This is a guest post from Beth Zustiak. Beth is a Twin Cities mom of two girls, Sophia and Evelyn (with a baby boy on the way) and the Co-Founder of Twin Cities Moms Blog. You can also find her on Instagram (@mrszustiak). For more information on the series or to submit your own perspective on education, click here.
I nearly broke down just typing the title of this post. Then again, I’ve been crying for a good eight months on this one. Most people think when you say your “baby” that you’re referring to your youngest, but this girl, she’s my baby, even if she is my oldest. The cliché absolutely holds true here – I really feel like I sent part of my heart to Kindergarten and maybe that’s why it seems to be so difficult.
Sending your child to preschool for the first time is one thing – it’s this exciting moment when they get to pretend to be big for a few hours a week. But, it’s not scary as a parent, it’s exciting, because it’s pretend. It’s not real school, it’s not really letting go and you know they’re still more yours than anything else. It’s more of an excuse to go grab coffee, either by yourself, or with your smaller child/ren and have life be a little less hectic for a couple hours while they learn how to learn.
Kindergarten. Seriously, can we just stop saying that word? Just keeps on making me cry. It’s the end of this precious era. You get about five years when they’re all yours, just for you, you get to choose, or help choose, their influences, the people in their lives, the way their day will play out. Their friends are usually the children of your friends, you know about their day because you were either there, or another adult was and gives you the run down of all that happened.
Suddenly, it feels as if they are leaving you. They have their own schedule, their own to-do list, their own friends, whose parents you may not even know. You only know about their day if they choose to tell you about it and because they hold your heart, you’ll gobble up anything details they throw your way.
While this is all completely normal, and absolutely a good thing, sending them to Kindergarten, every day, every week, the entire school year is a lot of time that they just get to be their own person. While that is a great thing, and something I really do want for my daughter, I’m devastated.
I’ve been so worried about what this was going to do to…well, me, if I’m honest. If we’re all honest, this isn’t just a big milestone for the kids. Especially when it’s your first, it changes your family as a whole. It’s not just that I get to see her less, it’s that now, our lives have this imposed schedule that is 100% out of our control. Routine is a great thing, but unlike preschool, you can’t just skip Kindergarten if it’s been a long couple weeks and you just want a day to snuggle with your kids in front of endless princess movies. We’ve had plenty of “those” days, when I celebrate the fact that we’re all ready by lunchtime…clearly, that’s no longer an option during the week.
So, how did it go then?
We spent Labor Day (a.k.a. the last day of Minnesota Summer) having all sorts of fun including the beginning of a tradition I’ve dreamed of since I found out we were having a baby girl. First day of school mani – necessary? Of course not, but traditions are those things your children look back on with warm memories, so maybe it’s just a little bit necessary.
The girl has been so excited, counting down the days over the past week on her fingers, just waiting for Kindergarten. I’m not at all surprised at how confident she looked in the pictures! I, on the other hand, started crying as we drove up the long school driveway. Thank goodness for bright, sunny days and sunglasses to hide behind!
We took the classic pics, of course, using the same sign we used for those first days of preschool. Little sister just couldn’t let go, and then in her class line, Sophia let me know she needed one more hug from Miss Evelyn as well.
Our school doesn’t allow you to go into the class for the first day of Kindergarten. Initially, I wasn’t a huge fan of the policy, but I’ve come around (a little). I wish it was different – I’d love to see the moment that she puts her things down and sits at her classroom – her orientation into being a big kid. Their system is well thought out, though – all Kindergarten teachers wait outside, gather their kids in the line and, already, you can see that these kids are ready to go be big. They stand so nicely, as if they’ve done this school thing forever, and wait together for their group to be ready to head inside.
I was definitely emotional, but was able to keep it in check enough to keep smiling at her…until they walked in the door and left us all behind. Then I was “that mom.” The one who was sobbing on the way back to the car. The one whose toddler was quite worried and kept asking Daddy why Mommy was crying. Ugh. Growing up is hard, and not so much on the kids. Being a Mom is so many things, but learning to let go, and at least fake confidence while doing so is no easy task.
As for that routine that’s been imposed on us? It’s only been one day, but the rhythm it brought to those awful witching hours was actually fantastic. At the end of the day, I sat in the pick-up line, grabbed my girl and headed to a coffee date to hear all about it. I mostly got lots of giggles from her and that it was a great day. I also got the longest hug I’ve had from her in months. I’ll take it, and maybe the end of the school day will be the best part of each day.
At home, it was Legos, quiet play and prepping dinner. All in all, and as much as I’ll miss days at home with her, I think it’s going to be a good thing, for all of us. Imposed or not, routine is a great thing for kids, and for me. The routines she learns at Kindergarten will no doubt filter into our home and she will end up teaching us a few things about how she learns and how we can best help her grow up.
But seriously…when is Fall Break?