Off to School: From a Veteran Mom

Dear New Kindergarten Mom,

This is it. The day you have anxiously waited for and anxiously dreaded at the same time. This is the day your sweet baby goes to school.

For some of you, it’s all day; for some of you, it’s a half day. For some of you, your child has gone to full-day preschool; for some of you, your child has never spent a day in a classroom away from you. Regardless, this is huge. This is scary. This feels like the end. How do I know? I’ve done it twice so far and I have two more to go.

I remember my first kid – my oldest son. I was pregnant with our 4th and I was a hot, hormonal mess. I sobbed the entire ride to school while staring at him in my rearview mirror. He looked so hopeful and sweet and innocent and OH MY GOSH! WHAT AM I DOING?! How can I just drop him off here? How will I just put him on the bus? Someone might be mean! Someone might not play with him! What if he gets lost? But I sucked it up, buttercup, and we went anyway despite everything in me screaming, “No! We will try again next year.” Oh, those first day memories.

Here’s what I can tell you now that I have a 3rd grader and a 1st grader.

The child you send to school that morning is not the same child that comes home to you that afternoon. The child you sent really had no idea what they were going for, no idea what to expect. The child that comes home is confident and smiley and excited and tired. Everything they did that day was brand new to them.

My favorite thing about sending kids to kindergarten is that it’s a new beginning.

This is when they start to become their own person. They choose their own friends, not the ones you picked for them because the mom is nice. They make 1000 decisions that day, all of them without you. This is where they build grit, perseverance, friendships, a sense of humor, and so many other traits. This is where they learn letters, how to read, how to be a good friend, what’s funny and what’s not, how to stand in line, and so many other life skills. The best part is that they are doing this all while learning who they are outside of you. Their integrity is tested here. Their ability to stand strong is tested here. Their ability to be compassionate is tested here. And the tests come all day, all year.

All your preparation, all your teaching, all your reminders, all your discipline – it has lead to this. They get to try and fail and try again. They get to see that maybe mom wasn’t so crazy after all.

Turns out no one wants to be friend with a mean kid. Turns out people like me when I compliment them. I have a saying that there are some things that only life can fix in my kid. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times we’ve discussed something, they just don’t get it. But man, school is a great teacher. I’ve seen pridefulness have consequences for my son. I’ve seen perfectionism have consequences for my daughter. And I’ve seen their teachers love them through it.

You’ll cry. You’ll smile. You’ll take pictures. You’ll miss them. But fear not, there is a whole new person inside that you’ll get to fall in love with. Good parenting peels back the layers of your kid and you get to know them more and more – deeper, more intimately. This is all good and kindergarten is the beginning of this.

Sincerely, The Veteran Mom

PS. You’ll know we’re that mom because we are high-fiving at drop-off because, seriously, why does summer have to be SO long?! Anyway, come say hi. We’ll give you a hug and then you’ll join our group next year.

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