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My son starts pre-kindergarten this year. Then everything changes. “It’s a good thing,” I tell myself. “Yay, we get to shop for school supplies.” “Yay, no more sleeping late.”

I really am excited for him. The school we selected employs wonderful teachers. The curriculum strikes a great balance between play and academics. I know my son will make new friends, explore his interests and grow. He will learn to navigate good and bad days on his own.

So why am I terrified? I’ve asked myself this question every day since I signed the registration papers. If I know it’s the best thing, why does it make me want to hide under the covers on the first day?

After some soul searching, here is what I came up with– five major reasons why sending a child to school in 2017 is as terrifying an experience as it is joyful.

1. Stranger Danger

From the moment they understand us, we teach our children “Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t go with strangers.” Then school comes along and we send them alone into a room full of STRANGERS. Yes, the majority of them will be four-year-olds, but still, I don’t know these children. I don’t know their parents. I don’t know what they get into outside of school. Maybe Johnny’s parents don’t police the television like I do. I mean, how much does Johnny know? Do Johnny’s parents smoke? Maybe. What do they smoke? I don’t know. Terrifying.

2. Bullying

Sometimes people are mean. This includes kids. If I’m being honest, sometimes my son is mean. When he doesn’t get his way, he can throw a fit, an angry unattractive fit. But bullying is mean on another level. Bullying is name-calling, put downs and just nastiness. I think my son is pretty cool. He is smart. He knows the names of planets and pretty much every dinosaur. I love this about him! It kills me to think he might get made fun of or excluded. He has a wonky extra front tooth. What if some obnoxious kid makes fun of his tooth? What if my son is the bully? Terrifying.

3. School Violence

Children get shot at schools. By OTHER CHILDREN. By ADULTS. This happens way too often for me not to think about it. When it comes to random acts of violence, I have no control. I can’t anticipate insanity and keep him home that day. Even scarier, if something does happen I can’t get to him. A school on lock-down is literally my worst nightmare. Terrifying.

4. Academic Pressure

I learned my letters in kindergarten. In 2017, kids start learning to read in voluntary pre-kindergarten. Why? Really, why? My husband and I went to the parent meeting, and bam, they mentioned homework. I hated homework as a kid. Now I have to hate my pre-school kid’s homework? Boooooo. Don’t set my son up for failure. Don’t pressure him into thinking he isn’t meeting some imaginary standard. Ok, thanks. Terrifying.

5. No more Freedom

I admit, I like the part of being a work-from-home mom where we can pretty much do and go as we please. Once school starts, we are at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. No more wake up and ask, “What do you want to do today?” He has to go to school. This year, it’s just three hours a day, but come kindergarten, he will spend more time at school than at home during the week. Terrifying.

My son can annoy the crab apples out of me, but I will miss him. I mean, he was just a baby. I just brought him home from the hospital. It is my job to nurture and protect him. Now he is going off on his own, buying a backpack and red folders, getting ready to conquer a world where I won’t be there to guide him.

Every night, I pray that he has a good first day. I pray he does well. I pray he doesn’t feel quite so terrified as I do.

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Sarah Whitman

Sarah Whitman is a writer and mother living in Tampa, Fl. As the religion columnist for the Tampa Bay Times, she covers a broad range of faith and spiritual-related topics. She also contributes parenting columns. She recently started a poetry page on Facebook and welcomes mothers to submit their writings to the site. Visit Mama Dickinson at www.facebook.com/mamadickinson. Visit 1mamadickinson on Instagram.

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