Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Starting School


On Friday, as I'm trying to get everyone ready so we can Benjamin off to school, Cava put on his Cars backpack. He then proceeded to tell me that he was going to school like Benjamin. When we got to Benjamin's school, he got highly upset with me that I would not let him get out of the car with his big brother. With a scowl on his face and his arms crossed he angrily told me that he wanted to go to school, too.

Other than missing hearing his own language, I'm sure Cava misses being in a regimented routine like he was at the boarding school. Since I took him to the doctor for his physical last week, I went to enroll him at school on Monday. I wish I could say he was on his best behavior when I was filling out forms, but instead, Cava decided it was going to be his "Black day" (for anyone who's read Dr. Seuss' My Many Colored Days) in which he was "Mad. And LOUD. I howl. I growl at every cloud." Or in his case, he did somersaults on their couch, tried to drink the secretary's coffee, opened one of the file cabinets, and basically made me long to shout, as Gene Wilder did in Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, "Strike that! Reverse it!" so we could start all over again.  Cava met both of his teachers, one of which has a Ukrainian phrase book she is going to use to speak to him.

Since Cava will be in the Newcomers program, he will be dropped off at one school (the same school Benjamin went to, in fact, and Cava even got Benjamin's second grade teacher) and will take a bus to the school where he will spend his day learning English. Thankfully, it is a much smaller class that he'll be in. The teacher asked me all about Cava and I told her that he was at the top of his class back in the boarding school but that, after he'd finish his classwork, he'd get up and roam about the class.

Now, there's been a tradition in our family (and many other families I'm sure) of that first school day photo.  Every year, on the first day of school (which used to be after Labor Day), Mom would make us stand in front of our house and take a photo of my sister and I in our new school clothes with our new backpacks. My little sister, in her pigtails and new dress, always smiled a big smile while I appear to be suffering the torments of the damned, especially the older I got.


(Gotta' love that bowl cut that makes me look like Prince Valiant. And those 70's style jeans - could they have been rolled up any further? Now I grew up in a divided house between Carolina and Duke, so the only explanation for the State shirt was because my grandfather, Papa Fred, went there. See how happy I am to have my picture taken before my first day at Barringer Elementary?)

Despite my disgust and disdain for having my photo taken on the first day of school as I was growing up, as a parent, I have inflicted the same "tradition" on Benjamin, who is beginning to grow tired of it and moans, "Papa" as I make him pose on our back steps. So, of course, Cava will also suffer the tradition and I will tell him, as my Mom told me and I've told Benjamin, "I'm capturing memories!"

Here is a happy-to-comply Benjamin starting third grade:


Now flash forward to his first day of middle school:


Gone is the adorable smile - to be replaced by the, "Really?" look and the "Are we done yet?" look. But I don't care, I'm getting my first day of school photo for as long as I can!

Just as I did with Benjamin, I made Cava stand on the back step so I could take a photo of him on his first day of school (despite it being only 41 degrees outside and dark). Still, being someone who loves to have his picture taken, Cava was very happy to oblige me.


Unlike Benjamin, Cava was excited about starting school. In fact, he was already dressed and had his backpack on before I even got in the shower this morning. He kept telling me, "School, Papa! School!" I had to tell him, "Not yet, Cava, it's only 6:30."

Since he noticed that Benjamin's backpack was full of books, he wanted to put some of his books (especially his "Masha and the Bear" one) in his so he would have some too. Gotta' be like his big brother!

As nervous as I was when Benjamin first started school, it was nothing like the nerves I feel about Cava's.  How will he react? Which of his many colored days will he get?

Before we left Benjamin's school for Cava's, Yulia Helm met us and talked with Cava for about 20 minutes all about school, what he should expect, and how he should act. Proud of his new Toy Story lunchbox, Cava had to show not only it to her but all of the contents inside.  As she was telling him that his lunch was only for him, he told her it wasn't.  When she asked him what he meant, he replied that he would share some of his food with the girls.  What?  Only 8 and already a ladies' man? In fact, he mentioned sharing with his girlfriend.  Yulia asked him if he meant his girlfriend in Ukraine. He shook his head no.  "Here in Gastonia?" He shook his head in the affirmative. As soon as he did, I immediately knew who the girl was because he had given a lollipop to a little girl in his class that we met when we enrolled him.

Like I do with Benjamin, I prayed a short prayer with Cava before we entered his school together. Once inside, we were greeted by everyone and Cava smiled and told them all, "Hello." He met the bus driver who would be taking him from one school (his home school where he will be dropped off and picked up) to the one with the International Center and the Newcomers Program. As He has with all of this adoption journey, God is looking out for us because the bus driver comes from a Ukrainian family.  He even greeted Cava in Ukrainian.

At the school, they walked Cava to his new class while a woman in the office asked me all about Cava and how he interacts socially, whether there is any attachment disorder, any behavioral problems, etcetera. She told me more about the program and about Cava's class. He is one of 11 students. They have a teacher and a teacher's assistant. There are children from various countries. She then took me to Cava's class where they had Ukraine up on the Smart Board using Google map so all of the kids could learn about where Cava was from.  She then showed the students where Cava's country was in location to the countries they were from.

The teacher told me that when she introduced Cava to each child, Cava repeated their names back. She also told me that Cava introduced himself by his Ukrainian name. This doesn't surprise me as he hasn't learned his American name yet. Before I left, the teacher told me that they have an open door policy and that I could sit in on the class any time I wanted to.

Around 11 am, I got a call while I was working from the school. My first reaction was, "Oh no, what has he done?" But these fears were put to rest when they said they'd just called to let me know how well Cava was doing: staying in his seat, raising his hand, not talking when he's not supposed to be (all of the things Mrs. Yulia told him to do).  I was so proud to hear this and so proud of my Cava.  

At 1:45, I picked Cava up from school.  He was conversing with his teachers and the women in the office.  His teacher informed me that Cava did well on his first day, though he did speak up when he was supposed to be quiet. In spite of my fixing his lunch, Cava was overjoyed by the school cafeteria and wanted to eat everything.  He was so excited by his food that he spilled some of his milk. So he ate cafeteria food and the lunch I packed him (Just like his older brother used to do).

Cava was very proud of his schoolwork and had to show it to me. He also has his first homework, so tonight we'll be practicing writing our letters.

Glad he had a great first day and will be curious to see how tomorrow goes when he rides the bus for the first time!

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