Wednesday, August 27

A Note to First Time Kindergarten Moms

Ah, Kindergarten. It feels like such a huge step wrought with roller-coaster emotions -- happy, sad,
Image by Daman Galdal via Flickr
anxiety, excitement, all rolled into one.  I wish I could write a note to myself at this moment last year, standing on what felt like a precipice, wondering how it would go, what it would look like, wondering about how my independent, adventure-loving daughter would fare.  

Because my husband and I have decided to send our children to a public school, there are a few things I would do differently, and I few things I stumbled into quite by accident that I am so glad I did.  For those of you standing on the verge of this grand adventure, here the things I wish I had known as I fought back tears while waving to my precious daughter as she rode away on that first morning's bus. 

1.  Understand that schools districts are not businesses and simply embrace it.  If you have any experience in the business world, tattoo those words across the inside of your brain because it will save you loads of frustration. School districts don't think like a business, they don't act like a business, and their structure is such that decisions don't always make sense to those of us ruled by concepts like profit/loss statements.  Decisions always feel last minute because the district is usually juggling 50 moving parts, most of which we civilians never see and are blissfully unaware. 

That said, I honestly don't want my school to be a business -- I want the needs of children to always be placed first and foremost, even if that means there are inefficiencies, delays, and circuitous routes to decisions. Once I (finally) got past thinking a school was a business, my frustration level dropped off and I was able to work within the unique structure of a school district to be a supportive parent.

2. Show up to the PTA meeting.  The best way to learn how a school works, what the administration is up to, and how you can be a supportive parent is to go to the first several PTA meetings, even if it is sporadic attendance the rest of the year.  Almost no one goes, the principal is always there, and you'll learn more about what is going on internally and externally than any parental gossip network will ever tell you. 

3. Pinterest Sucks.  Every holiday (and I do mean EVERY holiday) can become an insane competition involving paper mache and 10 hours of Mom Labor.  You will suddenly be bombarded with everything from elves moving around houses to naughty leprechauns who show up two weeks before their appointed day, to home-made Valentine treat BAGS for the entire class. While some of it is fun, if you are anything like me, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of holidays requiring gads of creativity.  

My advice:  Decide what level of commitment your family is willing to make and have a frank conversation with your kids. Set the expectations for your household ahead of time instead of being blind-sided by your lame-o, store bought Valentines and a teary-eyed kid (not that I would have any personal experience with that!).   

4. Put down your defensive attitude.  You love your kid. You want your child to succeed. You will, at some point, be told that your child is not a perfect angel. Be prepared to listen carefully and resist the temptation to blindly defend said perfect angel. Although there are exceptions, most teachers want to work with you to mold your dearest one into a kind, compassionate adult.  The best way to accomplish that is to form a teacher-parent partnership in which all sorts of information freely passes (including the hard-to-hear stuff).   

5. Embrace your tears.  Seriously, it is okay to cry.  Kindergarten is simultaneously the first of many firsts and the last of many lasts.  Life is too short to not stop and mark these crossroads. It is a big deal.  You are mom.  You get to cry if you want to.  :) 

6.  Prayer.  We live in a scary world in which children and bystanders are targeted for shock value and headlines.  Schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, churches -- there really is no place that is 100% safe.  I wasn't prepared for my daughter's first "containment" (over a few fireworks, it turned out) at school last year.  Our teachers are on the front lines of so very many situations, both physically and emotionally --  that they need daily prayer, even if you never tell them that they are being prayed for.  

7. Enjoy the ride.  Kindergarten is full of wonderment and exploration and adventure.  My husband and I found ourselves celebrating victories alongside our daughter and working through several challenges prayerfully.  In the end, I wish I could tell my former nervous self to simply relax, pray a lot and enjoy the magic of Kindergarten -- and I wish the same for you.   


 



We're linking up with Holley Girth today over at Coffee for Your Heart!  

4 comments :

  1. Excellent advice. First off, let me say, "Thank you, Jesus, there wasn't Pinterest when my kids were in school!" :) Secondly, I totally think you should tell your child's teacher you are praying for her/him. It might just be what helps them make it through another day.

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  2. Great thoughts. I am way past my kids first days of Kindergarten. This year my youngest returned to college as a sophomore. I especially love "embrace the tears." You are so right. Life is short and these are major milestones. What better way to mark them than with a mother's tears. Also, yes, PRAY! I have been praying in Moms In Prayer groups for my kids and their teachers and schools for over 20 years. Prayer works!! Stopping by from Holley Gerth's...

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  3. After 26 years driving precious cargo to and from school in a big yellow #4 is quite possibly the most important. Grin and bear it. I always told my children I would back them 100% as long as they were in the right, but I always had the facts first... I was one of the few drivers that ever "ticketed" their own child and removed him from the bus. and yes Julie this is Aunt Tina. LOL

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  4. Julie, thank you for sharing such good, down-to-earth advice for moms and grandmothers, like me! I'm your neighbor over at Holley's place this week :)

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