So, I certainly didn’t expect that I would be able to get through the start of kindergarten with no tears from The Boy. I didn’t even expect to be able to get out of the class on the first day without the help of the teacher to pry The Boy off of me. Therefore, when I said that the 15 minutes I had promised to stay were up and the 5 minutes before I would have to leave had come to pass, I was more than surprised when he simply stood up, gave me a kiss, no hug, said bye and went back to his legos.
As the school had advised, I had prepared The Boy for the first-day-of-school activities down to every detail of the morning. “First I will wake you up and help you get ready for school. You can eat your breakfast in the car on the way… And, what would you like to have for breakfast?…Then, when we get to the school, I will stay for 15 minutes and then I will say goodbye and I will go to work. I will leave work early to pick you up right when school is over. School is over at 3:30 p.m. I will be there at exactly 3:30 p.m. See, this is 3:30 p.m. on your watch. I will pick you up and then, if you have a great day with no tears, then we will go and get a treat. But, we only get to go get a treat on the first day. Not everyday…”
Like I said, every little detail. I have left out his “wait mom, but, what time do I have to get up?” or “but, that is a long time, mom” or the countless other questions that he asked over and over again because just as excited as I was for this beginning for him, he was nervous and anxious and excited rolled into one big ball of confusion and questions.
He handled the first day like a champ. We followed the details, explained more than once, to the letter. Well, not quite, when I told him that I would only stay for 15 minutes, I had factored in a few minutes of a buffer in case there were issues. Since there weren’t any issues, I started trying to leave before the 15 minutes had passed…What?…he doesn’t completely know the difference yet.
The first mention of me leaving didn’t sit well with him. So, I asked to look at his watch and told him that I would stay for only five more minutes. I showed him where the big hand would be when five minutes had passed. At 8:45 a.m. the big hand was on the nine and it was time for me to go. He confirmed it was so, gave me my kiss and I was on my way. I only stood in shock for a tiny moment when he did not give me a hug with my kiss but, I quickly pulled myself together so as not to invite him to have an issue and I left.
At the end of the day, I picked him up, just as I had said. When I walked into the class the teacher, catching sight of me while helping him clean up his legos, said to him, “mama est la.” He immediately looked up towards the door, jumped up and came running. He hugged his teacher, grabbed his backpack and we headed out of the door. On the way to the car, I asked, “so, how was your first day of school?” to which he responded, “it was won-der-ful!!!”
He loved his teacher. He loved his new class. He made a few new friends. He loved gardening. It was truly wonderful. And, as promised, we headed to meet up with a few of his classmates for an ice cream treat to celebrate the first day of kindergarten. (Unbeknownst to him, I had invited some families to join us for a treat after school.)
Day 1 was PERFECT.
Day 2 – Plan B not so perfect
Drop off for day two went well. I dropped him off as I had done the first day except that I was not going to be able to stay for those 15 minutes in the morning. Those fifteen minutes make me about an hour late to work which means that I am an hour late leaving work which means that I am picking him up at just about 6:00 p.m. and that DOES NOT WORK FOR HIM.
We had talked about mommy not being able to pick him up right when school ends every day. I have to work and my work does not end at 3:30 p.m. So, he would have to do after school care. No problem. He is okay with after school care. He is just not okay with staying until he is practically the last kid; staying until 6:00 p.m.
So, okay…”tomorrow, I will drop you off earlier and you can stay on the playground and play with the other kids until class starts. But, I won’t be able to stay with you. You can stay with the other kids and I will go to work so that I can be back by 5:00 p.m.”
Day 2 – not so great but, there is a plan for Day 3
Day 3 – Plan C Yeah…What is plan C, again?
The school has a policy that the children can be dropped off at school at 8:00 a.m. for supervised play on the school grounds before the bell rings and they line up for class. One problem is that The Boy was the only one from his class that was there that early. We walked onto campus, he looked around, and once he realized that 1. none of his classmates were there and 2. he had to stay on the kindergarten side of the campus where there is no play structure, he was not having it. First the face…then the tears…and then me frantically trying to stop the breakdown before he is in full breakdown, I-can’t-breathe-for-crying mode.
Him: (breaking down) I don’t want you to leave
Me: okay….okay….okay….I’ll stay. Don’t cry. It’s okay. Let’s just talk. Don’t worry. I’ll stay!!!
Frankly, I would not have wanted to stay either and I knew, as soon as I saw the set up, that he was not about to stay there and just sit or run around the picnic benches until class started. He would have been fine playing on the play structure but, that is on the big kids’ side. “Him: but I am a big kid (as if deeply disturbed by the thought of being anything other than a big kid. I had offended him.) The kindergarteners play there during their recess but, in the morning, they are expected to stay with their age/class mates. (Probably a good idea…okay definitely.)
Day 3 —I stayed…late to work…but, back by 5:30…we were home by 6:30 and then dinnertime and bedtime were rush, rush, rush because he had to get to bed early to get up early.
Day 4 – Plan D Four’s a charm, right?
Before school care starts at 7:30 a.m. If I got him there early then I could get back early and we wouldn’t be in such bad traffic getting home. This would mean that we could have an easy dinnertime and be able to relax a bit before having to rush off to bed. So, that was the plan. Only when we walked into the multipurpose room for drop off at 7:30 a.m., he was not having it. He didn’t want to be there. He wanted to go home with me. Of course, I was not going home. I wish I could just drop him off and go home but, somebody has to support us.
His breakdown started. Only this time, I had exhausted all possibilities and none had worked for him. I get it. It is new to him. He has a hard time adjusting to newness. This environment brings to the forefront his missing his dad. I truly get it. But, there are no other options. He will have to get used to it. He will get used to it. And it starts with me helping him by making sure that he knows there is no other option but, to suck it up and deal with it.
So, I leaned close to him and said, “We talked about this. You want me to be here early and this is the only way for that to happen. I have to get to work. I cannot stay.” And with that I pried his hand out of mine and turned to walk out of the door. I did not look back. I kept walking…..Out of the door….Into the school yard. And there he was running behind me, trying to catch me, trying to come with me.
Two thoughts popped into my mind: 1. Why doesn’t the teacher grab him? 2. This is not a healthy way to leave it. So, I stopped and I firmly told him that he cannot follow me and that I had to leave. I would not stay and he could not follow me. He tried desperately to hold back the tears and to be strong.
Him: okay, but be back by 5:00 p.m.
Me: I will be back at 4:30 p.m.
Him: (pleading) NOOOOOO
Me: No, wait, 4:30 is before 5:00. Let me show you. (I showed him on his watch)
Him: Okaaaay. (He turned and joined the teacher who had run behind him and was reaching for him/inviting him inside.)
Day 4 – started rough….but at least we have a final and workable plan that starts his day early but finishes it early enough for him to enjoy a bit of free/family time when he gets home from school.
At the end of it all, the school was right. Talking helps them prepare for what is to come. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I didn’t take the time, maybe too much time in some folks eyes, to explain what was to come. I am so glad that I took the time because knowing that I took the time and made the effort (several) to find a way/structure that works for both of us helps me to allow him the stress of adjusting. Because that it what it boils down to….he must adjust.
He will adjust. And I am now okay allowing him to figure that out on his own.
- Another Chapter (peanutjellysandwich.com)
- Smooth first day despite rain (darientimes.com)
- School Rules! My world. (momminitup.com)
- Lessons from the first day of kindergarten at a Jefferson County school (slideshow, video) (al.com)