The effort I had to put in to get my kid in a seat at our desired school for kindergarten had prevented me from facing the onslaught of feelings that came with having a school-age child. I was so consumed with the application process that I hadn’t really checked in with the emotional effect of this gigantic milestone. My daughter was more than ready to start school; pre-school had primed her to love a learning environment and though she was shy, she did manage to make a few good friends. I was the one who needed to grapple with this change, which became mind-numbingly apparent when I went through the emotional stages every mom goes through when her kid starts kindergarten. I mean, why didn't someone warn me about this rollercoaster I had willingly (and yet, somehow, unwillingly) decided to ride?!
The thought of my first kid starting kindergarten was shocking. How could she be ready to step into that huge brick building with all those bigger kids, in a class two-and-a-half times the size of her pre-school group, without me? She was so little. We were still tucking her into bed with her favorite blanket she’d been snuggling with since she was an infant. Reading, writing and arithmetic already? There's just no way.
It wasn’t just the bittersweet concept that she was getting older, it was the fear of discovering my shortcomings as a parent in preparing her for this giant leap forward. So yes, it was all about me. After all, she didn’t shed a tear on her first day. Meanwhile, I was a slobbering mess as I worked through the tangle of emotions that came with her starting kindergarten, which definitely included the following:
Kindergarten already? My kid is not that old! (I am not that old!)
We should have practiced writing my kid's name more. Why didn’t I make flashcards? I could have set up a tiny little makeshift classroom in our home and really prepared my kid for kindergarten. What have I been doing with my life?!
My kid is going to love school. In fact, my kid is going to become a lifelong learner! Eventually, my kid is going to go to Harvard (on scholarship of course, because we can’t afford it otherwise) and cure some horrific disease and this emotional rollercoaster will have served a humble, honorable purpose. Yeah, that's exactly what's going to happen.
Kindergarten’s the best! I loved going to school and making new friends and my kid is definitely going to feel the same. I mean, kindergarten is nothing but snacks and songs, right? Wait, what’s this Common Core Curriculum business?
So, my kid's first day is only 45 minutes long, followed by a half day, followed by a full day, followed by two days off? What kind of fresh hell is this?
All summer my kid was wide awake at 6:30 a.m, without fail. School starts and suddenly they can't wake up to save their lives? Ugh.
Did I wipe all the cream cheese off my kid's face before she walked into school? Did we provide the right supplies? Will the PTA members think I talk too much? Am I being judged for sending my kid to school in Crocs? Did the other parents notice that I'm wearing pajama bottoms during drop off?
Will my kid make friends? Will my son pee straight into the toilet? Will my daughter get on the right bus home? What if one of my kids can’t stop writing the number “5” backwards? Should I red-shirt my children? Maybe it's all just too soon for kindergarten.
Yeah! I get to post official “first day of school” picks for my friends to roll their eyes at! I get some time to either focus completely on work, or completely on my home or completely on myself. I mean, I know what silence feels like, again. This is the best thing ever. I love kindergarten!
Where did my baby go? Time is going just way too fast. I mean, wasn't I, like, just pregnant with them? Didn't I just give birth about a week ago? Now they're going off into the world, without me, to learn and make friends and interact with people and they're, like, real tiny human beings. This is all too much.
Wow, my kid is like a "real person" now. They have deep thoughts and interesting opinions and meaningful connections with others. What a cool, amazing and capable kid I've made.