Dave Barry


(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, September 28, 1986)

We're taking our son, Robby, to his first day of kindergarten. He is being Very Brave. So are we.

We're saying: "This is great!" And: "You're going to have a wonderful time!"

Robby's thinking: This is it. The fun part of life is over now.

We're thinking: Please, please, PLEASE let him not hate this and let the other kids be nice to him and let his teachers see, among all those little bobbing heads and skinny arms and Band-Aided legs, what a wonderful little boy this is.

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I know this is just as rough for everybody else. I know all the kids are special. I know that the teachers are very, very nice, and that, over the years, they've had hundreds of kids like Robby.

But not Robby.

I think: If only they could put him to bed just one time, hear him talk to his stuffed dolphin, hear the dolphin answer back in a squeaky version of Robby's little voice. If only they could have seen him burst into tears in the part of the Saturday TV movie when it looked liked Godzilla had been killed by the Japanese army. He slept with his Godzilla doll that night, comforting it.

We're getting near the school, and Robby is trying so hard to be brave that I am about ready to turn around and drive back home and sit down on the living-room floor and play with him and hug him forever and the hell with developing Motor Skills and Language Skills and Math Skills and Socialization and growing up in general.

"This is going to be great, " I say.

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I give him his lunch money. I wish I could give him my muscles, to keep in the pocket of his little blue shorts in case a big kid tries to bully him. I wish I could give him my mind, so he'd understand why he has to go to school. I wish I understood it.

"I remember when I started kindergarten!, " I say, sounding to myself like Mister Rogers. "It was scary at first, but I made a lot of friends!"

What I'm really remembering is the way kids got teased in kindergarten. Because they were fat. Because they were short. For no reason at all. We teased them and teased them and teased them, and it must have been hell for them. I still remember the kids we teased. I'm sure they still remember.

Please forgive me, Craig and Susan. Please God, don't let the kids tease Robby.

We're at his classroom. We're supposed to leave right away. They told us that in Parents' Orientation. They said hanging around only makes it worse. It couldn't be any worse. Robby is fighting panic, asking questions, stalling to keep us there, tears running quietly down his cheeks.

"How many hours will it be?" he asks.

Thousands, I think. Thousands and thousands, in classrooms, away from us, until you've learned to accept it, and you don't cry when we leave you, and your dolphin never talks any more.

© Dave Barry

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