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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dear Mom of an Almost Kindergartener,

Dear Mom of an Almost Kindergartener,

I know what you're going through. I was you just last year. I was crying most of last summer, tears welling up in my eyes at random moments when I'd realize my son was going to leave me. I work full time, always have since my son was born, so it's not like he's been home with me, and yet I still felt last year like he was leaving me, like I was losing a part of him to this big elementary school I felt I knew nothing about.

I was scared last year. I was afraid of what would happen if he misbehaved or didn't listen or couldn't sit still. I really did NOT think he'd sit still and learn like he should. I was afraid they would not understand his needs or what worked best for my son. I was afraid of school shootings even... which was a crazy fear, I knew, but hearing too much in the news worried me, I admit it.

I was nervous about him being picked on by other kids. I was afraid he would not make friends. I was worried he'd be the one picking on others.

I wasn't sure if I could trust the teacher or staff or building to keep him safe. I wondered how on earth he'd behave on the big playground where they cannot possibly watch them every second. If we had to do the bus thing I'd have worried about who he'd sit with and not being buckled in and staying in his seat, too. I'd have totally followed the bus to school every day for two weeks if we did the bus thing.

I was nervous about my son not having lunch until way too late in my opinion (closer to 1 p.m.!). I'm not kidding, this one sent me over an edge last summer wondering how he'd misbehave being SO hungry for so long. I wondered if he'd forget all this things from his backpack, if we'd bought the right backpack or the correct size snack bag.

I was afraid I'd hear nothing. I wouldn't know what was going on every day like I got with a daily update at daycare and then preschool the last few years prior to Kindergarten. I wanted to know, was my boy OK? Did he need me?

I was so worried. I didn't know what to expect.

And then the day came. The first day of school for my new kindergartener. I was so nervous. I had a pit in my stomach, trying to stay positive and smiley and happy for my big boy, so that he wasn't super nervous like I was.

And I cried. Sobbed. I was sad most of the day. Just wondering... He's my first. It's hard when it's your first and you have no clue what to expect.

Until I picked my son up after school, after racing out of work to go get him and hear his stories. We stayed in the parking lot for 15 minutes just talking, he would not stop, he was firing things out of his mouth that he LOVED about his first day. I stayed on the side of his car seat door, holding his hand, grateful to have him back with me, and hanging on to every single word he said. I wanted so badly to videotape this moment, but didn't want to mess it up by taking my eyes off of him. I'll forever remember this moment. Forever. He was SOOOO happy and proud and excited. Sheer excitement. I've never seen him so interested in something before in his life. It was amazing.

I realized then and there that if HE was OK and psyched, I'd be fine, too.

(Note: To those of you who have had your littles home with you for years and are worried about your shy one, I know several close friends whose kids in these situations were actually nervous for Kindergarten, even having to drag them in crying to school... BUT this lasted a day or two, and they were totally great after that. So, if this is your situation, I need to share this honesty with you, but reassure you it doesn't last long. Promise.)

So, Mom of an Almost Kindergartener, I'm thinking of you. I have been there. I was ridiculous last summer with my questions for other moms who had gone through this. I wrote tons about it on my blog, too, how we prepared for Kindergarten and things I felt. I remember this like it was yesterday.

And yet looking back, I realize as normal as it was how I felt, I wish I hadn't wasted all those moments worrying so much. My son's year in Kindergarten could not have gone better. He had the perfect teacher who totally understood him and praised him and told us how great he was and taught him to read! He had fun. He was invited to more birthday parties than I could have imagined, made tons of friends, which meant I made friends, too, with parents who felt the SAME way I did and who had the same questions I had and who even had some answers for me also.

He learned SO much. Math, counting, adding and letters and writing and reading. He wrote real books! Real books! He can climb the monkey bars and was safe on the playground. He didn't get crazy overtired. He didn't starve daily either with a late lunch. He adjusted. He learned to grow and stretch his wings. He flew... and he came right back to me every day at 3 o'clock. He didn't leave me. He still needed me. Every day he needed me. And your little guy or gal will, too, promise.

I thought Kindergarten, public school, would change my boy, make him grow up too fast, make him more independent and not need me as much. This is true. He grew SO much more than I anticipated. But all good ways. He became more patient, more responsible, more hard working. He was a better friend. He shared more. He learned more. It was awesome.

And yet, he was my little boy. He played with Legos. He wanted to snuggle with me to read his new library books he got every week at school. He couldn't wait to share with me his drawings of snowmen and tractors and of me and dad. He saved a cookie for his sister from his Valentine's Day party at school. He loves to dress up like a fireman and Superman. He still needs help tying his shoes and packing his backpack and he still looks little in that huge backpack. He still needed us, and your little one will, too.

The new things he'll learn to do, you'll be amazed by. The things she comes home to teach you or tell you about learning that day in music or pe class, you're going to smile so big. You won't be sad. You'll realize this is all what it's about- them learning to be these awesome people, to show us what they can do and make of themselves.

What helped me with adjusting to Kindergarten may not help you. Our kids are different. But I promise you, you'll both get through this. For me, it helped emailing the teacher ahead of time, sharing some important things with her about my son. She must get these emails because she smiled and encouraged me. It helped visiting Open House to see the classroom. It was great to spend time at the playground ahead of the fall, all summer, visiting and talking about it with my son. It was fun letting him pick out what to put in his backpack, what to pack for snacks, what type of lunch bag he wanted to take. He got excited with every step toward Kindergarten, which made me do the same.

It really helped spending time in the school, getting to know staff and parents and kids and seeing the place he was all day. It made me feel comfortable.

It was great realizing I wasn't the only one. Every other parent was new to this, too, even those who had older kids seemed new to this and a little nervous the first few days. Talk to people. Get to know them. Ask questions. It's good to connect. Attend a PTO meeting if you can. It's a good resource.

You aren't alone in how you feel. It's OK to be worried, anxious, scared, even upset that your little one is heading off to the big K. I get it. It's OK to have a zillion questions about how you're both going to get through this.

Have patience with yourself. You will get through this and it's going to be GREAT. More than great. I promise. You'll see this soon. In the meantime, cry, hold her a little tighter, spend some time together one on one with him if you want. Relish this time together. And then prepare yourself for a difficult first day, full of tears and excitement. And then rush to school to pick him up and embrace him, and just soak it all in. Listen to her and hear how great it was and what she learned. And if he's crying or sad about leaving you, do what you've done since he was born and encourage him, support him, and lead him the way there, because you know it's right, it's good and it's what is going to be the stepping stone to him becoming who he's supposed to be someday... this awesome kid that YOU got to this point of being ready for Kindergarten and learning and growth.

You can do this, Momma. I promise you can.

A fellow mom, sending her first grader to school this year, crazy how time flies

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