In a few weeks, my youngest child will be going to kindergarten and I'm so excited for her. She's the kind of kid who will thrive in a classroom environment. She loves being around people, she's enthusiastic, and she enjoys trying new things. And, if I'm being honest, I'm excited for me, too. I've been a work-from-home mom for five years now, which has been wonderful... but extremely challenging. This is a new chapter for me, too. I wasn't as optimistic with my oldest. Because your first child going to kindergarten versus your second? Oh, they're two very different experiences.
Sending my oldest child to kindergarten got me this close to go into therapy. I'm not being flip and I'm not kidding. I've never been to therapy, not because I'm against it, but because before the summer of 2016 I hadn't much felt the need. (Here's where I fully admit to leading a charmed life.) But then I found myself staring down the reality that, in September, my first child was going to full-day kindergarten and I had a lot of feelings. So, so many feelings, and almost none of them encouraging or good. Part of that, admittedly, was specific to my worries for my specific child: he was a stubborn, emotional kid who didn't handle change well. But if I'm being honest, the real fears and worries and stress weren't really about him; they had to do with the fact that I hadn't imagined this milestone coming and now it was here and I wasn't ready.
It worked out, you guys. It usually does. So whether you're sending off your first or your second child, I hope my experience (which I understand to be pretty common) can give you some comfort... or at least a chuckle.
First Child: This is a prevailing and extremely troubling emotion that takes up a lot of emotional space. What if they're not ready? What if they get lost in the school? What if they don't make friends? What if they don't finish their lunch and then they're hungry for the rest of the day? What if the other kids are mean? The doubt-filled questions are endless.
Second Child: "Pffft. They're gonna be fine." But seriously, you saw how your first kid adjusted and adapted, even if there were bumps along the way, and you know it's going to OK.
First Child: OK, when do I register? How do I do that? What's an acceptable form of identification? Do I need their birth certificate? Social security card? What supplies should I get my kid? Do they need a snack? Am I allowed to pack food with peanuts? I hear some schools have banned peanuts. When should I go out to the bus stop? Where do I find the route? How do I do anything for my child and their education?!
Second Child: *breeze into front office* Hi Mary. Hi Laura. Nice to see you again. Mary, how's your sister doing after her surgery? Good? Awesome. Laura, did you have a good summer? Ha! Of course you did, you're a Gemini! Hey listen, I'm just handing in some last minute paperwork before school starts. Tasha said I could leave it with you. See you in a couple weeks!"
OK, I'll level with you here. It doesn't matter if it's your first child or your eleventh: you're always going to worry a little, right? And in a 21st century context it feels like there's a lot to worry about when it comes to sending our kids to school. But rest assured, after the first child you've been through it already and you know what to expect: you'll probably worry less, which is nice.
First Child: *looks around an office supply store, becomes overwhelmed, curls into fetal position*
Second Child: *sips coffee, orders everything online in the span of 10 clicks* Done.
Like worry, sadness about your children growing up is always just part of the parenting gig. Even when the sadness is overshadowed by positive feelings, you can't escape the fact that on monumental days like the first day of school, it'll feel like your baby was just born yesterday.
But, in my experience, after seeing your first learn and grow so much in kindergarten, you're excited to experience the same with your youngest.
Confidence In Your Child
First Child: You've never had to let go of anything this way before and you have no idea what children are really capable of in a school environment. You may not even know what children are capable of in an environment away from you if you're a stay-at-home mom. So it's easy to let the worry and uncertainty take over and just assume they'll never be able to do any of this, be it academically, socially, emotionally, or behaviorally. You'll panic that they're just not ready for this... but actually they're likely a lot more ready than you may think.
Second Child: You now believe what was once unbelievable. You've seen it in action.
Confidence In Yourself
First Child: Someone please sedate me!
Second Child: You know you got this.