(Just in case you were on vacation last week, my ex-husband and I have started writing a blog about co-parenting after divorce called When The Flames Go Up.)
Today's topic is Kindergarten. Specifically, why it's so hard to be the parent of a Kindergartner.
I know a lot of districts have gone back to school already, so some of you are in your first or second week of Kindergarten. My kids don't go back until September 8, but I notice I'm getting more and more tense as it's time to go back.
I'm wondering what it is that makes Kindergarten so difficult, for them and for us, especially since a lot of our kids have been in preschool or daycare for at least a year before entering K. You'd think it would be the same thing just at a new venue, but so often it's not.
* I think one big factor is that it may be our first big encounter with The System. Daycares and preschools tend to be small, nurturing places. They deal with toddlers and preschoolers and are sensitive to their fears and individual needs. Part of their job is to guide us as parents--if they notice things with our children they let us know and give suggestions to help, and many preschools run regular parent education programs to help deal with common issues. Kindergarten isn't like that. Your child is one of many (even if you luck out and have small class size), and you're swept away by a system that has little room for individuality. Teachers are under pressure to assess kids and make sure they're hitting an ever-accelerating set of benchmarks, so they don't have the time and freedom preschool teachers do to help kids with emotional issues. The Industrial Revolution brought us cheap automobiles, but it also brought us timetables and testing in Kindergarten.
* Kindergarten may be the complete wrong balance of independence during transitions. Some Kindergartens require parents/caregivers to stay and read with the child for 20 minutes at drop-off, which can be hard on kids who do better just saying goodbye and having a firm separation. Others have a firm goodbye at drop-off, which can be rough on kids who need more transition. It's a crapshoot whether your Kindergarten's goodbye system will match your kid's needs.
* Your child is growing up. A Kindergartner is in elementary school. Not a baby, not a toddler, not a preschooler. Even if you think you're ok with it, it can sneak in and make you really melancholy before you identify it.
* More responsibility. Your child (in the US, at least) probably has homework now, which will add another hour of work to your life every night, at least. Plus lunch (or worrying about school food), clothes, and all the other stuff. Allegedly your child is taking more responsibility for gear, but that actually falls on your shoulders, predictably.
There are probably a ton of other factors, too. What do you think?
If you've already gone through Kindergarten with your child, how did it go? Was it more difficult for you than previous years were? Why do you think that is?
If you're in Kindergarten now or about to go in, how's it going? What are your fears?
If you've taught Kindergarten, what do you observe from that side of the experience?
My Kindergarten mom story:
Those of you who were reading me back three years ago may remember that Kindergarten was extremely hard for my older son. At the beginning I thought it was just part of the normal adjustment to Kindergarten (and my having gone back to work full-time), but I soon realized that it had a lot to do with the teacher, who I don't think should be working with children at all. I got some criticism *here* for disliking her, which still hurts. (There's another NYC blogger whose son went through the same cruelty and incompetence at her hands the next year, so I know it wasn't just me.) I still have a lot of hurt and anger toward her, especially in light of that article saying that a good Kindergarten teacher sets kids up for success, and resentment at the principal and administration who stonewalled us. My son is slowly, slowly coming out of his fear of teachers and school, thanks to two truly wonderful teachers, a kind and down-to-earth aide, and the miracle principal of his new school. But I don't think my son's ever going to see school as a fun nurturing place, like he did in preschool before we had that teacher who shouldn't be teaching. I don't know if I'll ever stop resenting that school for taking that away from us.
My younger son is starting Kindergarten at this same new school this year, and I have every reason to think that his teacher will be wonderful, based on the other teachers we've had at the school. And I know that the principal excels at conflict resolution, so even if there is a mismatch it'll be fixed. But I still feel a stomach clench when I think of Kindergarten. I am trying not to communicate that to him so that he can go in with a positive attitude. But I don't think I'll be able to relax until school's been in session for a few weeks, even if his teacher is the ur-Kindergarten teacher.