Cora's First Day at School

August 2020

Cora had been hoping to start school ever since her sister Annie started school. Annie was always so excited to go to school. She talked about her friends at school, and her teachers; she got a special lunch packed for her every day; she came home singing new songs and talking about pretend camping trips she went on at school.

Cora had gone with her sister at times, either when her mommy was dropping Annie off or picking Annie up. At first Cora accepted this – it was just how things were. But then she started to wonder, why couldn’t she go to school?

“Coco school,” she told her mommy one day, after they had had a discussion together about where Annie was. 

“Coco wants to go to school?” her mother asked.

Cora nodded.

“Big kids go to school,” her mother said.

“Coco big kid,” Cora explained.

Eventually her mother told her that she could go to school, but had to wait a week. Cora was not exactly sure how long a week was. She understood that she would go to school someday. But she also understood that it would not be today.

That day she resigned herself to the situation. She helped her mommy drop off Annie, and looked around at the school that she would, someday, be attending. She spent the day discussing with her mommy the fact that Annie was in school, and the fact that Coco would be going to school soon.

The next day she went along again with Annie to school. Time had passed – maybe Cora could go to school today? Her mother told her No, Not today, Next week, and Cora was puzzled and angry that she was given the same answer today that she had been given the day before.

She walked inside, past the toys in the yard outside of school. Annie left her and danced off to wash her hands and play. Annie was excited to be at school. Cora felt sad and left out of the fun.

“Coco school!” she said, trying to follow Annie. Her mommy explained again about Next Week. Cora was not interested in this esoteric Next Week concept. She wanted to go Now. She pulled against her mommy’s hand. She tried to run away. Her mother picked her up. Cora started to cry. It just wasn’t fair.

She was being carried out of school. This was exactly what wasn’t supposed to happen! She started squirming, trying to escape – she needed to go back to school! They were in the parking lot. She needed to go back! “Coco school! Coco school!” she screamed, starting to thrash desperately, kicking and hitting. When her mommy tried to buckle her into the car seat, she arched her back and twisted and cried.

Cora did not accompany her mother on any more trips to drop off or pick up Annie.

At some point in the future, Cora wasn’t sure how long in the future, “Next Week” changed to “tomorrow”, and Cora was happy about that. Everyone was wishing her good luck at school tomorrow. “Coco at school,” she told everyone. “Annie school. Coco at school.”

She thought about school as she fell asleep and she woke up early the next morning, earlier than she normally did, talking about school. For the first time in a long time, she let her mommy dress her (somewhat) willingly, because she was getting dressed for school. She and Annie got dressed together. She felt very important. She was a big girl like Annie, getting dressed for school.

“In a car!” she told her mother after she was dressed. “In a car! Coco at school!”

“We’re not getting in a car yet,” her mommy said. “We have to eat breakfast first.”

Breakfast seemed to take forever. Cora stopped eating halfway through and reminded everyone she needed to go to school.

“Finish your breakfast first,” her mommy said.

“Coco at school!” she responded, in case her family had forgotten that she was going to school today.

“We can’t go to school until everyone has eaten their breakfast. Annie is eating her breakfast, and Mommy and Daddy are eating breakfast. Then we will go to school.”

She grudgingly finished her oatmeal.

“Coco at school!” she said as soon as she finished.

“Let’s go brush our teeth,” her mother suggested as she helped Cora out of her high chair. “Come on, let’s go upstairs and brush our teeth.”

“No! Coco school!” said Cora. This wasn’t right. Her mommy had said that after breakfast, they would go to school.

“We brush our teeth before school. Then we’ll go to school.”

Cora watched her mommy walk towards the stairs. This wasn’t right. Upstairs was the wrong direction. They should be going outside. Were they ever going to bring her to school? She started to cry. “Coco school. Coco at school,” she said through her tears. Her mother tried to pick her up but she wriggled and thrashed and she was put back down. Everyone else went upstairs and Cora stayed downstairs and wept at the terrible, terrible delay.

But eventually her family reappeared. She brightened right up. “In a car! In a car!” she shouted, running over to the door and trying to open it.

“Coco, we still have some time before school. You woke up early today. We could read a book for a little while…” her mother suggested.

“Outside! Outside!” Cora shouted. The door opened. She walked down the stairs and started trying to wrench the car door open. “In a car! In a car!”

“Why don’t you play on the swingset for a little while? We still have twenty minutes before we have to leave.”

“In a CAAAAAAAAAR!” she screamed. Oh, it was so frustrating, to be stymied in this manner! School was so close she could almost taste it!

The car door opened and she clambered in. Her mother sighed. Cora was happy. They couldn’t go to school without her if she was in the car. She spent the next twenty minutes climbing around inside the car. Then, when she was told she had to buckle up, she got into her car seat without any of her usual crying. Annie got into her car seat too.

Luckily school was a very short distance away. When they arrived, Annie was unbuckled first. Cora understood that Mommy could only be in one place at once, but she still felt it necessary to remind her mommy of her presence. “Coco at school!” she announced, loudly. “Coco school! Coco in a school!”

When she finally got out of the car, Annie held her hand and they walked in together. Cora’s excitement was almost palpable, and Annie caught some of it as they walked in. Annie pointed out the play area outside, and explained that that was where you played. Annie pointed out the door to the school, and explained that this was the door. Cora, of course, knew all these things already. But it didn’t matter.

They entered the lobby. Cora was going to get to go to school. She was going to school! She was a big kid just like Annie! She could hardly believe it!

One of the teachers waved to her as she came in. “Hi, Cora! Are you coming to school today?” she asked.

Cora had a momentary pang of shyness. She clutched her mommy’s hand. Her mommy was talking to the teacher now about Cora, and giving a lunch box (Cora was going to get her own lunch, just like Annie!) and a backpack to the teacher. Cora wondered, should she really go to school? Or was it too scary?

Then Annie took her hand again. “C’mon, Coco,” she said.

Cora relaxed. Annie would be there to help her. She walked along next to her sister, away from her mommy.

Just past the sign-in area, there was a handwashing station. Unlike the sinks at home, it was just at Cora’s height. She felt even better. She loved washing her hands! She and Annie walked over to the sink and she stretched her hand out to feel the water. She opened and closed her hands in the stream of water from the faucet. It felt good. She forgot to think about her mommy. She was a big kid at school.