Jada started pre-school on Monday. We have been preparing her for months, trying to beat any potential tantrums or tears off in advance of the big day by visiting the school, referencing it in day-to-day conversation, discussing the details of each day and introducing the idea of separation as delicately as possible.
"In the morning, Mommy and Daddy are going to drop you off at school and then we will pick you up later, ok?"
Jada furrowed her brow and looked at me earnestly, " Can you come?"
"Moms and dads are not allowed to stay. School fun is only for teachers and kids."
She thought about this for a minute, "But can you stay and help the teacher, Mommy?"
These were the sweet, but resistant questions that Jada asked as we got closer and closer to the first day of school. So, my expectations weren't high. I was praying for a peaceful drop-off but I was bracing myself for drama.
How to soften the blow? The instruction manual that we'd received from the school suggested a brief and curt good-bye. They also prohibited toys or stuffed animals or any other cuddlies that I would normally snuggle in to Jada's arms to console her. That morning, I gave her a little beaded bracelet from my jewelry box and reassured her that Mommy would never be far away. The bracelet, and a bowl of pasta bolognese for her first lunch at school, were the only comforts that I could provide for her day without us.
There are a million recipes for pasta bolognese. Everyone has their own variation. Here's ours:
Dice 4 garlic cloves, 1 carrot, 1medium onion and 1 celery stalk. Sautee them in a deep skillet or pot with 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat, until the onions are translucent. This should not take more than five minutes. Add 1 lb of ground beef, stirring and cooking it until uniformly browned. Deglaze the pot with 1/2 cup of white wine, stirring up all of the little bits of caramelized goodness sticking to it. Then, add a 28 oz can of peeled, San Marzano tomatoes. Stir and add a pinch of sugar. Simmer the sauce for two hours, slightly covered, over a low flame.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it on a slow Sunday afternoon, refrigerate it and use it for quick lunches or dinners during the week. But, back to Jada's first day. It went off without a hitch. She was all smiles as she waved good-bye. I was the one who ended up falling apart, walking out in tears, because I was so proud of her.