My first kid is headed to kindergarten this fall.
He’s our oldest, so this is a brave new world for us. I mean, he’s been in preschool since he was two, but this is the “Real Deal Holyfield”. Big school. Coming at us. I’m not ready. Lord knows he’s not ready. We’re all scared to death. To clarify, kid does know shapes, colors, letters, and numbers — but it is not like we read or write. We have ONE sight word, y’all. It might be his first name. And don’t even start me on social-emotional readiness. That’s a big negatory. Yet in the midst of all these racing thoughts, I keep asking myself “How is he being so brave?” This kid takes my breath away.
So, maybe our experiences with school thus far have made me a little gun shy about this upcoming transition.
There were awkward run-ins with more than one preschool that just weren’t a good fit. Through this process we learned that new teachers and classrooms scare the pants off our dude. Literally. He wets them. Kid’s just got some mild attention and behavior issues which have proven “problematic” in school settings and resulted in Mom and Dad being pulled into the front office on the reg over the past three years. Thus, when a teacher recently called to notify me that my son was bitten by another student, I may have done a victory dance around my desk. I was just THAT relieved for him to be the victim for once. Some of y’all are nodding. Perhaps you, too, cringe when seeing the school number come up on your caller ID? Maybe you’ve even left a parent-teacher meeting wanting to curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth, crying? You are my people. Thank you.
4-K was a bit rocky.
The boy didn’t get kicked out. Heck, he even managed to graduate, but those teachers look a little tired and bruised up. (I kid, we love y’all. More Starbucks gift cards and wine coming soon.) Thanks to their kind advice and concern regarding the upcoming transition, we have gotten a team and plan in place. It’s just when I initially thought about kindergarten readiness, I was thinking school supplies shopping, not meds and IEP.
Overall, we are crazy lucky that he’s a happy, healthy young man; but I was a bit surprised when Big Guy started telling us he wasn’t going to kindergarten. I did not know much about kids before becoming a parent and assumed they were supposed to be excited about stuff like this? So it’s been a bit of an adjustment. Moreover, he’s a nice-sized gentlemen, so there’s no forcing anything at this point. It’s not like we can just pick him up and carry him into that classroom against his will. At his current size, we count on his cooperation, if you get what I mean.
There has been some movement in the right direction.
The man child recently acquiesced to a school tour. As we walked through the elementary school, he informed the vice-principal he didn’t need to see the library as his preschool has “plenty of books.” He rolled his eyes and scowled at the noisy, boisterous gym. But then I caught him staring appreciatively at the mound of potato chips available for purchase in the lunch room. He’s never had that kind of freedom. Such lunch options looked pretty good and tempting to a young man of five. And then all pretense was lost once we reached the music room. The boy went wide-eyed and stared in the window for what seemed an eternity. Then he quietly started singing and dancing along with the class. After a few minutes the vice-principal asked if we were ready to see another room, only to be told “Think we better finish this song first,” in a firm, small voice.
At the conclusion of the tour, my son informed the vice-principal that “I have to go back to preschool now, but I think I can start next week.” This was in May, so you get the point. He’s (kinda) on board, but I’m not under any illusion there’s smooth sailing ahead.
We took our son back to the elementary school the next week for kindergarten orientation. Upon arrival, he was asked to go to a classroom with the other students and teachers while Mom and Dad went to the auditorium. While we tried to warn him ahead of time regarding this separation, he still grabbed my arm and hissed, “You’re not leaving me.” Bahaha. Luckily, there was a friendly neighbor boy and building blocks awaiting him in the classroom, and he was quickly soothed. The ice cream served in the cafeteria afterwards was a nice sell too.
When we went back for testing a few days later, kid clung to my skirt and again didn’t seem to want to walk in the classroom with the teacher. I had to “guide” (forcefully drag) him to the door. Then he saw laptops and toys and smiling children, and curiosity got the better of him. Twenty agonizing minutes later, my son returned to my side with candy in hand. The teacher assured me he did fine. She’s probably lying. I was so happy, I didn’t care. I am not sure what they test incoming kindergarteners on, but I highly doubt their questions captured MY kid’s strengths (“Please state the names of all six members of the Paw Patrol. Nice. Now can you throw back your head and sing ‘Let it Go’ with gusto?”)
As if this wasn’t enough for one week, there was a kindergarten popsicle social at a local park the next day. My son had been to the park before, but never when it was this crowded. He walked right in, climbed the nearest tree, and refused to talk to any of his peers. After I uttered a series of convincing sounding threats, my little treasure climbed down, scarfed five popsicles in rapid succession, and then asked to go straight home, citing a belly ache (surprise, surprise). I am told such antics are fairly typical for the five-year-old crowd and know in my heart of hearts this will all be ok. But each occasion is terrifying for us as first-time parents. Will he sink? Will he swim? So far, so good … I guess. Bless his big heart. He’s quirky but braver and more resilient than I could ever have hoped.
It’s a proud moment when you watch your child overcome some nerves and rise to an occasion like the boss he’s meant to be. This big school transition will not be pretty or easy. His coping skills will be sorely tested, and I may not sleep well for a while. But it’s happening. I would send his younger siblings to kindergarten in his place if I could. But nope. He is the one blazing this trail, against a lot of well-meant advice.
And I’m so darn proud (and anxious), I can’t stand it.
Was your kindergarten transition rocky or smooth? Share your advice in the comments!