Ryan Trares: Looking back — and ahead — on the last day of school

One down, 12 (or more) to go.

On Friday afternoon, Anthony bounded out of his school’s front door for the last time this school year. He had made it through a year of full-day kindergarten, a year filled with new challenges, new experiences and new achievements.

This was his first full year of school. We had sent him to two-day-a-week preschool as a 4-year-old, where he was getting good at his letter sounds and basic math. He had a developed a talent for drawing, tapping into an imagination that his teachers laughed at during conferences.

But COVID-19 cut that experience short. With Anthony having a late birthday, and without a full year of preschool, we didn’t feel comfortable enrolling him in the local school’s kindergarten, particularly with the uncertainty of the pandemic still hanging over everything.

We found a nice compromise. The church where he was taking preschool had their own kindergarten program, where he could go for four days a week. This was an opportunity for him to get his legs underneath him in regards to a longer school day, sharpening the skills he’d need going forward.

And it worked. Anthony thrived, doing well in his schoolwork and enjoying connecting with his classmates. We all felt confident sending him to a full-day kindergarten for five days.

By all measures, this school year was a good one. Anthony has become a more robust reader, and started writing two- or three-sentence books, complete with illustrations. I can constantly hear his little voice echoing in the house, reciting his numbers up to 100, counting by 5s or adding big numbers up.

Just as importantly, he developed some of those social skills that we worried he might struggle with as an only child. He grew more bold, not shying away from other kids in the classroom or on the playground but striking up conversations and joining in games. We can see it now even out of school, from the soccer field to local parks on the weekends.

So when he came running to the car the other day, his oversized backpack bouncing behind him, it was with a sense of accomplishment. While the only thing on his mind was telling me about the ice cream his class ate in the cafeteria, all I could think about was how much I was going to miss it.

Not that I was going to miss the daily struggle to get him out of bed, make him breakfast then hustle out the door to drop him off. Nor was I going to miss the grind of packing lunches without boringly giving him the same thing every day; for someone who works in a creative field, I have very little vision as a menu planner.

Still, as of this day, he’s moving on to first grade. An important step along his development is in the rearview.

I know that we have so much more ahead of us. Next year, we move into a new school near our neighborhood, where he’ll meet new friends, acquire new knowledge and have new experiences — positive, and unfortunately, negative.

I’m excited for the future, and I think Anthony is too.

But I’m going to miss having a kindergartner.

Ryan Trares is a senior reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected]