Learning How to Send a Kid To School
August 28, 2017
Sitting in a circle of parents during the kindergarten tour, we listened as the principal introduced us to the elementary school. He covered everything from the school’s mission to flexible seating in the classrooms to the longitudinal effects of reading to your children. He asked for questions and several hands shot up; each one a great, high level question.
“Tell us about the school’s curriculum goals for the next 5 years.”
“How will you challenge my student at her level?”
“How do you promote physical health and exercise to the students?”
“Walk us through the campus safety plan.”
Good questions, good answers.
“Anything else I didn’t answer?” he asks.
Well, yes, I thought. Only about a billion. For instance, sir,
How do I drop him off? I mean, like, which door…but also will he be embarrassed if I kiss him goodbye?
Can I eat lunch with him? How does that work?
How do I even get into the building?
If I’m not eating with him, will someone help open his Go-GURT?
What if he gets lost?
What if he doesn’t make a single friend?
What if he has to poop?
What life lessons have I forgotten to teach him to prepare him for this moment?
I didn’t ask any of these, of course. These are all newbie parent questions that you ask under your breath to the mom next to you on the playground.
Sending a kid to school is hard.
So many unknowns.
So many hits to my illusion of control.
We’re now 3 weeks in to our elementary school debut and, despite our first call from the school nurse this morning for a stomachache that I quickly diagnosed as the he-just-got-new-birthday-presents-yesterday-and-is-afraid-his-brothers-are-at-home-playing-with-them-while-he’s-at-school variety of virus, we’re doing AWESOME.
Seriously, he’s rocking it out. Loves it. Sad he didn’t have class over the first weekend.
And about 20 minutes after my (surprisingly weepy) first ever school drop off, I felt awesome about the 33% noise reduction in our home.
We’re adjusting really well to school, but there are a few things that have caught me completely off guard. Things I didn’t prepare for at all.
For starters, delayed sadness.
The first week of school felt like Beckett was at zoo camp again. 5 days of all-day classes.
It wasn’t until the second week that reality set in. He is actually gone. At school. Every week. All year.
Another surprise is the major parenting holes in the other two boys.
Beckett is kind of an 80 year old 6 year old. Turns out his presence in our home has been masking some things that need addressing in his brothers. With him gone, I’m actually having to parent the toddlers instead of relying on their older brother to referee.
As far as actual school culture, I’ve been surprised by how quickly you can identify types of moms.
PTA mom, room mom, aloof mom, hyper attentive mom, our-kids-should-get-married mom, funny mom, grandma mom, career mom, workout mom.
Moms you want to avoid like the plague, moms you never see, moms you want to be best friends with (but have to play it cool around so as not to come on too strong in the beginning)….so many moms.
Also, so many options to get involved with moms; so many ways to stalk your kids in the hallways together.
I’m currently trying to strike a balance between letting go and being involved. I’ll let you know how that works out for me.
In Beckett, I’ve been surprised by after-school exhaustion.
Like…I knew he’d be tired.
I didn’t realize his exhaustion would make him insane.
It makes sense, really, I just didn’t prepare for this part.
All day long he’s reigning in his excitement, his nerves, his desire to karate kick inanimate objects (because boy). Home is his safe place, the place he can finally unwind.
And WHOA-MERCY does he unwind.
He’s like a mix of tired and hyper and overstimulated, resulting in an emotional grenade with the attitude of a 16 year old and the imagination of a 6 year old. (Which just means that I am often met with the frustrated growls and rolling eyes of a Prehistoric Marine Iguana.)
Part of his exhaustion, no doubt, is thanks to the overselling of kindergarten.
In the weeks leading up to school, my child was unrecognizable to me. He was defiant, disrespectful, angry…all things he is not.
And I blew it.
I thought I was witnessing a cool new 6 year old attitude and disciplined appropriately. Meanwhile, I missed what was really happening in him – straight up anxiety.
Sometimes as adults we oversell things.
We live in a chalkboard-wielding, teacher-monogrammed-Yeti-gifting, professional-photographer-hiring, #FDOS-hashtagging, Kinder-Social-Night-to-get-them-ready-for-Kinder-Camp-which-gets-them-ready-for-Kindergarten culture. None of which is bad, all of which can escalate exciting events into scary events unnecessarily.
To us, it’s a semi-big deal. To our kids, it turns into The Biggest Deal Ever.
To Beckett, kindergarten had become the latter. It grew into a daunting monster, looming on the horizon.
3 weeks until KINDERGARTEN. 1 day until KINDERGARTEN. Our last meal before KINDERGARTEN.
It grew so big in his mind, he actually thought he was packing up and moving away to boarding school.
We oversold it and had to do some major defensive downplaying.
School is a big, exciting deal! It’s also just not that big of a deal. (The line between the two is weirdly blurred and awkward to straddle.)
Thankfully, he’s coming to this realization on his own. He’s not being cut off and kicked out of the house, he’s just going to learn a few hours a day. And he adores it.
Here’s to a great year at a great school with a great teacher and a great class…full of little girls who LINE UP TO HUG MY SON at the end of the day. (True story. Hold me.)
We’re praying he continues to be exactly who God made him to be: kind, inviting, full of light.
“Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid; don’t be discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”