Mommy A to Z

Motherhood, Alphabetized.

K is for . . . Kindergarten (And 5 Things I Don’t Want My Daughter to Learn)


It’s that time of summer. The kids’ worn, faded bathing suits are ready to retire to the back of the dresser, beside the bunny ears and St. Patty’s Day shirts. Tiny sweatshirts hang next to backpacks in the kids’ cubbies at camp. Plans for barbecues and picnics slowly fade into visions of apple-picking, school bells, and Tarantinoinspired tactics for grabbing that last Frozen backpack at Target.

But this year, something is different. My daughter, my “baby” girl, is heading off to kindergarten. No more will I drop her off at the local YMCA for a few leisurely hours of circle time, finger-painting, and arguments over who gets the baby doll whose head hasn’t been pulled off. These are the big leagues: language arts, science, math . . . lunch from a tray instead of a brown paper bag.

And yet, as excited as I am for her, I’m nervous too. You see, I think my daughter is pretty much perfect the way she is (tantrums over “needing” to wear her Elsa tiara to camp aside). She’s funny, imaginative, and most of all, open to everyone she meets. The real world has a way of stifling these traits — of hardening even the tenderest of little hearts.

And so, as my daughter marches off to that big, yellow school bus, here are the 5 things I hope she won’t be learning at kindergarten this year.

1. People are mean. Yes, this includes five-year-olds. My daughter attended afternoon pre-K last year, and rode the bus home with some kindergartners. I was amazed at the conversations she’d report back to me. It was as though she had suddenly flipped a switch from Sesame Street to Mean Girls. From taunts about toys to one boy’s plans to one day get a gun (after learning how to tie his shoes, of course), it was a glimpse into a brave new world for my baby. My heart breaks when I envision the girls who won’t play with her at recess, or the little boys who used to be her friends, who no longer want to share their Legos or their time with a girl. I wish I could be there by her side, shielding her from every cruel word or rejection. Instead, Mommy must remain at home, silently plotting the demise of that girl who called my daughter’s doll ugly.

2. She can be mean. My daughter has yet to discover her power to hurt others — to use words to injure, to exclude, to bully. I hope that she’ll always be this sweet and good-natured. But as we all know, when kids get together, play is not always nice. Short of having the Golden Rule tattooed on her forehead (where she wouldn’t be able to see it, anyway), all I can do is trust her to remember the kindness and respect we teach and (try to) practice at home.

3. There are wrong ways of doing things. There’s no place like preschool. As long as you don’t run with scissors or whack anyone over the head with your juice box, you pretty much can do no wrong. Draw a red squiggle on a piece of construction paper; it gets hung up on the wall. Paint a three-legged princess with a green face; you’re “creative.” When my daughter gets to kindergarten, she’ll be faced with the notion that there are right answers, wrong ways of solving problems. That she needs to color in the lines. Kindergarten marks an entry into more standardized ways of thinking about and solving problems. I’m not sure I’m ready for this first check on her previously unbounded imagination.

4. Other kids have more. Don’t get me wrong; my kids have plenty of stuff. But they don’t have designer clothes or pricey playthings. My daughter tends to parade around in the same favorite dress, and I’ve never seen the point in buying expensive toys that my kids break five minutes after opening the box (especially since they generally prefer to play with the box). As my daughter’s social circle expands, she’s bound to notice that she doesn’t have an American Girl doll, or that she spent her spring break playing soccer instead of waiting three hours to meet Elsa at Disney World. And she’ll have questions. We’ll probably explain that we have everything we need right here. Or, we’ll distract her with a spontaneous viewing of My Little Pony. But I know her questions will only get harder, and it’ll be our job to explain to a kid who just wants an iPad what real abundance is all about.

5. Mommy is not the center of the world. Until now, my daughter has wanted to do everything with Mommy. From playtime to storytime, we’ve been inseparable companions — at times the tightest of allies; others, the bitterest of foes. But lately I’m starting to notice a subtle shift. Lately, she’s been wanting to play with her friend next door, disappearing for hours at a time with her princess gown and wand, playing games with no role for Mommy. Soon she’ll be at kindergarten, making new friends, broadening her world, getting sucked into lunchroom scandals and playground intrigues. When she comes home, and I prod her for the sordid details of kindergarten life, I can look forward to her informative response: “I don’t know, Mommy. Got any food?”

Starting kindergarten is a special milestone in both our lives. I know my little girl is going to love it, and I know she’s ready. I’m a little less ready. But I guess it’s all part of motherhood: letting go, embracing the adventures and daily perils of growing up. I suppose I just have to remember that no matter what goes on all day at school — which girl won’t share her doll, or which new word she stumbles over — at the end of the day, that big, wonderful yellow bus will arrive, to take my baby home to the mother who loves her.

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  1. Heartwarming…heart wrenching. My daughter is headed off to kindergarten this year as well. She is ready…I am not.

  2. I remember feeling the same way when my daughter started kindergarten. It was not the same as when she went to nursery school. Somehow, she seemed older. I could already envision her off to college. But, she loved school and I grew to appreciate the time I had to spend on myself. In the end, as you say, she came home and we met over milk and cookies to discuss those mean girls and, more importantly, the nice ones, too.

  3. Kindergarten is such a special milestone. This stirs up memories of my own first day. My first two have special needs, so their kindergarten experiences were different. I hope that she has a wonderful year filled with many great memories and new friends.

