Her world is new

Craig family's youngest starts school

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Taytum Smercina, from left, Kimber Wheeler and Nena Loya play at a table with other kids and their teacher, Ms. Carol Taylor.

— Tylawn Smercina said she was more nervous than her youngest daughter, Taytum Smercina, 3, who started preschool Wednesday.

When she bent down to kiss Taytum goodbye before rushing off to work that morning, she was smiling and her voice cracked a little.

"I'll see you at school, OK?" she said. "Be good."

It was a scene that likely played out across Moffat County as parents prepared their kids and themselves for the first day of preschool.

Things change, but for the Smercinas of Craig, the changes are bittersweet.

It was Taytum's first day with kids her own age, her first day making friends that don't live on her street and her first day out in the world without her parents.

"I'm happy," Taytum said. "I want to go."

Even though her big brother and two big sisters hadn't given her any pointers about going into preschool - or having the same teacher two of them did, Ms. Carol Taylor - Taytum wasn't afraid.

She was nothing but excited, her father, Ed Smercina, said.

"Taytum is more independent than any of them," Ed said. "She tries to do things herself, is very opinionated. It's her way or the highway."

Taytum didn't start school until 12:10 p.m., but she was dressed and ready with her new pink backpack packed at 7 a.m.

"She's been bugging me all day," Ed said. "It's been 12 o'clock all day."

Wednesday morning, Taytum wasn't the only one getting ready for something new.

Tylawn started a new job with the school district on Tuesday as a special education teacher at Ridgeview Elementary, after starting as a substitute last year.

"I've always been a stay-at-home mom," Tylawn said. "But with Taytum going into preschool, I thought I'd get out of the house more.

"Everything's changing."

Tylawn wanted to take her to school for her first time. She was nervous because she couldn't, she said. But she had to go to work, and other children needed her, too.

Taytum hugged her mother goodbye, took her new pink backpack and moped because school was not going to start for a while.

"She's moping around now, but she'll be excited in another four hours," Ed said.

Taytum's first day of school is quite different from Ed's as he remembered it.

"My dad and my granddad drove me to school, and I got out of the motor home and went right into the other door," he said. "They both chased me around there, trying to make me go inside."

Taytum ran straight for the school door when her father pulled up to the curb. She was well ahead of Ed, and he had to catch up to straighten her hair and walk inside with her.

They met Tylawn at the top of the stairs leading to the dragonfly classroom, which is Taytum's classroom. Each parent held a hand and escorted her to the children's cubbies and the board where they sign their names.

In the classroom, Taytum hugged her mother and then ran off to play at a table.

"Taytum, you gonna give daddy some love?" Tylawn asked.

Taytum ran back, hugged her father and then ran off again, sitting next to another student, Kimber Wheeler.

Tylawn had to run to make a meeting for the school district. Ed stayed behind for a minute to watch his youngest daughter, who hadn't looked up from the toy blocks she was organizing by color next to Kimber.

"She's always been really good with other kids," he said.

He stayed a moment longer, smiling with his hands in his pockets, and then turned out the door. Taytum stayed at the table with her new classmate and never looked up.

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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