Preschool to kindergarten is a tough transition. It means less sleep, less freedom and less family time. It also means more work, more rules and more distance between friends in different school districts. It’s a major change that is bound to cause some tears and frustration. And yeah, I guess it’s also hard for the kindergarteners, too.
While some parents struggle with letting go of their babies and ushering them into the next phase of life, I was ready to shove my oldest out the door. Yes, it can be hard watching our children grow older and sending them off into a strange new world for seven hours a day, five days a week. But I would argue, it’s also hard breaking up petty sibling fights, putting up with constant whining and resisting the urge to turn the TV on all day long just to get anything done. I can understand the emotional reaction, but whatever brief impulse I had to be sad was quickly quashed by the immediate calm and quiet of one less kid.
Kindergarten was going to be the BEST, and I was ready for easy street!
Enter, Surprise #1: Homework
There is such a thing as Kindergarten homework! I had no idea. This was bad news for my kindergartener and worse news for me. My barely-five-year-old who had just faced the shock of full-day school was now expected to spend additional time doing schoolwork at home? And I had to help? I’m pretty sure that all I did in kindergarten was color, sing and play. But apparently in the decades since, it’s been determined that homework helps teach kindergarteners the value of education and benefits them through additional practice at home, etc. Fine, but that didn’t mean we had to like it! Counting and trying to write letters that face the right direction has never been so frustrating.
Surprise #2: Back to School
I always hated school. I made good grades, but being there caused me a lot of anxiety. It was a huge relief to be finished. Until I realized that having a young child in school is like having to do it all over again. Since kindergarteners can’t handle all the responsibilities themselves, it’s up to us parents. There were long Powerpoint presentations to sit through, sign-up sheets for things I didn’t want to do, but felt peer-pressured into doing, remembering deadlines, finishing homework even if it meant staying up late or waking up early. There were endless amounts of forms to fill out. SO MANY FORMS!! There was also the familiar embarrassment of forgetting an out-of-uniform day or absentmindedly sending a trail mix snack with peanuts to school.
Surprise #3: Socializing
I’m not good at talking to people. I’m awkward and uncomfortable and generally bad in social situations. And I was not prepared to need these skills as a kindergarten parent! It turned out that as much as Kindergarten is about the kids meeting new people and making friends, it’s just as important for the parents. Our kids would be going to each other’s birthday parties and playing sports with each other for years; growing up together. We’re stuck with each other for a while, like it or not, so it would help to be friendly. I learned to small talk (ugh) like a pro and in a few cases, I had real, actual non-weather-related conversations!
Surprise #4: Bringing Bad Habits from Home to School
With toddler siblings, my kindergartener had the habit of bringing her behavior down to their level. It was my naive hope that being surrounded by peers in Kindergarten would break her of that habit. Spoiler alert: It did not go that way.
Surprise #5: Bringing Bad Habits From School to Home
Namely, I’m talking about when my Kindergartener came home singing “Call Me Maybe” and doing the Macarena. But I can’t leave out the penchant for poop jokes that she picked up at school and taught to her siblings — a problem I am dealing with to this day.
Telling outright lies was another tendency my daughter picked up at school — some minor, but none more egregious than when she came home singing “I Believe I Can Fly,” which her friend, Seth, claimed to have made up. I later heard her tell my husband that she AND Seth wrote it together.
Surprise #6: R. Kelly Plagiarism
Or maybe that was just for me and Seth’s mom?
Listen, I know that I should have been prepared for some of this. Most of it, even. But I think it’s pretty common for parents to only consider how their child will be affected by kindergarten; to be worried how they will handle the changes, work, long hours, new friends. The great thing about kindergarteners, though, is that they are incredibly adaptable. Even the things that take them a little longer to come around to (like homework) will eventually prove worth their while.
Just a year later, I can already see a huge improvement in my now first grader. The adjustment will take longer for me, but if I’ve done things right, that kindergartener will be able to fill out her own darn forms someday.