there in the fort, getting tics.”
None of the kids at the mixer though, seemed to be mixing.
Zach would not leave his dad’s or older brother’s side as much as Jake tried to shake him. A lady by the watermelon pointed at her two boys. That soon-to-be kindergartener had suddenly taken a keen interest in watching over his toddler brother, shooing away any other kids who happened by.
A darling little girl skipped past, and I called Zach over.
“Can you say hi, Zach? This is Maddie…she might be in your class.”
“Uuuuggh! Mooooooom, Where’s Jacob? What’s he doing? I need to go see him.”
“Wait! Say hi to Maddie! Come back, Zach! Woop, there goes Maddie, too. Nice to meet you Maaaaadddddiiiieee!”
Hoping to benefit from the experience of my 2018 graduate’s elementary school years, I knew this was no time to be shy. These other grown ups? The ones trying to calmly manage premature cookie intake and facilitate introductions of kids who would rather squeeze their eyes shut and make fart noises with their mouths, than say “hello?” These are our new classmates. We are going to be chaperoning field trips to the wildlife museum, setting up book fairs, and lamenting homework and eye rolling with these people for years.
I went in with both guns ablazin’, introducing myself to anyone who even glanced in my direction. I think maybe a couple of them were there for some soccer thing, and not in fact to fete the class of 2024, but by golly, I was going to be nice in case I got to see them again at Back to School Night or in the frozen foods section at Safeway.
Fortified by half eaten hot dogs, juicy watermelon and chocolate chip cookies, the little kids finally started to acknowledge each other, playing chase, up and down the slide and around the tree.
Jake would intermittently join in the chase games, and then sit moodily on top of the play structure until finally one of his buddies showed up — another older brother. The two big guys loped joyfully away to play Frisbee and take advantage of their well developed hand-eye coordination that, unlike their smaller playmates, would allow them to actually catch the Frisbee.
Back on the playground, the little boys outnumbered the little girls 3 to 1, though the girls outstyled the boys something fierce. Dressed to impress, they came ready to mix in bows, sundresses, and sparkly accessories – all of which were now covered in watermelon drippings. Big ups to the girl in the tiara and chocolate mustache.
The gaggle of stick-wielding, sticky faced boys provided a glimpse into the future – Comic-Con 2026, to be exact. The 5-year-old fanboys made their allegiances known through their T-shirts.
“Which kid is yours?”
When it was my turn, I pointed toward the snack table, “Indiana Jones.”
Soon the unwieldy yelling, chasing and unabashed snacking, gave way to little kids looking for a comfortable place to sit down, or in some unfortunate cases, lay down.
The parents exchanged information on smart phones, plucked dirty picnic blankets from the grass to leave, and then their dirtier, sweaty crumpled children.
The Class of 2024 sign had fallen from its spot on the tree into the dirt.
“What did you think, Zach?,” we asked as he rested his head on his car seat.
“Good. Hey, what’s the name of that kid who’s my new best friend? That kid I was playing with?”
“The one who threw up?”
“No, the other guy. The one with the stick. I like that guy. I’m gonna look for him at school.”
Jake shook his head and stared out the window. He’d looked huge to me today, towering over Zach and his new best friends. I realized at that moment, that this big kid started kindergarten practically yesterday, just a few precious days before the birth of his brother, and this coming week he would be in the same boat as Zach –one of the younger, shorter, less experienced newbies on campus.
He’s registering for middle school.
6th grade – the kindergarten of teenagers, complete with fanboy T-shirts, sparkly accessories, and awkward introductions, but perhaps with fewer fart noises (fingers crossed!) and more cell phones. Wish us luck.