What I Have Already Learned From Kindergarten

Kindergarten is a big milestone for T, yes. That I was expecting. What I wasn't expecting was for it – already, on the very first day – to be a big milestone for me as well. 

I have been agonizing over T's first day of kindergarten for longer than I would care to admit. I have been going through the "what-if's" and "not ready's" and the "if-only's" ad nauseum. I barely slept last night, and when I did I had nightmares about T's first day and all the things that could go wrong. I said I was "hoping for the best and preparing for the worst." I am a liar. I was totally expecting the worst. FOR NOTHING. Because today went fine.

We were out the door on time. I got pictures of my children with actual smiles on their faces at the same time in the same photo. We walked to school, and miraculously the rain held off. T was excited about all of it.

I didn't even cry. I DIDN'T EVEN CRY!

Multiple voicemails and text messages flooded in over the course of the morning. "How did he do? How did YOU do? Is everyone okay?" And I replied, "Great! Okay. YES!" (With a cat emoticon smiley face sometimes, because I have a little problem with overusing the cat emoticon.)

As the day wore on, I felt a little silly. Because I was totally okay. A little sad, a lot nostalgic, but really okay. I spent the better part of this summer dreading something that never ended up happening. No tears, no separation anxiety, nothing. What a waste of my time.

Kindergarten Lesson for the Mama #1: Stop worrying. It might just be fine. (And even if it's not fine, did worrying ever change an outcome?)

Now I want to back up a bit to last year at this time. T got invited to his first ever "friend birthday party" for a kid who I did not know. We went because he was so excited, and I spent the entire time feeling completely awkward and out of place. Everyone was very nice, but it felt like they all knew each other and I was the odd mom out. Yuck.

That was just one example. I have spent the better part of parenthood feeling like "the odd mom out." I had plenty of excuses for why this was – "We just don't know many people here, we're not "from" here, my best friends don't live near us and they're really more my people" – when in reality I was socially awkward and afraid of trying to make new friends.

I complained constantly about not having "people" locally. I envied my friends from away who managed to find their "people" in spite of also being new in town. I accepted the fact that I just wasn't going to have new friends.

Okay, now we can fast forward back to today. Remember that flood of text messages and voicemails I referenced? Some of them were from my friends. New friends that I've made in the past year. And not only that – I knew moms at school! Moms to say hello to, and chat with at drop off and pickup. It was amazing.

I came home and realized, "Ohmygosh all of a sudden I have people here! Yessssss!" And then I wondered, "when did that happen?" I realized it happened at pickup from preschool. And when I discovered that another mom from preschool had a little in A's music class. New neighbors moved in who have become wonderful friends. Through ballet and music and t-ball and soccer we suddenly know people. There are birthday parties and play dates and coffee and "mom's nights out" and new friends – for the kids and for me. (Except the coffee and mom's nights out. Those are just for me.)

Kindergarten Lesson for the Mama #2: You Are Finding Your "People."

So as I sit here, sipping my celebratory glass of wine and reflecting on the day, I am feeling unbelievably grateful. And almost excited for what else this kindergarten adventure might have in store – for T and for his mama.

Don’t Open Pandora’s Box…And Other Dont’s

As previously discussed, this week T begins kindergarten. I am preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. And I am learning A LOT about what not to do with our last days together. For example…

DO NOT open the hope chest that contains mementos of everything from your own high school graduation to your child's preschool graduation. I don't care what you are looking for. If it is really that important, ask your husband for help. 

If you open aforementioned hope chest – which from this day forward will be known as Pandora's box in our house – DO NOT take out the baby books, old photos and Christmas cards. Or go through them with your children, marveling over how little they once were and how big they now are. (Note to self: fill in more information in A's baby book before a. you forget anything else or b. she notices that she is CLEARLY the second child.)

DO NOT take you children to Target on a last minute errand at 6 pm. (This is pretty much a good rule any day of the week.) Because they will behave poorly, but when they beg you for toys you won't even put up a fight because the trainwreck that is the voice in your head will say "it's your last time before kindergarten. It is the end of an ERA." And then you will spend 5x as much as usual due to your fragile emotional state.

