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Who Has My Kindergartner Become?!

The long awaited Kindergarten adventure has begun for my son. He was ready. He rocked Pre-K. He mastered Kindergarten Boot Camp this summer. He was pumped and smiling ear to ear when we even mentioned Kindergarten.

We knew this was going to be a big change for him. Even though he has been a fulltime day care kid from 12 weeks old, going a full day of Kindergarten was going to be different. Day care gave him breakfast, snacks before pick up, lots of play time, and that lovely two hour nap in the afternoon. Kindergarten is emotionally more demanding than PreK – plus the loss of that nap and late afternoon snack.

My husband and I were told “He will be exhausted at the end of the day.” and “He may be a bit crabby when he comes home.” But we never thought it would be bad. I mean, he was the full-time day-care kid. He should be used to long days, right? Not to mention, he’s a really well-behaved kid! He is a saint compared to his younger brother. (Not that we’re comparing here…ok, we totally are.) But seriouslyhe’s respectful, kind, and loving – perfect first child, if there is such a thing!

He started Kindergarten by getting on the bus with nothing but smiles. He even came home with smiles. But those smiles were short lived. They turned into tears. And yelling. And attitude. Oh, the attitude! Where did this all come from? My sweet boy has turned into a holy terror.

Yes, I know we were warned, and I feel that we took all warnings seriously. But we just had no idea how much our little angel would transform! Our son now talks back and screams no. His face turns red with anger and defiance when asked to eat his beans with dinner. It has gotten so bad, that he actually ran away from home! I thought he would just hang in the driveway for a while. But when I saw him cross the street, I knew he meant business. This boy has lost his mind! (And his poor mama is losing her mind over it too!)

I immediately started to wonder how he has been at school. Guess what his teacher said? A great helper, a leader, well behaved. Excuse me, what? Are we talking about the kid that just threw a book at my head when I asked him to brush his teeth?

My sweet son is making my husband and me feel like the worst parents ever. We’ve begun asking ourselves where we went wrong! Did we discipline him too much? Not enough? Too much Spongebob?

Talking on a more real level with friends who have had Kindergartners put my mind at ease. Turns out we are not alone! (Which means there are a lot of miserable K parents out there right now!!!)

Kindergartners are going through a huge life change. They are required to sit at a desk for a long amount of time, pay attention, be independent, be respectful and on their best behavior during the school day. When they come home, they need to unwind. And the only way a five-year-old knows how to unwind? Going crazy…unfortunately for us parents.

A friend reminded me that my son is comfortable in our home. This is his safe place. Home is where he can be a kid and act crazy and let it all out. She recommended that we give him freedom and ask him what he wants to do. Instead of barking directions on what needs to be done that evening when he gets off the bus, maybe let him decide if he wants to watch Spongebob for thirty minutes or build Legos or play soccer. Let him do his thing on his terms for a bit.

Now, I am not going to let him rule the roost. But giving him that freedom to choose has helped calm him down a bit. I put my arm around him to reassure him that I understand Kindergarten is tough and can be exhausting. I let him know that he is doing a GREAT job, and we are so proud of him! He did manage a smile between the tears and gave me a big hug right back.

We all have daily stressors that wear us down and exhaust us. Adults are capable of dealing with these emotions. Personally, I blow off steam by soaking in the tub with a glass of wine! Kindergartners experience these same emotions. But guess what? They are five – and not quite equipped yet to deal with all these new feelings. So they express themselves the only way they know how. And that can lead to a crabby child and an unpleasant household after school.

Thankfully, as the old adage goes, this too shall pass. But in the meantime, be prepared to be patient, give lots of hugs, take deep breaths, and always have a bottle of bubble bath (or wine) on hand!

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