Though I don’t have children, I’ve had the chance to witness the first day of kindergarten a few times as a reporter for my hometown newspaper.
Every time I cover the separation anxiety between parents and their five-year-olds, I’m reminded of my own “trauma.” I didn’t just cry on the first day of school, I screamed and clung to my mother for the first week – but I got over it and turned my tears into dreading the end of the school year and having to say goodbye to my teachers.
In my hometown, school for students in grades K-5 started on Wednesday. A staff photographer and I went to a kindergarten class to search for crying children. The photographer found a father trying to comfort his son, who buried his face against his father’s chest.
Once inside the classroom, the boy huddled against the wall near his desk, wrapping his arms around his knees, continuing his crying jag for the 45 minutes we were there.
I tried to get a quote from the 5-year-old, but despite my investigative efforts, he wasn’t about to talk, not even when the photographer commented on his new shoes.
The boy, I figured, might have had a case of separation anxiety, just like I did.
I don’t know the cause of his, but mine derived from my shyness. Shyness can result from the fear of entering a new situation, in contrast to familiarity with the known that provides safety and comfort.
New to the school world, I felt anxious about finding friends and not having anyone to play with at recess. I was hesitant to talk. I made little eye contact. And I felt insecure and unlikable.
My “friend” across the street who went to another school called me “kindergarten crybaby,” and if I had been more confident, I would have said “no thanks” to her meanness.
As an adult, I can get teary eyed next to the crying kindergartners, but I know I have turned it all around to the point where I really can’t say I’m shy. There are few situations where I feel uncomfortable. I know how to start a conversation. And I can look people in the eye.