Friday, September 04, 2009

I Did Not Sleep At All Last Night. NOT AT ALL.

All dressed up and excited for the kindergarten Open House, September 3, 2009

I'm going to try to stay as positive as possible here, because I know Julia's new elementary school is relatively small (a good thing in my book), beloved in our town, and of very high quality, and I also know she's going to ultimately love kindergarten and will no doubt have a great year. But yesterday was the school's Meet-the-Teacher Open House, and as a new-elementary-school mama, my head is spinning just a little bit.

I hate to say it, but my first feeling entering Julia's kindergarten room yesterday afternoon for the Open House--I mean, after the sense of overwhelmedness that began when I realized that the ENTIRE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL was coming to this Open House and that it was therefore clearly going to be a giant mass of teeming families clogging every hallway and classroom, and hmmmm, mightn't there be a better way to welcome shy little new kindergarten children and their families to grade school?--was sadness. It was striking, the difference between her preschool classroom of only a few months ago and this new kindergarten room.

When I was in kindergarten, more than 30 years ago, there was a play-house corner, with toys and dolls. There was a little loft for playing and reading. There were giant blocks. It was still a room of play and young-child toys. Well, guess what, people? Kindergarten has changed. Julia's school room this year isn't decorated with bright toys and posters and pegs of dress-up clothes. It's not cute or particularly engaging; there was nothing there that elicited a gasp of joy or excitement from my daughter. It looks like big-kid school, like serious learning--not play. Which is what I thought was supposed to happen in first grade, but I guess kindergarten is the new first grade, and preschool is the new kindergarten.

Frankly, it makes me sad. She seems so little to be out of the playroom and into a room with computers and plain tables and chairs. Would you be moved to skip excitedly into a room that looked like this, if you were five?

That's me with Julia in the bottom left corner, surveying the scene.
Notice the fingers in the mouth.

The Open House was all right. It was overly crowded, chaotic, and overwhelming, but I guess that's how things are done. Julia was cheerful upon arriving, but quickly became subdued and nervous. She didn't seem excited about what she saw of school, unlike her reaction when she first saw her old preschool room at age three (and again at four). She sucked on her fingers the entire time. She seemed bewildered about the school's size, all the older children running around, and the many hallways and classrooms, even though I reminded her that she'd be with the kindergartners, in her own little room, with her teacher, and not roaming the entire school with big kids.

I tried not to wonder if we should have taken the time to consider, long ago, the local charter school, the one with the tiny classes and the individual attention and the teachers you stick with for more than one year. But it was so far away and the buses don't come to your house for that school.

I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that once I walked out of there at the end of Open House, I wouldn't see the inside of Julia's kindergarten room again until late-October parent-teacher conferences. How weird is that, to a first-time kindergarten mama, used to walking her child INTO a preschool room every day, chatting with the teacher every single time? To go visit once, shake a teacher's hand, and then be done for six weeks? To hardly know the teacher, to hardly be known by her? Crazy.

During the Open House, I was too busy (forms! paperwork! more forms! places to put your school supplies! nametags! scavenger hunt! noisy noisy busy!) to get too emotional or overly concerned about details--which was probably the whole point for us new-kindergartner parents--but there was one part of the kindergarten room that struck me. The teacher had put up a bulletin board of pictures made by last year's kindergartners for this year's incoming class. Each child's painting had some words of advice from the kindergarten graduates for the new five-year-olds starting this year.

Most of the pictures said things like "You will get to read books!" and "You will learn to write!"

Then there was this one, that made tears spring to my eyes and forced me to stop reading it aloud to Julia because of the catch in my throat.

"Don't be scared."

Thank you, Annika, whoever you are. You are a sweet first-grader.

Sigh. Onward to next Tuesday.


Nonna said...

Main thing to remember: Julia will very likely come home from her first day of kindergarten full of exciting tales to tell. Her nervousness will fall away fast. And remember: no crying until the bus pulls away! (That's Mama, not Julia!)

Shan said...

Yeah, and I won't have time to cry either, because an hour later I have to be at preschool orientation with Genevieve!

It's gonna be a big day, people...

donna said...

That is a big day for you! Just think, it's easier for everything to be on the same day because you only need to stress on one day, not two.

(What do you mean you aren't buying that?)

But, I totally agree with Nonna. Julia will love school. It's just her nature to take things slowly and be cautious.

Mnmom said...

Lina is concerned about Julia. She wants her to know that KG at their school is wonderful, and she's just going to love it! All three of mine did.

But they really should have Meet The Teacher for KGers on a separate day.

Shan said...


Lina is such a honey! I can't tell you how much it means to Julia to have me tell her these things: "Julia, Lina sent you a message! She says that you will LOVE kindergarten." I told her Lina wanted her to know that K would not always be as busy and crowded and noisy as the Open House, and she was so happy to hear that, and so proud that Lina had been thinking about her. So cute. :)

Julia is still (or again) excited. Every now and then she says something about being worried about how big it is, or that she'll get sick at school (she did not like the nurse's office), but she still seems excited. I'm worried how she'll react to the lack of free play/the change from preschool, but she'll get used to it I guess--they all do!

Please thank Lina for me for her kind words. You have a special kid there!!!

Jennifer Gorman said...

Holy cow, I just burst into tears. I could say it's just because I, too, have a new kindergartner, but...

I don't know you, but your blog seems lovely and your children are so lucky to have you. I recognize in you my own tendency to second-guess myself, to think, "Yes, but..." about nearly every positive thing that I do or experience. I hope you (and I) stop that, and find a way to fully embrace this marvelous experience that is parenthood. If I could, I would put that same picture up that lovely little girl did for you, for me and all other moms: "Don't be scared." Because we are, but we are not alone.