I recently registered my third child, my baby, for kindergarten. Since I have two older children this process wasn’t new to me and she will be attending the same school as her sisters so the school and it’s culture are familiar. This should be the easiest transition into the public school system for our family. I know how to do this. I know what she’s literally walking into on that first day of school. This should be easy.
Well, so far, this has been so hard. I am absolutely not ready to send her to kindergarten. I used to think that sending my baby to kindergarten would be difficult for all the of the cliché reasons—it will make me sad that we have no more babies, it may make me wish for another baby, it will make me feel old. All of those feelings are there but I honestly do NOT want another baby, I’m happy to be out of the baby stage, and I’m thrilled that we are looking at an end to the daycare expense. Yes I feel old but I could give you many reasons why I feel old. No, the reason why I’m not ready to send her to kindergarten is because I know what kindergarten will mean for her. Since I’ve watched my other two children navigate the complicated world of elementary school I’m just not comfortable sending my last one in there. Instead, I’m feeling the opposite.
Sorry to sound dramatic, but I feel like I’m throwing my sweet, innocent, joyful little girl to an angry pack of wolves. My older girls, while experiencing mostly successes in elementary school have also had to soldier through some challenges as well. Each one spent at least one school year with a teacher who’s teaching style did not match her learning style. One had a teacher who was too strict for her gentle personality. The other had a teacher who’s classroom management techniques made my daughter feel stifled and too restricted. Another teacher’s more lax style made my daughter feel as if her class (and she) was out of control when she instead thrives with structure. I’ve spent many evenings with a child in tears, several mornings battling a child who was resisting school, and I’ve needed to develop several interventions to try to make my children happy at school.
My baby currently adores school. She loves learning. School days are her favorite days. She gives her teachers big hugs daily and lists them all among her favorite people. To think that her love for learning and school will be diminished at some point soon makes me so very sad. To know that she will encounter at least one teacher who makes her unhappy makes me miserable.
My older girls have had to deal with mean children. They have each had something of theirs stolen. It may have only been a favorite colored pen or a key chain that cost a dollar but it was theirs and it was taken by another child in class. They have had their personal property destroyed. One day my middle daughter came home wearing her favorite shirt that was now ruined since someone had spilled his chocolate milk all over her after she told him to stop teasing her friend. She had spent her entire afternoon damp and sticky because of another child’s actions. Recently a child grabbed a Disney World key chain attached to my daughter’s backpack and yanked on it. It broke and her souvenir from her favorite vacation was instantly trash. My oldest is entering the age of mean girls. Girls who used to be her friends are gradually changing. Some are becoming too silly, too moody, or too impulsive. Hidden social rules are suddenly important and she is struggling to understand them all as her own personality changes. She’s often saddened, angered, or confused by her friends.
My baby currently believes that every other child in her pre-k and daycare is her friend. They are friends simply because they are together. It’s just that simple for her. Her teachers and daycare providers work hard to foster positive relationships between them all and she believes school is a safe, loving environment. This will change for her in September. Not every child she meets will be her friend. One teacher in a class of maybe twenty children cannot possibly manage every negative interaction that may occur between children. That teacher cannot prevent my daughter from being a victim of a mean act. I will no longer be able to protect and preserve her innocence.
I know I cannot protect my children forever. I understand that school is the first step into a world that is filled with challenges and unkind people. I know I’m doing my very best to help them navigate this world and I plan on always being there for them providing whatever support and advice they need. Overall, my two older children are thriving. They have had more good days than bad and I’m so proud of all they have accomplished so far. My baby is absolutely ready to accept the challenges of kindergarten and I know she will be just as successful as her big sisters. I, however, am just not ready for kindergarten. I want to hold on to my sweet, innocent, happy baby for just a little while longer. I don’t want school life to touch her and change her. Not yet. I’m not ready.
Here she is, in Bryant Park, NYC making a wish with a penny. She wished for a world filled with baby unicorns. I made the same wish. A world filled with baby unicorns sounds just lovely.