A dad’s perspective: First day of kindergarten, part two

As promised in Bernhard Walke’s previous post, here’s part two of his story about his daughter Elena’s first day of kindergarten this year.


Elena on her first day of school.

by Bernhard Walke

As we spotted Elena’s aid in the school yard, we settled into line, talked about first day logistics and nervously waited for the students to enter the building. I looked around and saw some students beaming with excitement to start the first day, others clinging to a parent with subtle hesitation, and a few in outright and unapologetic hysterics.

I looked down at Elena and saw that she was still beaming with excitement. “This girl is ready for kindergarten,” I thought to myself. “She’s gonna be great.” And with that, her aid whisked Elena away and rolled her up a ramp that had been installed especially for her.

She was off to a new chapter in life, and I went off to work.

During my 35 minute commute to work, I thought a bit more about Elena’s classmates. For many of them, this might have been their first day of school ever. For Elena, she has been in school in early childhood special education since the day after she turned three years old. Thanks to the help of Easterseals DuPage and Fox Valley and so many others, the school experience was nothing new to Elena.

After a month in full day kindergarten, there have been many highs, but some lows, too. Still, I realized very early on that it’s all worth it. Just two days after school began, Elena, her mother and I were running around town doing our mundane weekly errands when four of her new kindergarten friends dragged their parents over to meet Elena. In a world where this five-year-old girl is most often recognized first by her chair, I was pleased and overjoyed by the fact that her classmates recognized my daughter first and foremost for exactly who she is: their friend.


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