Things I learned because of Kindergarten

Andi's first day 2013

Andi’s first day 2013


Eli's first day 2012

Eli’s first day 2012

Today is our first day of summer. Not the technical one that delineates the actual season (that’s June 21st- thank you for the literal accuracy Elijah), but the first of the next 72 (including weekends) that starts without school!

As the mom, I am approaching summer with great expectation and excitement. I’m also wondering how I’ll get my work from home work done with so much kid energy around. I hope not to lose my temper or get overwhelmed by long days of messes, sibling squabbles, or silly things that I sometimes let get to me.

Trepidation aside, I’m so glad Eli and Andi will be home every day. Oakley is excited to have them around and interacting with him. Eli and Andi are relieved and ready for the change of routine, for a break from being away and “on”.  Despite asking sleepily as she stretched, “Do we have school today?”on any number of Thursday mornings, Andi did a whole year of day long kindergarten so well! Despite liking time alone, quiet and by herself, she went to a long day of loud, crowded, and social kindergarten!

For two years in a row I went through the pile of registration requirement paperwork, toted tough kids to get that shot, and emotionally felt the weight of giving my kid to the world. Sending them to kindergarten was a welcome gift for us all- they were ready to learn, be social, engage their brains and bodies in routine, adventure, and education. And we were ready as parents for them to be age-appropriately stimulated and taught things we weren’t prepared to teach them ourselves.

Sending them to kindergarten was at the same time, a repeatable agony. I lost the almost complete control I had over what they did, heard, saw, and learned. I missed knowing what they were doing and how they were faring. We didn’t get to do whatever we wanted together all day. I had to trust that what we had built into them in the first 5 years would stick, and help them absorb the information they’d gather out there on that rumbling yellow bus and in that big brick school.

Through two years of kindergarten in a row, I’ve learned lessons of my own.

I have learned deep appreciation for the tenacity of my children– they persevered through days of not wanting to go, being tired, frustrated by the content, bored by the monotony, or left out by friends.

I’ve learned great admiration for kindergarten teachers. Both Mrs. Crawford for Eli, and Mr. Richards for Andi, gave tirelessly to welcome little tiny kids to the school experience and shape them with structure, tools, and patience. Andi’s teacher was especially perfect for her personality. When Andi would shut down in frustration, Mr. Richards would woo her back with silliness- a language Andi speaks fluently. His quiet, patient, deliberate, and kind demeanor could dissipate chaos and invite effort. Mr. Richards believed in Andi, gave her chances to excel in reading and math, but also in her desire to help and host the class. Also, he gave her gifts- suckers, hair bows, leftover cookies, and hugs  for the times she showed extra efforts in cleaning up, stacking chairs, or listening. Gifts communicate care to Sister-Soo, she knew where she stood with her teacher.

I’ve learned the stress of so much social interaction on a very immature soul and psyche, is a real burden. Both Eli and Andi had to put themselves out there as a friend and classmate. They entered knowing no one and tried to make friends, measure up.

As every friend carried their life into the kindergarten arena, worlds collided. My kids learned new words, some of them unhelpful, and different ways of being a family. They endured scorn for eating beef jerky and broccoli one day, and then asked for extra red peppers to share with their friend so they could trade for her cookie, the next. They wondered if in fact they’d rather go to Adventure Club after school care instead of coming home with their mom. They had to weigh what they saw and heard in the experiences of their friends with what they knew from growing up in our family. I cannot imagine the conversations going on in their little heads.

Eli's kindergarten Halloween

Eli’s kindergarten Halloween


Andi with her friend Avery at her 6th bday party in April- almost through kindergarten, she had two school friends as well as some church and neighborhood friends come to the party.

Andi with her friend Avery at her 6th bday party in April- almost through kindergarten, she had two school friends as well as some church and neighborhood friends come to the party.

As their parents, we tried to be attentive, safe, and unconditionally loving. I failed often at one or all three- only adding pressure, instead of alleviating it. Sometimes our expectations were too high that they would be respectful bus riders, attentive and hard working students, and caring friends for 8.5 hours a day. Other days, we felt sure we could encourage more effort in any direction- believing our kids to be capable and sturdy- smart and sweet, but sometimes lazy or distracted kiddos.

I learned about labels. Kids call each other names or assign levels of prestige at very young ages. Labels like, “She’s my BEST friend”,  “He’s the MOST POPULAR kid“, “They have to go to the safe seat almost every day”, “She has ‘autitism’ and I really like her”, to “No one likes me”or “They said my hair looks silly since it’s short”, would sound out of after school stories. My kids were guilty perpetrators and bummed out victims. I saw Andi’s self confidence shake and Eli turn to silliness instead of face the pain.

Kindergarten challenged Eli and Andi in their belief that they are beloved. That no matter what and always, they are God’s child and our kid, and are so, so loved. Rooted and established in Love, we pray they would be free to give love extravagantly, that they would have eyes to see kids who are left out and all alone and come alongside to help and befriend. We pray they would care about how others are feeling and how they can help more than want to win. It’s here that we have hopes and here that we remember how little and young they are. Time will offer chances for them to choose to grow, to care, to help, to love.

Kindergarten helped me learn humbly how many ways there are to do family, friendship, and faith. Kindergarten helped me learn to let other people help me with my kids in ways I lack expertise and energy (ie: using scissors, writing forward 5’s, or amphibians).

Kindergarten helped me learn to trust my kids to live out what they know deep inside best they can. Kindergarten helped me learn how tough and smart and helpful and friendly (teacher words for them) they are when they’re trying their best, engaging their minds, and wriggling their buns while waving their hands high in the air.

I’m thankful we had Tiffany Ridge to wade us into the elementary school waters. We will change schools next year since we moved. However, since I’ve learned so much because of kindergarten, I’m ready to move on.



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