DO NOT let them dictate their own bedtimes or have "sleepovers" in each other's rooms. It's not June. We don't have time to get "back on track." School starts in TWO DAYS and my kid is going to be an exhausted mess.

Finally, DO NOT drink more than one glass of wine on any given night. Otherwise, you may end up creepily staring at your sleeping almost kindergartener humming "You Are My Sunshine" while your mind plays a memory montage of your last 5+ years together. (As a side note, I think saving all those extra glasses of wine for the post-first day celebration is totally okay. Cheers!)

The Reasons I’m Not Writing

Because work feels crazy. Because I have carpal tunnel in both wrists. Because there is always someone who is hungry, or thirsty, or wanting something from me. Because would rather watch TV. Because I do not have make time. Because I am not ready to say what comes next, but I know I am running out of time.

My kid is going to kindergarten. He is ready. I am not ready. 

Since the day T was born, I have been counting down in my head the days until he begins kindergarten. It feels, by far, like the biggest and scariest milestone out there – I knew it even then. While it is a beginning of many things, it feels like an end. And I am not ready.

I am not ready for school bus rides and field trips where strangers take T and show him parts of the world that we haven't gotten to yet. 

I am not ready for hurt feelings and mean kids and T being left out on the playground. 

I am not ready for homework instead of playing outside after school.

I am not ready to abide by school vacations as the only weeks of the year when we are supposed to travel.

I am not ready to concede the fact that this part – the part where we are unequivocally in charge, and the world is largely what we have built it to be for T – is over.

Most of all, I am not ready to walk him to school, to wave goodbye and see my little boy disappear inside what seems like an awfully big school. And to realize that with each passing day, he will seem a little bigger and the school will seem a little smaller. Because he will be, and it will be.

And that is the way it is supposed to go. 

He is ready. I am not ready. 

 

5 Ways Kindergarten Info Night Was Like the First Day of Middle School (Mine)

Earlier in the week, I had to go to T's kindergarten information night. I was a little nervous, as I always am what I don't know what to expect. But one thing I did not expect at all  is the overwhelming sense of deja vu that came over me when I walked in. It was like my first day of middle school – which was not great, thankyouverymuch – all over again. Here's why: 

  • Little Fish, Big Pond: The town where I grew up doesn't have its own middle and high schools, which meant the friendly familiar elementary school faces on that first day of middle school were few and far between. Twentysomeodd years later, same deal with familiar preschool parent faces. Only much, much fewer. 
  • The Cool Kids: On the first day, there is always that group – that one group – that just exudes "cool." Whether as students in middle school or as parents at info night, they are the ones who effortlessly know exactly what to wear, exactly where to sit, and exactly what to do when. They are also sooo popular that instead of sitting at one of the designated tables, they take chairs out of a chair rack to put around their own, larger table near back of the room. Both so they have enough room for all their friends and so they can be closest to the room's prime real estate – like the exit and the sign up sheet for screening day. 
  • The Unfortunate Medical Condition: My first day of middle school, it was that I had just had oral surgery and could not eat, drink anything except water or brush my teeth for two weeks. Which pretty much meant that I was "that weird girl that didn't talk or eat", at least for awhile. This time around, I have some kind of respiratory infection and no voice. Again, "the weird girl that doesn't talk." Ah, timing is everything. 
  • Navigating the Social Scene: A couple of groups make presentations on first days, convincing you of both the benefits their club or organization provides and how swell it would be if you joined. This is a trick. Choose a club, choose a label. So choose carefully.
  • Anxiety: I have serious anxiety and am socially awkward. Once you know me, I am actually quite funny and we can joke about it. Until then, you either think I'm weird, standoffish, and/or have an obscure skin condition that causes me to spontaneously break out in hives. 

The good news is that I survived, both times. The even better news is that this time around it is not about me. T has made some great friends in preschool who will be going to kindergarten with him. He has an energy and exuberance that seem to endear him to other boys his age. And as most mamas do, I know I will put myself out there and rise to the occasion in ways that I didn't have the courage to the first time around. Because this time, it's for my kid. 

And there is not much I will not do for that kid.