Dear Kindergarten Mom,
The moment you have simultaneously dreaded and anticipated for more than a half a decade is finally here: Your child’s first day of kindergarten. The first day of school is a mix of emotions, to be sure; on the one hand, you celebrate your child’s newfound independence (not to mention yours!), and, on the other hand, you lament how quickly time passes as you watch your child grow older. Heading into kindergarten is a particularly significant milestone, closing the door on preschool days and opening the door to a new world of discoveries.
I remember three years ago when our oldest child started kindergarten. I had eagerly awaited that moment, especially during previous days of her toddler temper tantrums and times when it seemed to take hours to get out of the house with a small child. A month before school started, we purchased a new backpack and new clothes, shopped for school supplies and dreamt up fun lunches to pack. We read books about going off to school and opened a letter from her teacher welcoming her to her classroom.
As the appointed day approached, however, I found myself reflective about the first third of her life under my roof already come and gone. So, I did what any emotionally unstable mother would do the night before kindergarten: I poured myself a glass of wine and listened to the playlist that my husband made for me way back when I was nursing her. While perhaps a bit extreme, the benefit was that I got the tears out of the way and was able to be genuinely happy the next morning.
Now every mother reacts differently, but there is something to this moment in your child’s life. You can feel prepared about his or her readiness for kindergarten intellectually, yet you cannot fully comprehend the emotional impact of this milestone. Here are a few pointers from a mom who sent one child to kindergarten and who will send another tomorrow.
Mark the Moment
While you may not choose a sob session with your iPod playlist, find a way to ritualize this landmark. Cook his or her favorite dinner the day before. Ask your child to describe how he or she feels and write it down in a baby book or journal. Of course, take that first day pic and post it on social media and send it to grandparents. Organize a girlfriend night or a date night to commemorate (or commiserate) this achievement.
Set Up Success
Believe it or not, this little baby of yours has gained some independence so celebrate it and capitalize on this achievement. From now on, he or she will be doing more and more on his or her own. The more you continue to do for your children, the less they are able to grow into their own abilities and confidence. Involve your child in choosing, even packing, a lunch. Empower him or her to set out the bag, choose the outfit and even get dressed. (Word to the wise: either master the button-on-pants/skirts before you send them or invest in elastic clothes for when they go to the bathroom by themselves at school. Personally, I steered clear from belts because that was one more possible impediment to a quick bathroom break!)
Regularize a Routine
Moms, if you have been barely on time for preschool, now is the time to get in the game. I speak from personal experience. You want your child to school early instead of strolling in when everyone else is saying the pledge of allegiance. For one, it helps your child feel prepared and organized to begin the day instead of hurried and ill-equipped. Second, you can keep your sanity and use your nice voice in the mornings. You can do this if even for years you haven’t. Get up early (before they do), and if you are not a morning person, then make lunches and set out clothes the night before. Get a wall calendar or somewhere where you and your kid can see which day is library day, which day is show and tell, and when is meet the teacher night.
And, most of all, stop for a minute to enjoy this particular season of life. Starting kindergarten is a special time. Take time to be grateful for arriving at this moment, for this a grateful moment now will transform into a lifelong memory later.