With The Boy starting school yesterday, I feared that his transition would be as painful, difficult, and protracted as The Girl’s was two years are ago. Thankfully he had a great time and seemed to see kindergarten as an extension of preschool. But reminiscing about The Girl’s struggle reminded me that no matter how bad those first first days of school are, it does get better.
Dear Parent(s) of a Kindergartner,
It gets better. It really does. Both for you and for your little student starting his educational journey. I know it might not seem like it on these first few days (or weeks), when she cries while getting dressed, or he cries when you ask him to put on his shoes, or she cries when you say it is time to leave for school. Or when you cry because your baby is leaving you for the first time, and, when you watch him walk into school, he doesn’t look back once. Or when you are both crying and you are really, really considering quitting your job and homeschooling, even though you don’t know how to teach reading, you don’t understand how letters can be involved in math, and you don’t know that photosynthesis isn’t a scrapbooking term.
It will get better. It really does. Trust me, because I know.
Last year, my oldest started kindergarten. She was super, super, super, super excited!!!! All summer long, all she talked about was school. School!!!!!! The first day came, and she was still super, uper, duper excited! We walked her to her classroom, gave her a hug and a kiss, and she ran in to talk to the teacher. No tears from either student or parents.
When we picked her up that day, she said, “It was the best day ever!” Then half a block later, she asked, “Do I have to go back?”
The next three days were easily among my worst as a parent. She cried through dinner, and through the next morning. She clung to my legs, screaming at me to not let her go. The day after that, she tried to run home during recess. She spat on her teacher when asked to stop screaming. (If you want all the gory details, see this post).
Her trying to run home brought tears to my eyes. The fact that she was so frantic to leave school that she would try to make a break for it even though she had only a rough idea of where she was, told me how desperate she felt.
Together with the school, we worked out a transition plan. We set goals for the amount of crying that was allowed each day, and she got a sticker reward when she met her goal. First 15 minutes, then 10, 5, 1 and eventually none. Every morning, we loaded up a Care Bear doll with hugs and kisses and she carried it with her throughout the day. She took a picture of her family in her backpack to look at if/when she got sad. And I came to have lunch with her so that she didn’t have to go more than three hours without seeing a parent.
And it got better. Slowly, it did.
Certainly not immediately, but eventually. Slowly the crying decreased. The bear moved from being touted around all day to mostly living in her backpack. The lunch dates changed from daily to 3x a week, 2x a week, and then eventually, there were no lunch dates.
I’d like to think that everything we did helped, but probably the thing that helped the most was time. Time to get used to the school, time to learn that being away from her family was not the end of the world, time to learn the new daily schedule.
And it got better for her mother and me too.
As things got better for my daughter, my heart didn’t ache each day when she would hug me fiercely before going into the school with a look on her face like she was about to be fed to the lions. Eventually, she got to the point where she would give me a hug and walk in with a smile on her face. My last glimpse of her each day would be of her enormous princess backpack covering her petite frame from shoulders to hips; it always seemed to me just like the life packs the Apollo astronauts wore on the moon, happy explorers in a new world, just like my daughter.
Just give it some time, and trust me, this will happen for you too. Eventually.
-Almost Coherent Parent