Sending your child to Kindergarten can be tough. Your little dumpling is no longer going off to the cushy comforts of daycare or pre-anything. This is the real deal, the big time. School is in session. Maybe your child is nervous or maybe she’s ready, but I’m not here for her. That’s your job. I’m here to tell you everything is going to be okay. You can handle this, as long as you follow the Parent’s Guide to Surviving Kindergarten.
On the first day of Kindergarten your big girl will cry and you’ll feel horrible. She will scream your name, beg you to stay and, when that fails, beg you to take her with you. It’ll be heart-wrenching. Or your baby will barely give you a second glance as she prances over to her friends, oblivious to your outstretched arms and puckered lips; leaving you hanging, waiting for a goodbye hug and kiss that never comes. In other words, you can’t win. Because parenting! In either case, your child will, most likely, make a ton of friends and have a fantastic day at school. So, you will win. You just won’t be able to see your victory and will almost definitely not hear anything about it (see #8).
- It is going to feel like your perfectly-aged-for-his-grade little boy is in class with kids who look like they’re about 3 weeks away from their first shave and others who are still wearing pullups. Your mind is only sort of playing tricks on you. With random school cut-off dates and redshirting, the days of everyone being 5-going-on-6 in kindergarten are over. Kids mature at their own rate. Yours will catch up, so don’t worry about anyone else’s.
- Prepare for a mountain of permission slips you will be asked to sign, supplies you will have to buy and fundraisers you will be asked to contribute to. You may need to either win the lottery, file for bankruptcy or take out a loan/second mortgage to be able to pay for it all. A personal assistant wouldn’t hurt, either.
- If you thought the paperwork was bad, get ready for the artwork. You don’t have enough space on your fridge for all the “masterpieces” coming your way. And let’s face it, most of it is crap and/or done by the teacher’s assistant who has taken pity on your talentless child. You need a disposal strategy. Scan and toss works for most parents. Get it into the computer and out of your house.
- Your child will learn how to share. To a certain extent, she will finally learn how to share toys, but mostly she’ll share germs and head lice with all the other children. Hooray!
- There will be instant pressure about preparing for standardized tests, learning to read, getting into the college of her choice, grad school and don’t get me started on getting a good job in this economy! Do whatever is in your power to stop your child (and you) from caving under said pressure. Her dissertation on Dostoyevsky isn’t due until June, but she should have a solid first draft completed by April. I’m joking. It’s kindergarten. Stop stressing.
- Your child will tell you all about her “best friend,” who may seem to have multiple personalities and genders. “Best friend” is a general term. Like asking for a “coke” in the South is a request for any carbonated beverage, “best friend” in Kindergarten just means anyone your child played with that day. Details will not be forthcoming (see #8).
- Expect to hear absolutely nothing about your child’s day, except when you’re on the phone or trying to use the bathroom. When you do get information, you will get five pieces of bad news for every good thing that happens. You’ll find out about who’s picking on your child (who, of course, is never the bully); who had to sit in timeout (never your perfect angel); who wouldn’t share their crayon (but would share their hat, because lice!); and finally something about your brave little trooper’s best friend (who, of course, could be anybody and changes daily (see #7)). At some point in the year, your child’s teacher will lose her cool and you’ll definitely hear all about that (imagine what she hears about you).
- There’s a chance your school will be soy-free, nut-free and most of the special snowflakes will be gluten-free. It’s annoying but your kid will live (and, believe it or not, eat something). These allergies are real and some of them are really scary. Most of the gluten-free stuff is bull (unless you actually have celiac disease), but that one doesn’t actually affect your child. Just try not to roll your eyes at the no-carb, dairy-free, farm-to-lunch box parents. They’ll also probably be on the PTA, so be nice.
- Almost all of the kids are really sweet. Almost all of the parents are the worst. Find the two or three that aren’t total loons and have playdates with them early. Trick your kid into thinking that it was his idea.
- Don’t be *that* parent. It’s fine to check in with your child’s teacher about how everything’s going, but remember your child is not the only student in the class. Don’t monopolize the teacher’s time and definitely don’t call or email her outside of school hours and expect an immediate response. If there’s a problem, set up a meeting. If you have a blog, don’t get all weird about how awesome your kid’s teacher is.
- Don’t worry about how much your child is “learning” as long as she is having fun. If your child enjoys school, the knowledge will come.
- This year is going to be great for you and your junior scholar. Kindergarten is fun! First Grade? That’s when things starting getting scary….Bwahahahahaha!
A version of this article first appeared in NJ Family.