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Posts Tagged ‘back-to-school’

Love it or hate it, a new school year is starting. In honor of the season of Trapper Keepers, #2 pencils, new shoes, and teary goodbyes, here’s my new column for Seattle’s Child.

My eldest daughter started kindergarten last year, and I’m not gonna lie, it was an adjustment. She summed up the experience quite handily at the end of the first week: “There’s too much hustle-and-bustle, too much blah blah blah, and NOT ENOUGH MOM.”

My kindergartener, Sept 2010

I have to say, it was hard to argue. We believe in lax, unscheduled summers for our kids and I work less for those months, so we get into a nice rhythm of picnics, parks, and pajamas worn past noon. Then suddenly, it’s that time of year again, when all the backpacks in the universe land in the front of stores with a resounding thud. No more lazy popsicle days in the backyard; it’s time for alarm clocks, homework, and yes, hustle-and-bustle.

No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of parent you imagine yourself to be (helicopter, free range, or something in between), there is one great leveler that hits us all in the gut in the same way. I’m referring, of course, to the day your first child starts kindergarten.

It doesn’t matter whether your child has been in full-time daycare since infancy, went to years of preschool, or has never left your side, the start of “real school” is a major milestone, fraught with emotion for everyone. Even if you have honestly longed for this day, something happens when you see your child heading out with a huge backpack, new shoes, and a lunchbox: you can’t help but picture the baby you rocked in your arms, the toddler who stripped her clothes off in public places, the preschooler who put marbles in his nose. How did your child become so grown up? And how have you gone from total novice to kindergarten parent?

When my daughter took the plunge, even though she had had three years of preschool, it was akin to watching her learn to walk. Suddenly, she was moving away from me and toward something else. And just like with those first toddling steps, a million little steps followed in quick succession as the year progressed.

Drop-offs that had been painfully dramatic got less so. Physical feats were tackled in short order: scooter, monkey bars, jump rope. Letters that were previously jumbled all over the page suddenly began to form (relatively) straight lines. Friends were made. My daughter began telling funny stories, described favorite parts of the day, and proudly showed me the way to the cafeteria, library, and office by herself.

But she also shared the downside: playground politics that left her the odd one out, hurtful comments about something she wore, insufferable classroom activities (calendar math!), and more than anything, the overwhelming longing to be home with her family. “I have to go here every day?” she figured out, aghast, about two weeks in. “Are you kidding me?”

It’s impossible to tackle the transition to school without some anxiety on both sides. But, as with any new routine, consistency and a positive outlook (even on days you aren’t feeling it) go a long way. In the hectic, stressful moments of the morning routine, stop for a second to take a deep breath, hug your child, and tell him or her how proud you are—and that you understand starting something new isn’t always easy, even for the grown-ups. Let your child know that even when you’re apart, you are always together. Instead of rushing out the door, offer that extra reassurance and affection that they might not even know they need. (After all, being a few minutes late isn’t the end of the world.)

Remember, some kids take to kindergarten like fish to water, others take longer to adjust and need more support along the way. The same goes for the parents. No matter how you feel when the classroom door shuts on that first day – elated, free, nostalgic, lonely, excited, blue – it’s okay. This is but one of many big moments yet to come, and you’re doing a beautiful job. After all, you’ve raised a kindergartener!

What was the transition to kindergarten like for your family? We’d love to hear about it!

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Hello, fall. It’s me, ever the good student–ready to face September (or at least October) head-on.

Headfirst

You could say I was a little MIA this summer; its been so long since my last post that my computer has stopped recognizing me. I suppose I took most of the summer “off”–if your definition of “off” means taking care of two high-energy preschoolers, making about a thousand picnic lunches, and traipsing around to every beach, park, and wading pool in King County. I have to admit, though, it was super-fun. Exhausting, but super-fun. I am not by nature a summer girl (too bright, too hot, too much pressure to do stuff, too much SPF required), something sun-starved Seattleites tend to find shocking and weird. This year was different. Goofing around and eating countless lime popsicles with a couple of swimsuited cuties at the peak of their twirly-whirly affection and silliness started to change my mind.

Backyard Imps

But just as I was coming around, the weather changed and all the backpacks in the universe came to the front of the stores with a resounding thud. That thud meant it was time to send my eldest to kindergarten and brace her for the shock of being, in her words, “IN school, ALL day, FOREVER…where there is TOO much hustle-and-bustle and TOO much BLAH-BLAH-BLAH and NOT ENOUGH MOM.” How do you argue with that?

I usually love everything about this time of year: cashmere, cords, boots, pencils, Trapper Keepers, turtlenecks, blankets, rain, Oscar movies, books, hot lattes, and brown-liquor beverages. But, like my kindergartener, I am moving more reluctantly toward fall this year. Our summer highlight reel is playing in my mind, as it certainly is in hers, and I suddenly can’t remember why cutting those 400 pb&j sandwiches into squares and lugging all that beach gear and cleaning sand out of the lint trap seemed so annoying at the time.

Fall is not only turtleneck time, it’s buckle-down time, and I’m faithfully back at my computer writing a new book, and drinking my coffee, and trying–like my eldest-to keep my chin up. There are lots of exciting things on deck: lectures, radio interviews, a new parenting title out this spring, fresh ideas bubbling all over the place. I will get into the swing of things, and she will too. But right now, I have to say, I’m yearning for less alarm clocks and school shoes and BLAH-BLAH-BLAH and more barefoot girls in the backyard, calling for another lemonade, another popsicle, another swim. Maybe I’ve become a summer girl after all.

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