This week, I became the mother of a kindergartener.
This photo was actually taken on the second day of kindergarten (today). The morning of the first day was not our finest–we were running late, and Miriam was nervous, and I knew that stopping to take a photo would just make her more grumpy. She had a great day (after some sadness at drop-off) and this morning she was much happier.
Kindergarten is a pretty big milestone. Looking back on her first five years, I can remember feeling like she would never make it through all the necessary developmental steps. She was a late walker (17 months). She didn’t sleep through the night until around that time also (because of frequent ear infections–we finally had ear tubes put in, and it worked). She has been resistant to potty training. There have been too many battles over that, mostly my fault. One of the hardest lessons for me to learn as a parent is to step back and gently support and encourage her, rather than forcing her to do things on my timeline. I am not a very patient person, and she seems to know this, and test my patience with every opportunity. I too quickly resort to scolding and yelling and confrontation, which just gets us both upset. We both like to be in control, and this can be a dangerous combination.
The first day of kindergarten, though, I think I got it mostly right. She was close to tears, she was clingy, she told me her stomach hurt and she had to stay home. I know that she is like me and has a hard time with change. So we were gentle and encouraged her, and said it was hard now, but we knew she would have fun. We reminded her of all the great things we had seen in her classroom at Open House and how nice her teacher is. We let her take her favorite stuffed lamb. And we managed to extricate ourselves at drop-off and walk away, leaving a sad, moaning child.
At work, I sat at my desk and bit my nails for an hour, thinking about everything that could go wrong. She could have an accident, and try to hide it, and end up with a big mess. She could cry all morning, and sit in the corner sucking her thumb and holding her lamb, and refusing to interact with anyone. I checked my phone for calls from the school. And of course none came, and the day passed, and she came home (on the bus!) so chatty and happy. She got to sit with her neighbor friend on the way home. She had no accidents. She raved about the chocolate milk at snack time. Today I got an email from her teacher saying that things are going well, and that Miriam is so “animated and fun.” Hooray!
Besides being a major milestone for her, the start of kindergarten means a few great things for our daily routine. The elementary school is a mile away, instead of a 15 minute drive (like her preschool was). Dropping her off and getting myself to work took about 30-40 minutes. Now, I help her get ready, and my husband takes her to school, and I get to go straight to work–which means I start earlier, which means I’m done earlier! Also, she takes the bus home, which means my husband doesn’t have to leave to pick her up, which means he can start dinner earlier! I feel like we have our evenings back, and much less stress since we’re not driving so much of our days. I plan to enjoy it as much as I can in the next two months, before we have a newborn to bring a whole new rhythm to our lives. And then we start all over again. I know that with this second child, my expectations will be so much more realistic, and I will be able to take the long view, instead of obsessing about each developmental step along the way. It’s true, your helpless little infant will eventually walk, and sleep, and use the bathroom, and go to school! I’ve seen it happen. It’s amazing and hard and delightful and tests you like nothing else. It’s parenting. (Mom and Dad, have I told you guys how incredible you both are for doing this, 5 times? Whew.)