It seems there are precious few things as highly anticipated as sending one’s child off to Kindergarten. What a mixed bag of sentiments – nostalgia, nerves, grief, excitement disbelief… We do our best to capture it all in grinning, front porch Instagram photos. “First Day of Kindergarten!” the little chalkboards boast. All the promise of the year stuffed into those Paw Patrol or sparkly unicorn backpacks.
But I feel it’s my duty, having just wrapped up Week 1, to tell you a somber truth: There is something lurking. It’s called Kindergarten Day 3.
Each morning, you will send skipping off to school, your darling, fun, flawless child. The world is his oyster and his future is bright. You get a fairly comparable version of this child back on Afternoons 1 and 2, albeit with an early crashing bedtime. Maybe a little less shiny, but not worth sending back to the kitchen.
But heed this warning: Day 3 lies in wait. And it takes no prisoners. I don’t know what happens in that school on Day 3, but it. hits. the. fan. The pleasant, disciplined, good-natured child you gave to the bus is not the child that is returned to you at 3:15. Instead, you will be handed back a tiny person resembling your child but who must (MUST.) be new here, for he does not heed any (ANY.) of the rules.
The Morning Child (MC) you donated to the school for 7 hours had two functional ears and an intact sense of consequences. The Afternoon Child (AC) that boomerangs back is all flailing appendages and hysterical whining and picky eating and has the mute button glued down.
MC? Rested, excited and bright-eyed.
AC? A walking bag of sullen 14-year-old angst trapped in a 5-year-old body.
MC? “I love you, Mommy! Have a great day!” blowing kisses.
AC? (bawling in defiance) “BUUUTTTT IIIII JUST WAAANNNNTTT TO WEAR SOCKS IN THE SHOWWWEERRRRRR!!!!”
MC? Sits at the breakfast table, making the baby laugh, and asks you to please read him a favorite book.
AC? Writhes in time out, making the mother snarl, and asks you to DON’TLOOKATMEEE!!
Data varies on how long AC Syndrome lasts. Some studies show an improvement in symptoms within 2 weeks; others report a gradual taper lasting up to 6 weeks. Check with your psychotherapist if no results by Halloween.
In all seriousness – you will love this child desperately.
You know this child is exhausted and adjusting as well as he can.
You know he held it together all day long and now feels safe at home to let it all hang out.
You know this is normal and not the time for deep lectures on life lessons.
You know a gentle answer turns away wrath.
You know this.
But your inner dialogue becomes as colorful as the Land of Flipping Oz. You didn’t even realize you knew such words. You think your neighbor is mowing, but turns out it’s just your teeth grinding in your ears. Your breaths are so deep that your toenails thank you for the oxygen.
As hard as you try to control it, you inadvertently vacillate between embodying the Softest, Gentlest Mom That Ever There Was, and the Mom Warrior Queen Hear Me Roar Hulk Lady. And then you have to apologize (you don’t know why you’re the one apologizing) to your kid and to your just-got-home husband for the mutiny that is your address, and maybe go for a walk around the block except oh yeah you live in Scottsdale where school starts in August and Day 3 is 111 degrees. But if you’re reading this in the Midwest or somewhere decent, go for a walk. Do it for the children. The children of Arizona.
So how do you head this off?? Soften the blow?? Save yourself?? Learn from my mistakes! From the get-go, don’t do what I did…….
– Don’t search Pinterest for 100 better ways to ask “how was your day?” This child does not want to be peppered with questions about his day. He wants to go to eat and go to bed.
– Don’t schedule swimming lessons (or anything) for 4pm. This child does not want to do a structured activity that involves listening. He wants to eat and go to bed.
– Don’t spend your other kids’ nap time preparing a home cooked meal. This child does not want your chicken and vegetable quinoa bake he’s never seen before. He wants good, old-fashioned kid comfort food. Mac and cheese, grilled hot dogs and brinner were made for such a time as this. This child wants to eat his favorite, familiar foods and go to bed.
– For heaven’s sake, don’t potty train your 2.5 year old this week. If you do, let me warn you that you will go directly from diffusing 5yr old tantrums to cleaning up poop off your carpeted stairs, back to the tantrums, back to the potty, back to the tantrums, back to the pee laundry. I mean it. Toss in a mostly-suicidal crawling baby if you have one, as I do, and now you know why I needed a drinkImeanwalk. That whole undertaking can wait a few weeks. This kindergarten child needs to eat and go to bed. NOW.
Praise God for new mercies each bus morning. For real, though. As with most things Parenting: this is harder than it looks. But SO WORTH IT as we anticipate seeing them fly. Right?? (Someone out there with bigger kids, tell me I’m right. Mama Hulk Lady needs a win.)
To my firstborn, Nolan, on this, your first week of Kindergarten –
We cannot be more proud of you. Every day I think I’ve maxed the limits of my soul-deep gaga enthusiasm for you, and then tomorrow, it hikes up just a little more. I eagerly anticipate all of the ways that I get to watch you grow in the coming months and years, thanks to the gift that is school. So truly thankful I get to be your mom, whether you’re channeling MC or AC 😉 The result is the same: You, Landy and Sissy are Daddy’s and my trio of treasures. Incredible to think that Jesus loves you even more than we do!
You’re doing great, Bud. We got this!
I love you more than 1,ooo,