I remember the day as though it were yesterday. I pulled together birth certificates and vaccination records and made my way over to the school filled with excitement, anticipation and a little ache in my heart.
My child was starting school.
I wondered what the school would be like and who the teacher would be. I wondered if they would love school the way I did and who their friends would be.
There was so much preparation. Welcome to Kindergarten classes, school bus prep rides and big baskets filled with crayons, books, and all the letters of the alphabet.
We were ready.
Once the big day came we realized that there were some things that we couldn’t possibly prepare for.
If you’re a parent with a child just starting school there are a few things that won’t be a part of your preparation.
She may fall asleep at dinner time for the first few weeks: By the time my daughter turned four and started kindergarten she had outgrown her afternoon naps. I took that as a sign that the transition to kindergarten would be smooth. And it was smooth. However, there were lots of yawns at the dinner table and Friday nights were a struggle for those first few months. Every Friday night my daughter would fall asleep on the car ride home from dance class. She barely made it through pizza night and we learned, after a few intense tantrums, that bedtime needed to be moved up a little.
He may not learn to read: At least not right away. When my son entered Junior Kindergarten, for some reason I expected him to learn to read...right away. I’m not exactly sure what my timeline was but after the first year he could read some words but wasn’t yet reading books. I worried. Kindergarten is very play based and those first few months are more focused on social skills and getting into the routine rather than reading, writing and arithmetic. My worry didn’t last long because it wasn’t long into Senior Kindergarten before he was reading me bedtime stories.
She will come home with a full lunch box: Every single day I unpacked lunchboxes and every single item that I had packed that morning came home. When I inquired why she hadn’t eaten her lunch the answer was always “I didn’t have time”. Her teachers explained that my daughter preferred to chat than to sit and eat lunch. I learned to pack foods that were easy for her to access; didn’t require a lot of unwrapping or opening or peeling. Any healthy stuff that wasn’t eaten during the day was given as an after school snack so that I was sure she was eating well.
He will learn to do a lot on his own: Every teacher and each school is different, however with 20-30 kids in a classroom it’s hard for teachers to help each child with zippers and laces and buttons or to make sure kids have eaten their lunch (see above). I worried that my kids would forget their hats and be cold at recess or wouldn’t remember to put their rain boots on when it was raining or maybe wouldn’t know where the bathroom was. But they figured it out. Kids are very adaptable and mine quickly learned how to get into their snowsuits on their own and realized how much warmer they could be if they remembered their gloves.
They will surprise you: Kindergarten is a time of such intense change. They learn and grow so much. No matter how much you think you know your kids they will surprise you. They will have lives outside of you. They will make new friends and share secrets with them. They will live a life…without you. It can be beautiful, exciting and heartbreaking all at the same time. You will watch your children become more and more independent and once you get over the initial shock of the fact that they don’t need you every second of their day, you will be so proud of them.
That’s it for me. I won’t ever have another child start kindergarten. I won’t let go of another child’s hand as they step up the school bus stairs for the first time. And while that leaves me wishing that I could rewind time and relive those moments just one more time it also leaves me with anticipating what is coming next. I know that whatever is in store for them it’s going to be full of excitement and surprises and moments that I just can’t prepare myself for.
As your little one heads into their first day of school be prepared for the unexpected. Take your first day of school photos and enjoy every exciting moment.
Before you know it, kindergarten will be over and your littlest one won’t be so little anymore.
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