My firstborn baby boy did it. He woke up one morning, ate some breakfast, put on his shoes, and went to school.
But School with a capital S.
KINDERGARTEN. The topic 9 out of 10 moms at the park are talking about right now.
It was his first day of his first year out of 17 more years (at least) of schooling where he’ll learn, and thrive, and struggle, and overcome, and grow. My teeny tiny five-year-old put on his jumbo backpack and stood in line waiting for his teacher to usher him into the school, where he’d find his locker, his desk, and his new best friends.
We made it through that first day. And that first week. And then some more days after that.
While I still feel like a newbie, we’ve settled into some routines, and I’ve had time to reflect on our experience of starting school. Here’s what I’ve learned these past few weeks of being a First Time Kindergarten Mom:
1.) Thursdays are the worst.
Thursdays are hard. Every time. It’s the day that the exhaustion sets in and the sound of me walking around the house in the morning doesn’t wake him up. I have to go into his room, look at his little face, and try to rouse him from a deep slumber. He’s his crabbiest on Thursdays (before school AND after) and we just have to power through.
There’s excitement on Monday and Friday. Tuesday and Wednesday aren’t so bad. But Thursday: WOOF.
2.) Lunch is a universal problem.
It doesn’t matter your child’s race, religion, or socioeconomic status. Rural or urban, Midwest or Coastal, EVERYONE is talking about the same issues with lunch. There’s not enough time, the lunchroom is packed and loud, and my kid comes home with a lunchbox full of food he didn’t eat. He may have been chatting, rushed, distracted–the list is endless. As the year goes on I know it’ll get better, but until then I’ll shove him full of fat and protein in the morning and be ready to feed him a feast when he gets home.
We’re all in the same boat. Our mothers and our mothers’ mothers had the same issue, and people from Maine to California are all dealing with it right now. If you’ve solved the lunch time dilemma in your family or school, drop your wisdom in the comments. We’d all love to hear it!
3.) My Son is #Basic.
His favorite class is recess.
His second favorite class is P.E.
His third favorite class is lunch.
He can’t remember what he did today.
4.) My son is also a master manipulator.
We have five hours from the time I pick him up until the time I *futilely attempt to* put him to sleep. That’s 300 whole minutes to talk to me. He waits until the 30 seconds before I turn off the light to explode with information about his day. He wants to tell me EV-ER-Y-THING. And let’s be honest: I’m desperate to hear it. He also waits until the very last moment to tell me how much he misses me during the day and wants to snuggle. Oh, and could I read out loud just one more chapter of our book because he loves hearing my voice?
Kid, I know your deal. I’m well aware of the stall tactics you’re incorporating here in order to postpone bedtime. Now move over so I can crawl in next to you and we can figure out how Harry Potter gets out of the Chamber of Secrets.
5.) I’m a big fat hyprocrite.
For years I’ve been preaching to anyone who’d listen the importance of focusing on the child and not test scores. I believe that early “school related skills” would not predict future success and that we should just let the kids PLAY. My common response to mothers worrying about how their child compared to their peers was, “Relax and give your kid a hug. That’s the only thing that matters.”
And then I got an email from my son’s teacher that said ASSESSMENTS ARE STARTING NEXT WEEK! (Capital letter emphasis and explanation point added by me)
My chest got tight.
I reread the message about a billion times.
I called my son into the room and made sure he could say his ABC’s. When he stuttered a bit between R and S I thought I was going to be sick.
I told him it was really, really important that he took his time. He needed to make sure to tell his teacher the right letters, because I knew he knew them and I wanted his teacher to know that, too.
Who was this crazy lady grilling my son about the alphabet? There’s no way that was me. I would never put that pressure on my child. My thoughts would never snowball from the assessments happening next week to how they would affect what college he goes to.
Oh, but they did.
I have since taken a breath, drank some water, and chilled out, but I was surprised that the feelings of panic and fear rushed in like that. It was so easy to tell other moms to relax about their kids and a real eye-opener when those same anxieties surfaced in my own heart for the first time.
6.) Things Happen
On the second day of school I forgot my kid’s lunch. It was LITERALLY my fault. All of you thinking, “It’s your son’s responsibility to remember his lunch, not yours,” just hang on a second. His lunch was on the counter and he politely, thoughtfully, and within reason asked me to bring it downstairs and put it in his backpack. I said, “Of course, Bud! That was really great you remembered and asked for help!”
And then I walked away.
And drove to school.
And wondered why his backpack felt so light.
And remembered I never got the lunchbox I said I’d grab.
That was the day I got to meet the school secretary.
On the third day of school, my son’s water bottle broke and soaked his lunchbox, backpack, and that fancy folder that goes to and from school every day that’s meant to last the entire year. In that fancy folder was some “get to know you” homework that’s displayed in the classroom. Ours is proudly wrinkled on the bottom from where it was wet and I tried to dry and straighten it back out. WHOOPS again. But you know what, now our teacher knows what to expect from our family. Lots of enthusiasm and a whole lotta WHOOPS because things happen.
7.) The Kids Are Gonna Be Alright.
On my son’s first day of kindergarten I walked him to the playground where everyone plays before school starts. He grabbed my hand even though he was confident, self-assured, and so ready to begin this journey. While holding my hand a random group of kids came up and asked if he would play with them. His sweet blue eyes looked up at me and silently asked if it was okay. I said, “Of course! Go have fun!” And then, just like that, he was off.
My kid is going to be alright.
Those kids who asked him to play are going to be alright.
Sure, they need guidance, and love, and resources, and stability. They’ll need a bucketful of second chances, but kindness is natural and already built into their little hearts. We just need to keep it alive. We need to let them know that we value it and we see them being wonderful little citizens everyday.
Keep doing what you’re doing, kids.
We have faith in you.
We know you are good. And kind. And empathetic. And eager.
We know you’re gonna be alright.