It seems like just yesterday I was putting my little girl on the school bus, waving good-bye as she rode off to her first day of kindergarten. After months of standing at that bus stop, often knee-deep in snow, blowing kisses at her departing profile, the school year is finally coming to an end. I’ve learned a lot from my daughter’s first year, as she entered the world of report cards, school lunches, and staff development days. Looking back, here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from my daughter’s first year of school.
1. Teachers are superstars. Watching my daughter’s kindergarten teachers navigate Common Core, while getting 20 kids who suddenly all have to go potty to sit criss-cross applesauce, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. And somehow, in the midst of all this chaos, her teachers have always found time to answer my questions and keep me abreast of her progress. Plus, they’ve kindly overlooked my daughter showing up to gym class in the equivalent of a ball gown and sneakers. They are nothing short of remarkable.
2. Nothing ever happens. Ever. According to my daughter’s teachers, she’s learning reading, math, and science. Her schedule says she attends art, music and gym classes weekly. And yet, every day, when my daughter returns home from school, we have some variation of this conversation:
Me: How was your day?
Daughter: I don’t know.
Me: What did you do?
Me: What do you mean you did nothing?
Daughter: Can I have a snack?
Clearly, the school has been lying to me, and the kids just sit in silence all day, like tiny Zen practitioners. I’m hoping first grade offers a little more action, or she may run off with a third grader with a scooter and a Mickey tattoo to fill the void.
3. Staff development days suck. Yes, I understand the importance of teacher training and development. But as a work-at-home mom, when I see a hole in my daughter’s schedule, I go into a panic. Do I attempt to meet my deadlines while a bored kid repeatedly asks me if I’ve seen her Elsa spoon? Do I try to guilt Papa and Granny into spending “quality time” with their grandchild? Do I take the day off and work all night to compensate? My stress levels used to be tied to demanding clients and toddler tantrums. Today, they’re tied to the early dismissals and blank spaces on the school calendar.
4. Mo’ kids, mo’ problems. From what I’ve observed, when kids interact one-on-one, things generally go smoothly. In groups, however, one kid calling another “Stupid-head” can trigger an epic spit battle rivaling an encounter between the Bloods and Crips. Any trouble my daughter has gotten into this year has been tied to some sort of group drama. Clearly we need to sit her down in front of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video so she can learn an important truth: if you’re going to engage in a group battle, it should at least be choreographed.
5. My daughter can do this. At a certain point during the year, my daughter struggled with reading. So I did what any parent would do: I read with her at night. I drew sticker charts. I bought flash cards. Yet all that seemed to come from these efforts was frustration, on both our parts. And then, one day, something clicked. Suddenly, my daughter was reading — and enjoying it. As with so many other things, she began reading when she was ready. Because beneath all that resistance, is a quiet thoughtfulness and determination that never fails to surprise me. And so I’ve learned to trust her to work through her doubts, to solve problems in her own time. It’s a lesson that will hopefully stay with me well past kindergarten.
When I went to kindergarten orientation, I was amazed at the things my daughter would learn. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would learn over the year. I’ve gotten to know my daughter in new ways — as a student, an artist, a scholar-in-training. And I’ve learned a lot about myself, about my hopes and fears for the years ahead. And so, as we stare down first grade, I’m confident. Because if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s this: every day my daughter gets on that bus, ready to perform wonders. And every day I silently cheer her on from the sidewalk, knowing no matter what happens, she’s ready.
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