What to Expect When Your Child Goes to Kindergarten

>> Thursday, March 30, 2017

A lot of my fellow 2011/2012 moms are currently filling out paperwork and visiting school open houses in preparation for next year's big move -- kindergarten. I've written about how we live in New York where the age cutoff is December 1. We went back and forth on exactly what to do with Ada.

  • Delay preschool/school from the start (she was SO ready at age 3 for preschool!). 
  • Another year of pre-K (not in the budget)? 
  • Homeschool her for a year (with working from home + infant -- nope). 
  • Put her in full kindergarten (I had misgivings due to the schedule, etc).

Looking back, I spent so much time worried about this topic.

When Ada went off to school full time in the fall, I experienced a wild mix of emotions. On one hand, I felt apprehensive about sending a four-year-old off on the bus each morning. I was thrilled she got into the early kindergarten program, somewhat delaying her entrance into the public school system by a year, while also not delaying it at all. (It's a unique offering in our district -- higher level than pre-K, but less demanding than K.) Still, it was a lot going from the summers together to not seeing her between the hours of 8AM and 4PM.

Slowly this routine has become the new normal. It's even worked out quite well now that we have baby sister at home. Ada loves her teacher. She loves her classmates. She loves her school. It's an awesome school. I can't say enough good things. We moved when she was just two specifically to get into this district out of all the districts in our area. When it comes to school, I was just like her. Very eager to be around my friends, learn new things, and just be out in the world. So, while I miss her -- incredibly at times -- I am also happy to know she's happy.

I see it, too. She's different. She's been learning so much being away, being more independent. She's grown tremendously as a result. Sure, there are times when her sensitive nature get the best of her. I think that happens to any kid. But she's confident. She likes her thoughts to be heard -- to share her ever-growing knowledge of what the world is all about. It's exciting to see. It fills me (and Stephen) with a lot of pride. We made this kid, and she's turning out to be fantastically funny, bright, and empathetic.

(She can also read, write, and do all other kinds of nifty things, like mix primary colors to make new colors -- her favorite new project. I don't mean to diminish the academics in this discussion. I am blown away with everything she has learned in such a short time. But -- honestly -- so much of this first year is about the transition. The social and emotional aspects. Fostering confidence and all that jazz.)

But then there are these times when my heart aches beyond aching. She's been having issues with a boy on her bus who's taken to harassing her every. single. day. He even followed her around on the playground yesterday just to bug her. There have been times when I've seen her heart sink because she was so overly excited to tell a friend about, for example, her pierced ears . . . only to have the friend shrug and say effectively, "who cares?" This little bubble I so carefully put her in is slowly weakening. Every situation brings out this inner mama bear mode I didn't know I had.

And -- yes -- I think she'd still be napping two hours a day if she were home with me. She can get extremely tired on the long days, and I feel guilt because so many people I know still have their 2011 babies home. There are times when I hear some new word or phrase I may not want to hear. Or sometimes there's an issue I feel like she's not ready to confront, and I'll try to redirect. It's just a whole bunch of complex stuff . . . and I never quite know what questions the day will bring.

What wisdom can I share about being a new-ish mom to a school-aged kid? Like everything else in life, this is a totally new season. Get ready for it. Your child will probably have things about school that he loves and hates (Ada doesn't love P.E. and can get somewhat upset if it's that day -- like sick-to-stomach). There will also be times when you'll feel so crushed that she has to navigate the cold, scary world (errr, or playground) on her own. You'll likely be shocked at some of the stuff he has heard from other kids. You'll also likely be saddened when you pick up stuff about the lives of other kids that maybe don't have the most supportive home environments.

Most of all, though, you'll get through it. You'll somehow learn how to cope and help your kid with this new phase. I know some of you gals are probably worried. Or maybe you're excited. There's a lot to look forward to. Ada wears her school sweatshirt with pride. She knows people that I don't know. She sees teachers, staff, and friends out and about and gets super excited because she now has her own little world. Oh, that's another cool thing. There is now a whole group of people who care about your child. The teachers and helpers and other parents -- they all care so much. And you end up loving this new village.

When school starts, it starts. From there, everything keeps spinning -- sometimes at a dizzying pace -- and we just go with it. Time, unfortunately, isn't stopping anytime soon. If anything, it is moving faster than ever. Instead of resisting it, I eagerly await learning what each new day brings. I most look forward to that moment when my big girl gets off the bus each afternoon. It's certainly become the golden hour in our home.

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