I’ll admit it: I was totally naive about what it would be like to have a child “in school.” To be completely honest, I thought it would be so easy. She would go to school all day, learn amazing things, come home exhausted and happy, eat and fall into bed.
Now that Spring is knocking at the door, we are almost to the home stretch of our first year as a family with a “school age” child. Here are just a few of the ways it was way harder than I thought it would be:
1. There is a lot of stuff to remember. A LOT. That little purple folder comes home every day stuffed with reminders. Book fair. Lunch money. Parent teacher conferences. Fund raisers. Pizza night. Halloween costumes. Report cards. Box tops for education. Her nap towel needs to be washed. She forgot her lunch box. She can’t play in the snow unless she has snow boots and they have to be labeled with her name. Oh and, though it may seem obvious, don’t forget to PICK HER UP at 3:20 EVERY DAY. Because inevitably you will be in the middle of doing something and the baby will have just fallen asleep and suddenly it will be time to leave. So set your alarm for 3:00 every day so you’re prepared. Except for Wednesdays when they get out at 2:30. And when they get out early for breaks. And when they don’t have school, which happens about once a month. Does this sound like a lot to you? Because it does to me.
2. There is still a lot to teach her. She learns a lot in school. But that doesn’t mean she stops learning at home. She comes home with popcorn words and read-at-home books and library books. Oh and it’s about time she finally mastered tying her shoes and riding a bike with no training wheels, and it would probably be good for her to start having a chore chart around the house which will lead to learning about managing allowance… My point it, even thought she has an “official” teacher, parents are still the biggest teacher in a child’s life. We aren’t off the hook when they go to school. We just learn how to do more work in less time.
3. Kindergarten is COMPLICATED. My little human now shares space with twenty four other little humans all day. And that’s just in her own classroom, not to mention the dynamics on the playground or the lunch room. She spent enough time in daycare and preschool for this not to be a completely overwhelming transition but still. It’s a big shift. And with that many other small people, things are bound to get a little complicated sometimes. “So-and-so doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.” “Such-and-such pushed someone else on the playground.” “So-and-so can read better than me.” Not only is it hard to keep up with all the “stuff” that goes on during her day, we have to spend time talking through all the complicated stuff and hope that it makes her more resilient to the bigger “stuff” in the future.
4. She still needs my attention. In fact, she almost needs more of it than before. There’s more to deal with during the day and sometimes she just needs to come home and be somebody’s little girl rather than having to “act her age” all the time. I get it. So even though I may have gotten the day “off” (haha) from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., I have to try to make up for that lost time between 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.. Which might be why I land on my face right after bedtime each night.
5. I miss her. The fact is, I went from having her around all the time, knowing what she was up to every day, to missing out on a BIG part of her day. I can’t always know what’s going on or be there to hold her when she needs her mom. It’s weird to think of so many other people impacting the person she is becoming all day when I’m not there to be a part of it. There are days where I wish I would have kept her home another year, even though I know she was ready, just because I selfishly miss her. A lot.
6. Her independence is the point. This is my reluctant mom pout. It’s not pretty but it is what it is. As a parent, our job is tricky because the goal is to teach them not to need us anymore. On one hand I miss her all day and a little part of me loves that she still needs to crawl in my lap when she gets home. I love that a hug in the morning from me can still turn her day around. I love that she misses me too. But on the other hand, I know if I do my job well, those moments will become fewer and further apart as time goes on. I’m so proud of her for how much she has grown this year. She can jump out of the car and head into school without me needing to walk her up to the door. She is trying new things and navigating ever-changing Kindergarten friendships and she’s growing and learning every day. And that’s the point.
And as hard as it feels to support her from this new distance, that makes it all worth it.