After so many nights of being in the front of the classroom on such occasions, one September eve, there we were sitting on the other side of the desk, engaging in our first ever back-to-school night—not as teachers, but as parents.
When it came our turn to for a quick one-on-one meet-and-greet with our daughter’s kindergarten teacher, we looked forward to hearing some positive words about our little cherub– as had all the parents whom we had met in similar situations in our teacher-roles, no doubt.
After a complimentary introduction, the veteran kindergarten teacher confided that there was one disciplinary concern she intended remedying. In preparation for the intervention, she forewarned that we should not be surprised to learn from our daughter that her table-seat had been changed.
Apparently our daughter was engaged in a kindergarten romance with the boy assigned to sit next to her at one of the classroom’s four tables. The teacher knew this was true because every time she turned to write on the board (There were chalkboards then.), our daughter and her little beau took the chance to smooch. They also took every opportunity to surreptitiously hold hands under the table.
“I thought by now their romance-novelty might have worn off,” the teacher explained. “It hasn’t. Unfortunately, I cannot let it continue. Their kissing has become a source of giggling for the other children. And their holding hands is distracting to themselves. It’s for the best I separate them. I hope you understand. It’s not a punishment, as such.”
Yes. We understood. The children were in school to learn many things—how to have a clandestine kindergarten romance at their table was not one of them.
Happy to say, our daughter took the classroom separation well. Her kindergarten playtime “romance” with the son of our best friends continued—supervised–outside school.
Then came first grade, and the sorrowful day our daughter announced that the romance was over—not by her choice. Her beau had found another girl who captured his heart.
Yes! She had tried to fight for the boy she loved, but without success.
And so she concluded her announcement, with these words spoken as much, I thought, to assuage her broken heart, as to inform us of her reconciliation to the “break-up.”
“No matter what, I always have the memory of our love.”
What????… Is this our six year old daughter talking? Has she been reading Tennyson’s In Memoriam:27…?
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
Four years after our first back-to-school night, when our son was in kindergarten, it wasn’t the teacher who called our attention to his romantic interests. No; it was the parents of the object of his affections.
No. They did not appreciate the bubble-gum machine toy ring he had offered their daughter. No. They did not want their daughter considering marrying him: yes, no, or maybe. In fact, they would appreciate our son having nothing more to do with their daughter than was absolutely necessary in school.
What???? ….If the girl’s parents’ concerns were rational, then, apparently, there was something wrong with our reactions when our son shared with us his intentions. We admired that our son had used his accumulated change to get a ring, and applauded his ingenuity to print—all on his own, which pleasantly surprised us—a “Dear So-and-So. Will you marry me?” The question was followed, below, by 3 vertical boxes, marked “Yes,” “ No,” and “Maybe.” (Couldn’t her parents at least have given him credit for making her responding to his question easy?)
And who was this beauty who captivated his young heart? A tomboy, whose appeal, according to the reasons he gave for what attracted him included how fast she ran—even faster than he did, how hard she kicked a soccer ball, how really far she batted a baseball, how accurately she could throw a ball, and–most importantly!—how she always wore a baseball cap—backwards.
His love for her, and the idea that they should marry, had been sealed, I supposed, when they served as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus in the kindergarten December assembly.
Of course, we kept our “What????” thoughts to ourselves, instructing our son to keep his distance, out of school, from his best buddy. Never again was he to offer her a ring. He promised, content they still would play in gym, confident that she would continue wearing a baseball cap.
When I thought about the list of how-many reasons he gave for wanting to marry his athlete-buddy, a list that he had rattled off for loving her, I thought of Browning’s 43rd Sonnet:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
That’s it. Both our children had loved and lost (?) early in their schooling. Happily, both have gone on to find enduring loves, consecrated many years ago in marriage. And while I don’t know if either of our children ever give their first loves so much as a passing thought, I know every once in a while, I do. Proud, without apologies, that both of them were capable, willing, and so inclined to love and lose, even at their young age—just six.
Interestingly, our son grew up to be a sales and marketing director. His kindergarten penchant for premiums, survey-options, and choices, in business and in love, I’m sure, has served him well.
Our daughter? The child with the Tennyson philosopher-at-love heart? She grew up to teach speech, drama, film and literature. Roman Holiday is one of her favorite films to share with her students.
…I guess I’m not surprised how both our children turned out! …Are you?
In that regard, the seventh line of another poem comes to mind, a line, which, as a teacher, as well as a parent, I’ve often reflected on. …Normally, the masculine references in poetry and prose bother me not, but I admit that when reading these words in reference to our daughter, I would exchange “wo(man)” for “man,” and interchange a mother-alternate seventh line version. I hope Mr. Wordsworth would not feel offended.
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.