“Back to School” marketing has been on the radios and website banners since July, but for most reading this blog it’s not returning to school, but starting this new chapter in your little ones life. It’s hard to believe you’re at this juncture, when it was just yesterday that you held your newborn baby in your arms. But no, three or four years have passed and your baby isn’t so small anymore, in fact, she’s ready to start school. Depending on your province and your local school, your child might be entering junior kindergarten as young as age three, or senior kindergarten at age four or five, but either way, it sure feels like the years have sped by.
All the Feelings
Having your child start Kindergarten is a rite of passage that usually includes a variety of emotions. A blend of concern, excitement, nerves, and pride are the usual Kindergarten cocktail and you’re probably feeling them all in equal measure. My advice to parents in this stage of life is to lean into your emotions and allow yourself to feel them all so long as you can be an encouraging and strong support to your child, who is undoubtedly feeling similarly. Experiencing these major life events is part of being human and the intermingling of fear and joy, anxiety and excitement are what the best moments usually entail. I suggest journaling your feelings during these next few weeks – putting your experience to paper (or keyboard) is often a helpful release. If you choose to write down your thoughts, you’ll have a beautiful keep sake for your child some day to read all about his first day of school and how deeply he was loved by his family as to cause such concern! Talk about school with your little one and ask her how she feels about starting at a new school and having a new teacher. Offer vocabulary if you’re receiving neutral answers. It’s often the case that children don’t know how to express themselves but that doesn’t mean they don’t have deep thoughts! Spend these next few weeks preparing yourselves for the first day – brainstorm lunch ideas, buy the supplies, make sure your child will be able to get out the door at the appointed time – so you can be fully present for the first day without the stresses of small details.
Marking the Moment
Once the big day arrives, consider marking it in a memorable way. When my eldest daughter started kindergarten, her wish was to have the whole family walk her to school. Thankfully my husband and I were able to arrange work around this morning stroll and our younger two children were able to come with us too – the whole family walked the few blocks to school and waved her off as a united front. I did my best to keep it together during our walk and as we said our goodbyes – it’s important to be strong for our kids, especially as they’re doing the scary thing; not us! – but definitely wept on the walk home. Maybe you’ll choose a special breakfast on the first day, or even go to an early bird diner for breakfast on the way to school. Likewise, celebrate in some small way as your child comes home from his first day. Let him know you’re proud of his accomplishment and excited for him on this new journey. Our youngest starts kindergarten this year and we’re planning to go out for a family dinner at our favourite local restaurant to mark the occasion. And even if you hated this tradition as a kid, don’t even think about skipping the first day of school pictures! As traditional and silly as they may seem, it’s a classic and fun thing to do that takes no time at all. I may not have liked the rushed photo session as a highschooler, but as an adult, I love looking back on these pictures. One year I completely forgot to take my kid’s pictures so I took them after school instead. Just document the day somehow, in your way. Future you and your future children will thank you!
Whether we feel ready or not, and it’s time for the next step. Kindergarten is the best possible entry into the world of academics. They learn through play, the classrooms are usually cozy and inviting, and nap time is part of the curriculum. I know part of me wishes they would stay small forever, but another larger part knows that seeing our babies grow, mature, and become who they’re destined to be is far better than cherishing the fleeting early days. So parents, send them off with confidence and courage and be ready to be their soft place to land when they come home. You’ve raised them for this moment and many others to come, so embrace the season with joy.