R started Kindergarten at the end of August. I did not know what to expect, but here are my observations so far:
- Disclosure. Having to do family court about school start probably infinitely increases the stress level around it.
- Benefits of being a Californian. Yes! We pay higher taxes, but in California, there are no school supply lists, every student gets a lunch for free if they want it, and they also get sent home with a sack of food. I love this because I know there are kids in my community that need that food. It also takes some of the pressure off of me. I’ve been packing lunches for R since he was one year old so it feels like a great luxury to drop him off knowing he has food—it’s there, it’s done. End. Of. Story.
- School shopping. So school shopping consisted of three new Star Wars t-shirts, a BB8 backpack and a storm trooper lunch box (really not needed because of item #2 on this list—but I send it with him so he can put his leftovers in it). I love that he picked a good guy backpack and a bad guy lunch box, with no help from me. We are honoring the light and the shadow in this strange, little family! [See I’m the Bad Guy].
- Making friends…and other things. On that note, in week two I learned R already had a “friend” and an “enemy.” These were his words. When we talked about the enemy, he explained how the boy was mean to him and then he was mean back, and back and forth. I offered that he could interrupt the cycle by being nice, to which he responded, “Nah, Mom. We’ve got this.” And so it begins….
- Hands to yourself! This is the main feedback we’ve received from R’s teacher. I think this is developmentally appropriate, but I have no idea. Honestly, that’s the main thing I have learned from Kindergarten—I know almost nothing.
- Other parents. I moved into this neighborhood at the beginning of the covid shutdown, so we haven’t got to know neighbor kids at the same pace we might have otherwise. (That being said, I’m also increasingly introverted the older I get so that’s not to say that we would have met anyone anyway.) But the other parents are an enigma to me. Probably because I think of them that way—OTHER—an overwhelming mass of humans I have to navigate through to get the child to the gate for drop off and pickup.
- Other parents, part two. One thing I don’t understand! Other parents, once having navigated the insane parking, the masking, the backpacking, the walking (this all after the morning quarrels over breakfast and clothes and teeth brushing with the kindergartner, the dog AND myself)—they reach the finish line of having deposited said child, either with a hug or tears or a gentle, loving shove through the gate, and their impulse is to stand and watch the children through the fence, like a zoo exhibition. They want to remain in that space. I do not understand this. My impulse, actually my mind/body/spirit mandate is to escape that scene as quickly as I can without screaming or crying or knocking over children as I sprint in the direction of my poorly parked car. This is the main hurdle for me making friends with the other parents. I cannot even see them when I’m in that state. They are part of the mass. Part of the hive mind that might actually consume me before I get to work.
- Other parents, part three. I’ve had three weeks of practice with this scene now and I’m just starting to soften into it a little. I noticed a woman who lives on the next block, someone we met on a walk during quarantine, with a fellow kindergartener. I noticed her and I spoke with her. I think I appeared mostly human during the interaction. I count this as a huge victory. And I think that’s the strategy I will continue to take. Try to notice one human per drop off/pick up. One bite at a time eats the elephant.
- The emails. OMG, the emails. I got R registered for school the Friday before school start so I don’t even know what emails I missed before that time, but on the Sunday night before school started, I found myself simultaneously annoyed that I had to read several giant emails pertaining to school, AND that I didn’t already know the information contained in the emails. For this reason, I immediately understood the quandary of school officials. Every parent wants different levels of detailed information—and they don’t want to read the damn emails. I will say—adding the sender to my address book has made receiving the emails a little easier, because I’m pretty sure I missed several because they were going to my spam or promotions inbox. Pro tips left and right here!
- After school activities. We have the good fortune of attending a school that offers after school care and after school activities, like soccer, chess, gardening, Spanish. Cool, right!? These are available for a small fee. Because of family court and our late registration, the after school care was already full by the time I was able to sign up for it. Okay, I can flex my work schedule to make that work. Then I learned about the individual classes listed above. R wanted to do chess and soccer. Great! It’s something fun for him to be involved in and meet other kids. It also gives me a little more flexibility with work. Well, three days after signups appeared, soccer is full. I went through the spiral of inadequate mom shame for a day or so. And then set my eyes doggedly on the chess club. We don’t play chess. I did watch The Queen’s Gambit, so that’s my one leg up on my 5-year-old in the chess world…but he adorably insists he will learn and then teach me and his dad to play. So I have been checking the chess club website daily. Incessantly. I have emailed them twice through the “Contact Us” form, asking about said chess club. They have politely responded within 24 hours. It now appears chess club is being pushed back to October, (but October is soon, people!) I am living in constant fear that the sign up will appear and fill up in the 24 hour period between my checks of the website. I have developed a twitch in my left eye from the stress of this. [I just checked the site again as I’m writing this…still not up. Eye twitch]
- Homework. We don’t even have this yet. Supposed to start in October. God, help me. That’s all I have to say.
- The bright side.After all this recognition of the hard (let’s not call it complaining!), I have to say, I LOVE this age. I have heard other parents say this along my parenting journey. I have had moments of motherhood that have been absolutely delicious—of course! But I think this is the first time I have seen an evolution in my child’s development and thought, This is beyond cute—this is really fun! He is more independent now. He fixes his own hair in the morning. He builds legos without my help. But my absolute favorite thing is how he talks to me. We have great conversations. Not like, Oh, you’re a cute kid, but actual, real conversations about the fun things and the hard things. I love knowing what he is thinking. I love watching this little person unfold before my eyes. So I’m here for it. Even as this list grows into sports practice and science projects and homecoming dances and driver’s ed. I’m here for it all.
If you need to find me, I’ll be the one running from the drop off gate.