10 September

First Day Of Pre-School For Robin. Time Is Hope

by Jon Katz

Today was my granddaughter Robin’s first day of pre-school, she’s enrolled in the Brooklyn Friend’s School, a Quaker school and supposedly one of the best private schools in New York City.

Robin will be in a class with 15 other children, a teacher, and two full-time aides. Robin and I are talking more frequently now that she can talk, and I am feeling clearer about my role as a grandparent.

It isn’t all that different than I expected. I’m not intimately involved with Robin’s life, nor do I care to be. I will see her two or three times a year, and we yak on the phone once or twice a week. I enjoy that.

I am not one of those grandparents who believes a grandchild is the best thing that ever happened to me, but it is a good thing and I love Robin.

We talk easily to one another.  Maria and I are meeting Robin and her parents at the Bronx Zoo in a couple of weeks, where I brought Emma countless times. The circle turns.

A mother on Facebook put some photographs of her high school senior daughter the other day. The photos showed the daughter getting on the school bus for the “first day of her last year” of high school. The mother was sad.  People sympathized.

I remember sniffling a bit when Emma drove herself to school for the first time.

A week later, I went and started taking sheepherding lessons with my border collie and ended up buying a cabin up in the country.

I wasn’t sad when she went off to high school for the last time, I felt triumphant, for me and for her. College was tougher, she had begun the process of leaving for good.

But I was also proud of all us. She got where she wanted to go, my wife and I helped her to get there.

I do like to share images of Robin growing up on my blog, it’s interesting to track her evolution, and she has her own followers now. I wonder if it’s something she would really want me to do, and for how long.

This sadness about growing up and moving on is where I didn’t want to go with Emma, and where I don’t wish to go with Robin. I think to be where I want to be as a grandparent, I need to know where I don’t want to be.

I don’t want to wring my hands over life. The idea is to send them off with the tools they need to be happy, not to keep them with us.

I wonder why life itself and its inexorable progressions are so sad for people and are a subject of so much commiseration and pity.

I told someone I know well that Robin was off to pre-school and she said, oh, that must be so sad for you.  I got that feeling I often have that something must be wrong with me.

Every day I think of Billy Graham and his very personal caution to me to never speak poorly of my life, as it must be listening. The best advice I ever had. I got the message, I try not to be sad about the very nature of life. Sometimes I am.

The passage of time is an extraordinary thing for me to marvel at, sometimes I feel as if life is a beautiful but raging river, flowing past me all the time. Time is how we measure life, time is why we hope and strive.

Is the first day of the last year of high school sad for the child, or sad for the parent? And is it really everyone’s business?

I’m not sure why we are so afraid of aging and death and time since we will all age and die. Perhaps God or Mother Nature made us this way so we could appreciate life. I sometimes wish I had more time to live, but I am truly grateful for where I am in life. I have much more than I deserve.

If the plan was for us to feel gratitude about life, it didn’t seem to work out.

I’m told Robin had a great first day of school – the first day was actually an hour – and was happy about it.

I hope she stays that way for the rest of her life. Maybe I’ll get to tell her what Billy Graham told me.


  1. Jon, I am with you, I was not sad at all when my children left home, went to college, graduated from any grade to the next. I was excited for them and the new adventures each change would bring them. They, like I, did not always make the best choices, but they learned and each became amazing, caring, productive and happy humans.
    Thank you for telling YOUR Truth.

  2. I have always been easily moved to tears – but it is not always a sadness that causes them. I cry at weddings, baptisms, acts of kindness, and works of great beauty. Commercials for long-distance phone calls used to get me choked up… (This seems to be a genetic trait – shared by many in my family.) There are other words for intense feelings – poignant, moving, touching, – but I think many people immediately go to the word “sad.” Yes, the milestones in life grip my heart – but it is not sadness…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Email SignupEmail Signup