Starting kindergarten

Kindergarten Transitions

We knew there would be some bumps along the road to starting kindergarten…for all of us!

It’s now been a week and a half since my oldest’s inaugural day of school. The house is quieter without her, but I’ve realized how much I lean on her. Here’s a replay of a conversation we had last week.

“Sweetheart, where are those pieces to the clock puzzle?”

“They’re in the pink toy bin. At the bottom.”

“Oh, well, where is the bin?”

“It’s upstairs by my bed. I was going to play turtle with it. Okay, I’ll get it for you.”

Contrast that exchange with this one I had the other day with my four year old, while her older sister was away at kindergarten:

“Sweetheart, where are those mermaid bath toys?”

[Long pause.] “Mermaid??”

“Yes, those two mermaid dolls for the bath. What happened to them?”

“Ohhh, the mermaids!” [Dreamy look.] “The mermaids are swimming in the ocean with the mer-pups! Mommy, can I be a mermaid, and you be one, too??”

Yeah…my right hand gal is no longer at my right hand. Neither is my middle child’s partner in playing mermaids, Max and Ruby, Wonder Pets, and their myriad other make-believe games. Several times she has said with a sigh, “I miss my sister.”

And my kindergartner misses home. That’s what she told me earlier this week, when the adjustment probl–er, challenges started up. She had sailed through her first three days last week. My husband and I were elated. Over the weekend, I gave friends and family a glowing report. She loved school. She had absolutely no problems at drop off. She was doing exceptionally well during the long day, which included 15 minutes of morning latchkey, and an hour of after school latchkey. She came home bubbly and talkative, showing off artwork and singing new songs she had learned.

Well, that was last week. This week, a couple different issues created hairy drop offs and a late arrival at work for my husband.

Already on Sunday evening she started making comments about wanting to stay home. She complained that the days at school were longer than the days at home. And my husband learned that while she really enjoyed afternoon latchkey, she dreaded the 15 minute morning stint before her kindergarten classroom opened up. The teachers rotate doing morning latchkey, and she’s in a different room with a different teacher every day. She hates that it changes.

Monday, at drop-off, she clung to my husband and cried.

Then Tuesday she got sick. She picked up a stomach bug, (Already!!) and threw up after lunch at school. Over her own lunchbox, and that of several other kids, unfortunately. My husband brought her home, then tried to get some more work done at the kitchen table.

Wednesday I kept her home.

By the afternoon, she was feeling much better. She decided the play kitchen was a mess, and really needed organizing.

By dinnertime Wednesday, I knew she definitely was over the bug and would need to get back in the saddle the following morning. I needed to address her anxiety. I couldn’t confer with my husband right at the moment; he was working late to try to catch up. Not entirely sure what to say, I just breathed a quick prayer, and launched in. (I’m learning that’s what parenthood is all about!)

“Sweetheart, what are the things you really like about school, and what are the things you don’t like so much?”

“Well, I pretty much like all of it, I just like being home better.” While that is gratifying for a parent to hear, I couldn’t end the conversation there.

Then in a flash of inspiration, I grabbed paper and pen and set it by my plate. We were going to do one of her favorite activities: make a list.

“Okay, guess what. We are going to write down everything you do during the school day. Everything! So, what do you do first? Oh, let’s start with this: ‘Snuggle with mom under the blanket on the couch.’ Right?”

“Yup. Then I go to school.”

“Okay, but first, is snuggling with mom something that changes every day, or is it the same?”

“It’s the same!”

“So I’m going to write ‘S’ next to it. Then Daddy drives you to school. That’s the same every day, too.”

We continued the list, me writing furiously and ignoring my almost two year old as she used her straw to grind together lima beans and chicken pieces at the bottom of her Shopkins cup.

“Then we do lunch count,” my oldest was saying, “and then we do Bible lesson. Those are the same, so put ‘S’s.” She was catching on.

We stopped at morning recess.

“Look, sweetie! Look how many things are on your list already! Eleven things–and we’re only up to morning recess! Wow, sweetheart. No wonder the day seems long. You are doing soooo much more at school than you do at home with Mom. You should be really proud of yourself.”

She squirmed a little.

“In fact, why don’t you say it? Come on. Say, ‘I’m proud of myself.'”

She looked down at her plate, and finally squeaked out, “I’m proud of myself.”

“Yay!! And I’m so proud of you, too.”

“But…I’m also scared.” She looked relieved just admitting it.

“That’s okay! You can feel two things at the same time! That’s what Daniel Tiger always says. And you know what? There have been times when I’ve been really scared, but also very proud of myself at the same time.”


“Yes, like when I went into the hospital to have each one of you girls.” I realized that example could open up a big ol’ Pandora’s Box, so I quickly continued: “And when you’re scared, sweetheart, just think about this list. Because look at it again. Are there more ‘Same’ things, or ‘Different’ things?

“Same! There are…” She bent over the list. “Eight ‘Same’ things. And one, two, three ‘Different.'”

“Yes. So tomorrow, I want you to remember: There are always more ‘Same’ things than ‘Different’ things. We can put this list in your backpack if you want. And when you do those things that are different, I want you to say, ‘I’m proud of myself.'”

That was Wednesday night. Yesterday morning, Thursday, drop-off was better. She still teared up, but she didn’t cling to my husband like she had been doing. She came home happy and full of news for her inquisitive younger sisters.

Yes, with patience and a little inspiration from the Lord, we are adjusting.


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