My baby is starting Kindergarten. My squishy, rolly little boy is beginning his elementary school career. My wobbly toddler will be in a class with 18 other kids. My diaper-clad son will be learning his letters and how to add and subtract. Ok–I know he is almost 6, but he’s still my baby. And he’s my last baby.
It’s difficult to write this post without my ovaries aching–forcing my mind to consider adding another child to my perfectly constructed family of four. Friends of mine have added children when their youngest started school, and it seems to work for them. They have the help of older kids and it must be easy with only one in diapers. Oh, how I love sniffing a newborn! But I digress. I must focus–for the sake of all parties involved. I will pull it together and be strong for him.
My oldest starting school was difficult for me as well, but I walked away with some knowledge of how to make it less stressful for the next child. Here are a few tips that helped me with the transition to school with my daughter, which I have tweaked, so it applies to my baby boy.
Get Your sh*t Together, Mom
Now is not a time to be a babbling idiot. Don’t transfer your sappy emotional goop to your child. They are walking into an entirely new environment. Sure, they have the benefit of an older sibling (or siblings) walking down the path first, but it still is not the same. These little people don’t need to worry about how Mom is doing while trying to navigate their own emotions. You can sob in the car after he is safe in his class. And I do mean ugly cry. You will have an ugly cry–that’s a fact. And that’s ok, as long as it is alone (or with a mimosa–both are acceptable).
It’s About Them, Not You
This has been my mantra since my daughter started school, and I can imagine it will be my Middle & High school one as well. Life is all about perspective. When viewing a major life event through the eyes of a child, the perspective completely changes–our hearts soften, and our vision becomes clearer. I like to think our Momma Bear instincts kick in. When we focus more on what they are feeling/needing/experiencing, we are forced to put our insecurities on the back burner. Like I said, we can all ugly cry after we drop them off, but that morning–we have to be completely tuned into their world, not ours.
Routine, Routine, Routine
You will hear this echoed on every Back to School post. Routine is truly the first step to avoiding a chaotic, overly emotional first day. We cannot start going to bed at 8 pm and waking up at 7 am (instead of lazily lying in bed until 9) the weekend before the first day. Sadly, this must start at least a week before. I know, this sucks. No one loves ocean baths and late night UNO games more than me. But the sooner we start, the easier it will become. (NOTE I said “easier.” It will never just be “easy”)
They Still Need You–More than Ever
My boss joked that she expected me to be back full time once my baby was in Kindergarten. “You are done with them- they are in school and don’t need you around as much.” (Disclaimer: my well-meaning boss does not have any children of her own.)
I really thought about this, especially when I was anticipating my oldest starting school. I thought I could have someone else pick them up from school and have a babysitter at the house so I could work longer hours. I tried that for a while, and it had a detrimental effect on my child. She really needed that decompression time with her tribe. I scaled back my afternoon work schedule, and her mood and behavior improved greatly. I realized after the first year of school: they actually need you MORE, but in a different way.
They need you to listen intently about their day. They need you to communicate with their teacher. They sometimes need for you to take that extra 5 minutes in the morning, park the car and walk them to their class for one last hug. The time we have together now is more meaningful because when they start school, they spend their days with someone else. No more endless days of diapers, play dates and car naps. Their life independent of you has begun, but that doesn’t mean they need their Mom any less.
Now let’s tackle the first day/week/month of school together. Celebrate the little people we created and share them with a whole new world that awaits them. Keep smiling–even though your heart may be breaking and your ovaries are thumping. I’ll meet you at Hash House, and we can cry together–all while enjoying our Mom time (until 3 pm, of course).