My oldest daughter has been in kindergarten for a few weeks now. It was a big step for all of us – 5-year-old Megan, her 1-year-old sister Abigail, and me – but we are adjusting and learning new things as we go. Here are a few of the lessons during kindergarten we’ve learned and my observations:
Lessons During Kindergarten
I am less tired at the end of the day. With one child at school all day, my childcare duties at home have been cut in half. I forgot how easy it was to look after only one child. I also get a two-hour chunk of time in the afternoons to myself when Abigail naps. That’s my professional time, when I get busy writing and editing for Mumbling Mommy.
Family time in the evenings is important. I don’t see Megan – or my teacher husband – all day, so I make sure my errands and the majority of my housework are done by late afternoon so I can spend quality time with them. We often spend an hour playing in the yard, pitching softballs, twirling hula hoops, and catching cicadas. Megan will take a dance class one evening a week this fall, partly because she’s expressed an interest and partly to improve her coordination and body awareness because she’s a frequent toe walker, but most school nights will continue to be dedicated to family time.
Evenings can be hectic. Our days flow at a fairly relaxed pace until school gets out. Then Megan’s back pack and lunch bag need unpacking, school papers need to be read and signed and filed away, homework beckons, the daily stack of mail arrives and needs sorting, dinner needs to be cooked, and the toddler is hungry and clingy. After all that, I have to clean up dinner dishes and pack lunch and snack for the next day. This all happens while I’m trying to make the most of my time with Megan when she’s home in the evening. I am still trying to figure out how best to manage this time of day.
I often cope with my daughter’s absence by buying or making little surprises for her. On the first day of school, Abigail and I went shopping and bought a bag of gummy bears and a Rapunzel coloring book to give Megan at pickup time. Another day, I bought her some much-needed new socks, an insulated Hello Kitty lunch thermos, and a heavily discounted dance leotard. I sewed up a tear in her Rapunzel Barbie’s dress another day and left the long-locked lass sitting in the doll house to await Megan’s return. These are ways for me to think about Megan while we aren’t together and give her a little pick-me-up at the end of her day. It backfired on me the second day of school when I picked her up and she claimed she wanted another surprise. Oops.
I show love to my daughter when I pack her lunches and snacks. I first thought packing lunches would be a hassle. I’d have to plan ahead and summon some creativity so Megan wasn’t eating PB & J sandwiches every day. Instead, I have come to enjoy packing healthy lunches and sending a little bit of home with Megan each day. If she requests something special that she’s seen other kids eating, like Fruit by the Foot, I jot it on my shopping list. (I buy the Aldi version because Aldi is cool like that.) I recently bought some pretty reusable baggies so we’ll contribute less to landfills, and I’ve even researched Bento lunch boxes, but the effort to make my daughter’s food look cute every day might be a little too much for me.
As a stay-at-home mom, I feel slightly guilty. I’m sending my child to a teacher who works hard every day in a classroom full of kids while I stay at home with one child. Plus, Megan’s teacher has two young children of her own who are away from her all day. My husband assures me Megan’s teacher made a choice to be in the classroom and she is well compensated for her work. Anyway, Megan’s teacher spent the first week reading and doing activities based on the book, TheKissing Hand, and she read Pete the Cat. She is worth keeping around, says this bibliophile mom.
I see how our efforts at home are paying off. We’ve taught Megan to be kind, polite, and friendly. She told me someone in her class passed gas the other day, and many of the kids laughed, but she did not because “that’s not nice.” She is gaining confidence as she buys her own lunch, walks to her classroom in the mornings without me, and learns to ask questions and talk to her teacher.
It’s been harder for the younger sibling than I anticipated. I thought Abigail would bask in the glory of having me to herself all day. She cries many mornings when Megan walks away from us into the big school doors. Abigail also cried the first time we ran errands without Megan and she saw her empty car seat.
It has been a surreal time for me. The main lessons during kindergarten I’ve learned: The first morning was hard. I got up early, got the girls ready and made sure Megan’s lunch was packed. Then we just sat together on the couch and watched Super Why on PBS, and I didn’t let go of Megan for a long time. I wanted to hold onto those last few moments before sending her off to school full time, and I kept my tears barely under control all morning. I wiped my eyes with Kleenex after the bell rang and that line of tiny kindergarteners trailed into the big school building.
But life carries on. I have found that once we’ve seen Megan safely into the school building and Abigail and I have walked home, we go on much as we did before. We still run errands, go to the library, and keep the house in order. We go on play dates with other families who seem a little smaller now because they also have new kindergarteners. Abigail and I have a good time together. I hug her a lot and tell her I’m glad she is still little.
I’m a little sad that I’m becoming accustomed to not having Megan around as much. That era of our lives is over. Yet, all of the mothers I talk to who have older children emphasize that they have enjoyed every age and stage, so I look forward to all of the lessons during kindergarten ahead for us. Megan talks about how much she likes her teacher, about what she’s making in art class or how she played with blocks during math time. Toward the end of her second week of school, she stayed home one day with a fever. After a morning spent watching PBS and doing puzzles, she declared she was bored. “What would you like to do?” I asked. “Make crafts at kindergarten,” she said. It is reassurance for me that she is growing and thriving in her new surroundings. She is learning these new lessons during kindergarten and all is as it should be.
Tags: Back to school