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As I prepare to send my daughter back to school to begin her first grade year, I am reminded of the state of mind I was in last year at this time. Panic, confusion, anxiety- and that was all about where to drop her off in the morning. Looking back, I was too stressed about too many things. In retrospect, I aged myself by years with the amount of worrying that I did. If I could do it again, here’s what I would have told myself.
10. It’s okay if she cries, and it’s okay if I cry.
I felt like I needed to have a stoic face and bravely send her into the unknown. I calmly walked her in, left sternly- and promptly cried in my car. I spent the rest of the day feeling embarrassed by my actions. Change is hard and it’s okay to acknowledge that both of you are having a hard time with this. A big hug, a kiss, and I’ll miss you will be okay. Then sob freely in your car. The truth is that your child will probably stop crying before you do. Every other mother knows how you feel.
9. Her lunchbox won’t be judged.
Feel the need to provide a “balanced” lunch? I wondered if my child’s teacher would think less of me if I didn’t include a form of protein and a fruit on every occasion. I sometimes put things in her lunchbox that I simply hoped she would eat knowing perfectly well that she would avoid. One day she looked at me and said “Stop putting carrots in my lunch, I hate them”. She was right and I knew it. Yet, I didn’t want her teachers to think that I would send her without some kind of veggie. Teachers get it- and the truth is they probably don’t care what your kid is eating as long as there is a lunch.
8. The Backpack
Cease my heart when I realized that many of the kids had the perfect backpack with matching pencil case, lunch bag, and folders. Why did all these backpacks have the child’s name stitched on them?! I went home and panicked and had one for my daughter ordered before she got home the first day. When it arrived (two days later because of the extra shipping charges… I couldn’t let her suffer with an uncool bag any longer than that) she looked at me as though I was nuts. She loved her Frozen backpack. Oops.
7. Stop Volunteering
Being a full-time working mom I felt as though I missed a lot of quality school involvement because I wasn’t around. I had an urge to volunteer for bake sales, events, sell more than the minimum wrapping paper, etc to prove that I was also a good mom even though I was busy with work and couldn’t be at pick-up every day. Again, turns out that no one cares. The parents with more flexibility will rise up and take on that role. They don’t need me burning a batch of brownies to prove I’m a good mom. I’m a better mom when I’m rested and not panicked about getting out of work early to check people in at a social event.
6. Let Them Wear What They Want
Oh boy. My career doesn’t allow me to get my child up in the morning. I would lay out an outfit the night before and it would be left in the hands of my husband to get her to actually wear it. Even though SHE HAD A UNIFORM there would be a constant battle. Let them wear what they want. They get dirty and there will be at least one marker smudge on her white shirt every day. She doesn’t need the perfect french braid or to look like a child model when they’re tearing it up on the playground.
5. The Reading Panic
I remember my first parent-teacher conference. I was told that she was behind in reading. I choked back tears and blamed myself for not being home enough to work with her endlessly on knowing her sight words. I went into my car, wiped away a tear, and ordered every set of flash cards on Amazon.com. Then I called my husband and discussed getting her a tutor. Two months later she was surpassing the other kids in reading- Not because of the flashcards (which we barely ever used) or the tutor (never hired)- but because she was ready to read. Don’t sweat. They’ll read eventually.
4. It’s Okay For Them to Hate School
I was lucky that my daughter loved going to school, but I watched close friends struggle with the fact that their kids HATED it. They would cry and fight every morning before getting on the bus. It broke their hearts. They kept trying to come up with rewards, ideas, games, anything they could think of to change their child’s mind. Listen, it’s the real world and they need to go to school every day. Give up the bribery and just send them. Hopefully they’ll grow out if by the time they get to middle school.
3. E-mailing the Teacher is Acceptable
One day my daughter came home in hysterics because she had watched a “terrifying” movie during library. She was so shaken by it that she wouldn’t tell me the plot because it was so “scary”. She had nightmares for days. I knew that there was no way in hell that the school had put on a slasher flick for five and six year-olds and felt silly reaching out to them. Finally, I sent an email to the teacher. She was baffled too- Turns out it was about a crocodile. No idea why it bothered her so deeply but the teacher pulled her aside and talked to her about it. That was it. Problem solved. No amount of me prying would fix whatever was going on in her head- but her teacher could. Use their teacher as your ally. Speaking of keeping the teacher as your “ally”, also use them as your threat…
2. Their Teacher Can Also Be Your Threat
How many times have you tried to discipline your child and they’ve ignored you? In Kindergarten, they still have a great fear/admiration for their teacher. I cannot tell you how many times I was just about to “text Mrs. S” to “tell on her” about her behavior. That would work like a miracle to have her behave once again. Use the fear of reporting your child to their teacher to help with your discipline. (Note: I am not a child psychologist and am not sure how great this is in that field, but I can tell you it works- and for me that’s all that matters)
1. Really Enjoy This Time
There’s something really fun about being a Kindergartener’s mom. They’re the dolls of the school. They’re learning so much and looking up to all the “big kids”. This time is short and precious. Treasure it… coming from the mommy of a soon-to-be big first-grader.