  4. This brings back memories. I was always there to here what was new. She had already told her mom. No need to repeat herself. It was a good time. These days make vacation time even more special!

  5. I was lucky to go to kindergarten at a time when your imagination was an important body part to be indulged and expanded. Nowadays, school administrations seem to want to create robots. It may be up to you to let your daughter color outside the lines and think outside the box in the safety of her own home. She will never forget you for it. It will be a lasting bond over and above her love affair with Elsa, that’s for sure.

    Once I actually taught a niece of mine how to color outside the lines. Her mother was mortified, but her child was happy. She grew up to become a good citizen and upright member of her community anyway.

  6. I love this share it is very sweet but she will learn all those things and more but I believe and always have faith that as long as we as parents keep reinforcing the kindness and positive things in life our kids will remember and practice the good over the bad. Congrats on this milestone, enjoy have fun and breathe lol xo

  7. I’ve already hit the “mommy isn’t the center of the world” stage it seems like, and my daughter still has 3 years to go until kindergarten! Great post and definitely some things for me to keep in mind when my time approaches.

  8. Great post! I used to teacher kindergarten, so while it’s true she’ll learn these things, she’ll also learn so much more! Good luck on the first day of school (parents always need it more than the kids).

  9. Totally love this. My son is starting kindergarten, too. I am right there with you. On every single point you’ve made. Such a great post, friend!

  10. Oh yes… I totally get this! I don’t want Aiden to learn anything ugly about the world, but at the same time I know he needs to and I am blessed to be the one who gets to help him process when he does even if it is HARD! Great post!!

  11. I love this time of year- the transition from summer to fall. Good luck to your daughter and to you, as she embarks on this exciting new chapter :)

  12. Kindergarten was a hard year for me. The other kids have more can be a tough one. Other kids will have expensive birthday parties and those American Girl dolls are so pricey! Great post.

  13. Ahh, I can’t even imagine my little one going to kindergarten. That seems so far away! Such an exciting time for your daughter! :)

  14. Ack! I love this list. These are the same things I worry about with Z already (she’s only 3!) I can’t bear to think about when she starts school. :)

  15. Kindergarten is so bittersweet! I loved that my kiddos were growing up and experiencing new things, but I wanted to be going with them to make sure they were safe and happy. But I guess that’s part of motherhood — the gradual release as we work ourselves out of a job (if we’ve done our job well!).

  16. I love this! I have one more year till kindergarten…i’m sure it will be tough! Great post!

  17. Aw. My two youngest are going off this year… I want to keep them for just a little longer. :) Thanks for the post!

  18. So true on all of those. Kindergarten is hard to prepare for. It was hard to let my oldest go. She is now in 2nd grade and it is still a little hard. I will tell you though that Mommy is everything is still there. Sure after I had my youngest 4 years after her she plays with her too but she still asks me to play and wants me just as much as before she started school and I love that. I hope it doesn’t go away too soon as I am sure it will eventually.

  19. All totally valid points. The worst is that other people can be mean. Kids find that out quickly once they get in school. It’s like you immediately become a victim of judgement. So sad!

  20. I know what you mean about kids going off to school and learning how ugly, mean, materialistic, competitive, and insensitive the world can be. I know it’s much more than that, but when my nephew changed schools – he had a rude awakening…and he lives in la-la land compared to his new school. I always hope that outside pressures don’t wear away his confidence and sweetness.

  21. I still have one more year till my son heads off to his first day of school. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready!

  22. My kids picked up a few things in kindergarden. Not all good. Just keep teaching them the right way and you should have no problems.

  23. Such a good list!! Been there, done that, totally. :) It’s hard not to swoop in and try to fix everything too, when something does go wrong, but I’m getting better at that… a little. 😉

  24. Those are all valid fears but the reality is, we can’t prevent our kids from learning any of them and we shouldn’t want to either. As parents, we’re here to help them navigate the world – including the bad things and we should hide them from the bad but conquer it.

  25. It’s heartbreaking but true. I felt the same way when K started kindergarten. I cried the whole day. It will get better momma! Hang in there!

  26. My middle child is off to pre-k this year. Even though I’ve been through this before, I’m still terrified for him (and for me!).

  27. Enjoy this time, my baby leaves for college next week. Thanks for sharing at the #WWDParty!

  28. Kindergarten is a big change from preschool!

  29. All very valid points, most of them I hadn’t even thought about. Thanks very much for giving me even more to worry about during the next two weeks! :)

  30. What an eloquent description of how I feel watching my third start school! Thank you for this fantastic post.

  31. This tugged at my heart strings. It is hard to see our babies grow up. I don’t have to deal with the heartache of seeing my kids off to school since we homeschool. Nevertheless, I do see how much they are growing and changing, how their understanding of the world is expanding, and how I wish I could protect them just a little longer from having to face some of these issues.

  32. Great list! If only they could be blocked from these things. I’m an elementary school teacher and all I could say was AMEN to #1. It bothers me so much that when they come tell me “so and so said this to me or did this” there’s really nothing I can do about it. People are just mean!

  33. awwww I remember that feeling oh too well of when my little guys were starting kindergarten. I miss them being little. Cherish every moment.

  34. aWWW, i really loved your post and read it from top to bottom. my daughters are past preschool and like you, they are slowly fading away with their so many activities. but still, maybe I’m just too busy that I don’t notice it but luckily, I still feel happy that they always call me most of the time :-)

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