Dear Parent of A New Kindergartner,
I was you last year. I know how you feel. You are the mom who is telling yourself, “This is good. We pray for them to grow. This is exactly what should be happening right now,” all with a huge lump in your throat. You may or may not have tears rolling down your face as you think these things. Are you wondering if you made the right decision? Wondering how your new kindergartner is going to make it through the day without rest time? Won’t he be soon tired . . . and nervous . . . and hungry?” I want to tell you the honest truth here. The honest truth is YES. But . . .
BUT . . . like almost every stage in parenting, it feels hard at first, sometimes harder, and eventually gets easier. I promise!
When our son started Kindergarten last year, I ugly cried when we dropped him off. I mean full-on shaking shoulders, reddened face, and unstoppable tears. I promised myself I would stay strong for him, and I did—for about ten minutes. Then I watched as he quietly asked a little girl who sat across from him,if she would “be his friend this year.” I died a little. There was my sweet boy, already looking around for a sweet potential friend, so he wouldn’t feel alone. That’s when it happened. He started to have a quivery lip, but he tried to be so brave.
I realized we were both doing the exact same thing—trying desperately to stay strong. It didn’t work. (Does it ever?!) We cried together for a moment, and said our teary goodbyes. My usually talkative husband was suddenly really quiet but still managed to high five and hug his little buddy.
The first few days were pretty hard—but it got easier. The first month was filled with mornings of tired groaning and struggling to get out the door. Our nights were filled with adjusting to homework and fitting it all in, but it got easier. Soon we were floating through most mornings and scheduling play dates with new-found friends. The hard things from the beginning of school—the not knowing what to expect, the wondering if he would be OK, the what-ifs and wonderings all got better. Before we knew it, it was already October, and our routine was in place. School was awesome. We had new friends and were part of a new community. The tiredness dissipated, and the excitement of reading and creating and being a part of a classroom became the norm.
Let me share a few things I learned in the first month of being mom to a kindergartener, that eventually made things easier:
- Packing lunch is a drag at first, but you can make it easier. If you are a lunch packer, make a menu. Our son takes his lunch, and I realized quickly that I hated packing it. So, I began to create a menu for his nut-free lunches (school rule), and it made things so much easier!
- Homework can be a pain, but you can make it a bit less painful. Determine your child’s best time for homework, and make it a routine. We do homework in our house after dinner. This is different for every kid, but try to determine best-practice early on. We tried doing homework as soon as he got home, and it ended in frustration and tears. Our son needed a mind break. We finally figured it out—in October—that he needed time to settle before digging into homework.
- You will want to know everything. You may not get all the details when you want them. Or you may get every detail and want to immediately fix every single thing that made him or her uncomfortable during the day. It’s okay! Allow your child to express herself after school—however she needs to. I realized I had to trust my son’s teachers (and I really did) to care for him during the day. I was the mom who asked tons of questions and stayed involved, but I realized I had to back off too. Starting our conversations with, “Tell me about your day,” usually meant that by the time bedtime rolled around I had a pretty clear idea of what happened during the day.
- You will make mistakes, but its okay. (News Flash: you are human!) Try hard (really hard!) to not shame your child for failing to accomplish something even though they are now a big kindergartner. I know this seems like a no brainer, but I caught myself saying, “You are a kindergartner now. I shouldn’t have to tell you to __(fill in the blank)__.” This helps no one. Instead, encourage your kindergartner using examples of what they have accomplished.
- Things will go wrong in your child’s classroom, but they will also go right. Don’t hold back on praising your child’s teacher. It’s so easy to have heightened emotions when it comes to our kiddos. Most of us wouldn’t think twice about speaking to the teacher if something isn’t going quite right. Remember that they are helping to mold our children, and they like to hear when things are going right, too. Try asking your child for one thing that his/her teacher did during the week that they liked, and write a note to the teacher to let them know it’s appreciated!