Motherhood is a series of starts and stops, of holding close and letting go. Certain milestones have a way of solidifying these truths in my heart as my children get older, and sending a child to kindergarten is certainly no exception.
This is my third, and final, time to send a child off to kindergarten. With my first, I sobbed the night before, filled with ridiculous doubts and second-guessing. With my second, I knew better, but still choked up a bit as he hugged my neck just a beat longer than usual, and then bravely turned to enter his classroom.
I’m not exactly sure what the kindergarten send-off with my third will look like. But I feel like we both know what to expect. We’ve been here before. We both feel excited and ready, prepared. I’ve had a full year to consider our “lasts” together, in preparation for one of her big “firsts” in life.
This time, I am acutely aware of the time warp that is grade school. You drop them off as sweet, squishy five-year-olds, blink once, and suddenly they are spit out on the other end, 12 years old, slightly stinky and stretched—taller and leaner, but also mentally, relationally, and emotionally.
I’ve found that my children are not the only ones who have grown and matured over our seven years of elementary school. I have, too. I’m a little older and (hopefully) a little wiser, but at the very least I’m suddenly the “experienced” kindergarten parent.
And because all kindergartners know “sharing is caring,” I am sharing my top 5 tips for first-time kindergarten parents.
1. They are loved.
Of course, no one will be able to love your child just the way you do. But if anyone is going to come in at a close second, it’s a kindergarten teacher. Kindergarten teachers are true superheroes. They teach reading and writing while tying shoes, comforting a homesick child, pulling a tooth, and zipping a jacket, all while wearing a smile. They are masters at the fine art of fostering independence while nurturing children to be their best selves. So, rest assured that your child is in good hands.
2. Plan time together.
There is no tired like a new kindergartener tired. Even if they’ve been in day care or preschool before, the first few weeks of kindergarten are rough. Expect them to come home hungry (and possibly even hangry!), tired, and emotionally spent at the end of the day. Plan some down time in the afternoons and evenings. Allow for extra cuddles when they need them, and space when they don’t. And just like when they were two, don’t take their tantrums personally. They’re just processing this new phase of life…just like you.
3. For better or worse, these are your people.
Get to know the parents of the other students in your child’s class and grade. They will likely be in your life for many years to come. They will be the ones who can tell you when early dismissal is, send you pictures of your child when you can’t make it to an event, or drop off homework when your child is home sick. And sometimes when you’re lucky, they become some of your very best friends.
4. Volunteer…as you can.
You will soon learn that you will be asked to volunteer frequently and often. Sometimes you will be able to, and sometimes you won’t. Both are okay. Do what you can, but don’t burn yourself out by volunteering for everything right away. Take a few weeks or months to get your bearings and see what interests you or where you could best serve. And don’t stress, there will always be another chance.
5. Savor it!
Kindergarten goes so fast. Look deep into your child’s eyes whenever you can and enjoy this sweet year of growth and learning and fun. Even when you don’t think you could possibly have another costume in your repertoire, lean into their dress up days, their 100th day of school, and costume parades, because they are over in a flash. School gets much more serious very quickly, so soak up this special transitional year.
Take a deep breath, mama. We can do this! They will love kindergarten, and you will, too!