FULL DISCLOSURE – I have never attended a kindergarten orientation. Yes, my twin daughters are about to start first grade (what?), but we moved to Fairfield County last spring and did not close on our house until the end of July. I got them registered in mid-August and the first time they ever laid eyes on their school, their classroom, or their teacher was the day before school started. So, yeah.
It was chaotic. It was scary. Sometimes, I think, more for me than for them. Because yes, kids are resilient, and can handle just about anything life throws at them.
So for me, this whole year was a huge education. Learning the differences between the Midwest and Fairfield County; socially, culturally, and economically. And yes, there are some differences. HUGE differences. And yet, in many ways, I have found that people are people no matter where you live. And, spoiler alert, we ALL thrived through that first year in school.
Here, though, are a few things I wished I had known: some, so I would have done a few things differently, and some so that I just would have been more prepared.
1. Oh Dear Lord the money asks – There are school fundraisers. There are classroom treasuries. There are book sales. And book fairs. And school store. And holiday boutique. And definitely start collecting box tops now, so your kid has a lottery-like chance of winning a Shopkin. Oh – and they want to put up a new playground. And now they have to INSTALL the playground. Do you see where I am going with this? Take an envelope. Put it in your kitchen. Now take all the money out of your wallet, and that of your co-parent, and put it in this envelope. Do this at least once every four days. You should be fine now.
2. You are most likely not going to like every parent that you meet. Yes, this is just a part of life. But in this situation, depending on how active you are able to be in the classroom, you may get to see each other quite a bit. So here are a few pieces of sub-advice I would give you
- Do NOT friend every person you meet on social media until you have had a chance to get to know him/her. Then decide if you want to let him/her into that part of your world and see you in the way you portray yourself there. If you get an invitation from someone, just hold off until you’ve had a chance to vet them to your satisfaction. You can always pretend that you didn’t see the invite
- Try to get some one on one time with a parent that you didn’t click with immediately. Oftentimes a first impression might have been out of context, and when you get some time to concentrate, you might find some common ground.
- It doesn’t really matter. In the end, you won’t like everyone and everyone won’t like you, so just accept it and move on.
3. Trust the teacher, trust the administration, trust the school. These people are professionals. They are there for no other reason than to educate your child, and all the other children in the school. Not just YOUR child, but ALL THE CHILDREN IN THE SCHOOL. Treat them with respect. Ask questions in an open way. Make sure you get all the facts, or as many of them as you can, before you jump to conclusions. And all that being said,
- Trust your gut. If something is not working for you, seek to understand, and then resolve. Remember that you are a part of a larger community and depending on your other kids, you might just be dealing with this school for the better part of a DECADE. My kids’ principal might not be my best friend (nor should she be) but I let her know that I support her and respect her and we have a very amiable relationship.
4. It’s OK to say no. There is going to be a very large amount of time that you will be asked to volunteer. Remember all those money asks I told you about? They need you to cashier. They need you to chaperone. They need you to read to the kids in the classroom. There were no fewer than 6 special events at the school. The International Festival. The Luau. Put your FOMO aside and only go to what you want to go to. Your kids will survive missing The Dads Club movie night. It’s a word. And that word will set you free. NO. NO. no. no.
5. Let your kid ride the bus. If you are harboring fear that something might happen to your kid on the bus, please stop. Because not only are your fears (mostly) unfounded, you are doing several very dangerous things with this decision. Again, you are broadcasting that you do not trust the administration to take proper care of your child, but you are also telling your neighbors, most of which are probably lovely people, that you do not trust THEIR children to not hurt your child. You are also telling your child that the bus (and by extension the outside world) is something to be feared, which it is not. Please don’t do this to yourself and your child. Putting my 5-year-old girls on a bus last September was terrifying. I cried. But they got to school just fine. No, I did not follow the bus in my car. I went for a run. And I cried. And then at the end of that very terrifying first day, my husband and I did not make it to the stop in time, and the bus drove away with our kids on it. And we both lost our ever loving minds. And yet it was all OK in the end. Because it just was.
If this fall is your first foray into your kids going to school full time, take heart. It is a rite of passage. You did it, your mom did it, and people for the last significant amount of time have done it (Sorry – I am not a historian so I don’t want to put a definite time frame and have the history police on my tail).
You will survive Kindergarten. So will your child. You will actually love a lot of it. Some of it will be hard. It’s a lot like life. So experience it. All of it.