During the next few months, many parents will register their children for kindergarten. Like me, they will probably approach the upcoming kindergarten year with a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and disbelief. How on earth did this happen so quickly?
Last year, I registered my son for his first year of school, and this year I will do the same for my daughter. When I start to get a little weepy – my baby girl is growing up so quickly! – I immediately switch gears and think about what an awesome year my son is experiencing in kindergarten.
Of course, while he is busy learning addition and subtraction, I have had to learn to adjust to my new role as a parent of a school-aged child. Here are just a few lessons parents of kindergarteners can expect to learn during their child’s first year of school:
How To Interrogate Your Child
It will drive you crazy at first. You will want to know every detail of your child’s day away from you, and you will be baffled to only receive vague responses and blank stares in response to your string of questions.
For instance, on my son’s first day of kindergarten, the only thing he managed to relay about his day was that he washed his hands in the bathroom.
You will learn to jump on every clue your child leaves – even at inconvenient times. A random fact spurted out at bedtime like, “Did you know that spiders have eight eyes?” will result in the biggest bedtime delay tactic ever. However, you will sit back down on the edge of the bed and ask him where he learned that and what else he knows about spiders because you just have to know something, anything, about his day away from you.
Although frustrating, it can be fun to piece together the stories, and I like to think the interrogation techniques I’m fine-tuning will come in handy during the teenaged years.
There Is Room For Other Heroes
Shortly after the start of the school year, my son asked me to lift him up into a tree. He’d seen a squirrel jump out of a hole and wanted to investigate. When I told him the tree was too tall and he was too heavy, he looked at me in disbelief. “Well, Ms. P can climb trees. She once climbed a tree AND picked an apple out of it!” he admonished.
My mouth dropped; there was a new hero in town.
We get a lot of “Ms. P says…” stories in our house. At first, they annoyed me a bit. Who was this woman getting all of the credit for things I have been teaching my son for years?
When he came home with his first art project with a clearly drawn person with limbs in the correct spots (and even fingers!), my husband asked him, “Wow! Where did you learn to draw so well?”
I straightened, ready to accept praise, thinking of all of the afternoons spent sprawled on the floor with paper and crayons.
His response? “Ms. P showed me.” Ouch.
However, as the year has progressed, I’ve seen how seamlessly his teacher is fine tuning these skills we’ve been building at home. And I, too, am in awe. As I watch my son learn more and more, I realize that this woman, this educator, this hero, deserves her mighty status in my son’s eyes.
I love the fact that my son has another strong, female role model in his life. One that can climb trees, draw people with fingers, and one who knows “all the words!”
There Is Magic In Learning
As a kindergarten parent, after years of orchestrating the slow march toward reading – pointing out letters, singing the alphabet song, flipping through sight word flashcards, and sounding out words – you will finally witness the magical moment when it all comes together.
After only a few weeks in school, my son came rushing out of his room one night holding two books. He thrust them toward me in excitement, “Mom! The word ‘the’ is in BOTH of these books!” he exclaimed in wonder.
I may have read the word ‘the’ a million times in all of his bedtime stories, but up until this pivotal moment, it meant nothing to him. But now? Now, words were jumping off the pages, waving their hands in invitation, and pulling my son into a whole new world.
Someone Else Can Fill In The Gaps
With all of this learning occurring, there comes a sense of relief when you realize that you are not the only one responsible for your child’s education. I love teaching my children new skills and topics, but asking my son to sit still and complete a math worksheet feels impossible. And although I taught him how to count to 100, how to hold scissors, and how many days are in a week, I somehow forgot to teach him the months of the year.
With someone else essentially in charge of my son’s education for a few hours each day, I can breathe a bit easier. He will learn those months of the year, after all.
So, parent of a future kindergartener, when you go to register your child for kindergarten and are standing under a banner that reads: WELCOME CLASS OF 2030, don’t panic.
Yes, it will be hard to watch your son or daughter climb on the bus on the first day of school next fall. It may even feel like a little piece of you is riding away. However, rest assured, this is temporary.
As the year progresses, you will witness your child learning and growing in ways that will amaze you. It will hurt a little that he is doing much of this without you, but you will find joy and pride watching your child navigate the world around him in a whole new way. You will eventually learn that letting go – just a little- is not that hard after all.