Kindergarten. This one word has been the forbidden topic around my five-year-old all summer long. During a conversation with an innocent passerby, she decided to declare, “I won’t be going to Kindergarten!” Hmmm. “What’s wrong with Kindergarten?” I asked. “I don’t want a new school. I like my four-year-old one. And I don’t need new friends!” O.K. Where was my sweet girl who loves to visit mama’s school and called Kindergarten “Wondergarden” after spending a day with me? It’s been a tough summer.
Her anxiety towards Kindergarten caused me to have anxiety about the start of a new schedule and an unhappy child.
My daughter, who finds all things magical and has always been a lover of the school routines – circle time, answering questions, jobs, etc., was adamantly against the K-word. I was perplexed and had a job to do. I had to help her to realize Kindergarten was going to be amazing.
Part of the problem was our big move the year before. She switched from a daycare that was like family to a part-time preschool with brand new children to become friends with. This transition was hard, and I can’t say I blame her for not wanting to do it again. To make the next school not so foreign, I networked my butt off to help her meet some friends in her incoming class.
Close up on me at Kindergarten orientation, initiating summer meet-ups with other nervous parents. I chose the parent of a girl who looked scared and asked if we could exchange numbers. Not at all like me, but desperate times call for desperate measures. As soon as others around me heard me saying, “My child knows no one,” many others crowded around, and the cell phones came out to add contacts entitled “_____’s Mother.” True Story.
The summer meet-ups happened, and they helped the children to see each other’s faces. My daughter liked the new kids she met but had nothing nice to say about Kindergarten. As the first day approached, she at least began to explain that she was nervous and started to voice some of those anxieties. We had some nice talks about new situations and how they can be scary. It helped to hear that even adults get scared of starting somewhere new. Bedtime stories titled Kindergarten Rocks and The Kissing Hand also did the trick to ease the butterflies about the first day. A special gift of mother/ daughter bracelets (thank you, Pinterest) made her feel more secure about leaving us.
The First Day. She didn’t cry. She didn’t even look back after we settled her into the room that she would occupy 6 1/2 hours a day, five days a week. I, on the other hand, was a mess! I couldn’t believe the day had come. Now I was the one with the jitters. What if she didn’t get on the bus to go home? What if the other kids were mean to her? What if Kindergarten doesn’t prove to be amazing?
After getting off the bus with a huge smile, the verdict was that SHE LOVES IT! She proclaimed that she wanted to go for 50 or 100 days, and there wasn’t a thing she didn’t like about her new school. On day two, she didn’t even kiss me goodbye. On day four, the bracelet was a thing of the past. One could only hope for the excitement my daughter has for her new elementary career. I try not to feel sad that it is the start of true independence, but I am relieved that her summer anxieties were kicked out the door.