Sending your kindergartener to school for the first time can cause an overwhelming flood of emotions. Sad, because he’s growing up too fast. Happy, because he’s growing into a big kid. Worrying about how he’ll cope without you. Pride knowing he’s capable of so much more than you credit him for.
When my oldest children, twin girls, started kindergarten I was nervous. Those first kids are your guinea pigs, trial-and-error in the truest sense. How many times should I walk them in to their classrooms? Should I send juice or water in their lunches? How cute should I dress them for school?
When my older son went to kindergarten three years later, he had already been in the school building with me countless times. Those teachers who had been complete strangers when I had given my girls to them on their first day of school had now become my friends. Their elementary school was more familiar to me than just about any place in town. Dropping him off was much easier.
Then I had a break from elementary school life. For a whole year I had only middle school and high school kids. It’s a different perspective and different expectations. No more birthday snacks or hallway volunteer time. Upper school administrators don’t expect the same level of involvement and that was okay. Older kids have more responsibility for their school assignments so less is expected of parents (Can I hear an Amen?!).
But now I’m back. I took my youngest to kindergarten last week. And I survived.
Fortunately, our youngest son now attends the same elementary school his older siblings attended. The familiarity is at least there for me, if not for him.
I’ve had several people ask me how he’s doing in kindergarten. Since I’m not there and stalking isn’t encouraged, here’s the little I know: Other than the first day, he’s been walking in all by himself. (“Tell me how you get to your room,” I say outside the school door. “Left, left, left, right,” he answers.) On the first full day, he didn’t notice that he had forgotten his lunchbox in the classroom until he got to the cafeteria and had to run back to the room to get it. On the second full day, he banged his shin on a piece of playground equipment and got a big bump. Both his teacher and the school nurse called to let me know about it.
Our tough, little fella is doing it. He’s learning and making friends. He’s becoming just a little more of who he’s meant to be. When he gets in the car in the afternoon, he’s all smiles. I know a giant part of the success of these first few days is due to the adults who are loving and caring and teaching him while he’s away from me. They are the ones putting ice on his hurt leg and guiding him back down the hall to retrieve his lunchbox.
With this in mind, I have a favor to ask: Even if you don’t have a child in school, tell a teacher “thank you” today. These amazing educators leave a mark on their students that will stay with them forever. They give of themselves in a way most occupations would never dare ask of their employees. They invest in our nation’s greatest resources—our kids, our hope, our future.