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Confession: Kindergarten Kicked My Butt

Everyone kept asking for months before my oldest started kindergarten: “So, are you sad? Are you nervous? Do you think you’ll cry?” And my answer was always heck no!

For one, my daughter adored preschool. She is quick to learn and thrives in a structured environment. I knew if she got a teacher who appreciated her quirks, kindergarten would totally be her jam. And I was right.

For another, she and I get along much better when we get some time apart from each other. That old saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is 100% true for us. I figured kindergarten would give us an opportunity to appreciate our time together more. And again, I was right.

Between her marvelous teacher, the great staff + administration at her school, and her school-loving personality, kindergarten should’ve been a breeze.

And it was. For her.

I, on the other hand, got my butt kicked.


It started with the schedule. As a stay-at-home mom, I hadn’t had a schedule imposed on me for years, and suddenly my weekdays revolved around school bells again.

I was used to rolling out of bed whenever the kids woke me up…sometimes at 6, sometimes at 8, but never before I absolutely had to. But once kindergarten started, that was over. She needed to be dropped off before 8:05. That meant she had to be awake + dressed + fed, with shoes on + hair done, homework + snack + full water bottle in her backpack. If my husband had already gone to work or was out of town, I had to haul all three of my little ones on the school drop-off.

Goodbye, leisurely mornings. Hello, Mr. Crossing Guard, why yes I am still in my pajamas with crazy bedhead and two feral-looking children in my single stroller, thanks for noticing.

Once she was at school I figured kindergarten wouldn’t affect my day until I picked her up at 2:25. Wrong. The baby took a morning nap at 9:30, so there wasn’t really time to do anything between drop-off and that besides eat breakfast and shower. After his nap we had lunch. Then he had another nap in the afternoon…but should I put him down before we have to pick her up? Wait till she’s home from school? And when in there do I find time to take my 3-year-old to preschool and pick her up?

Baby boy’s naps got shuffled or skipped as needed, because what else could I do? He and I were both cranky about that for a long time.

Juggling all those naps and drop-offs and pick-ups, I felt tied to the house. I never seemed to have enough time to run to the grocery store or the library. And I sure didn’t want to do it after school when I had all three kids with me again.

We ate pancakes for dinner a lot the first few weeks of kindergarten.

Then there was homework. Do I make her do it right after school? Just before dinner? She wasn’t reading independently at the beginning of the school year, so I had to walk her through everything. Of course the 3-year-old wanted to be involved; she liked to “help” by shouting out random numbers and letters, or by insisting that I listen to her stories and songs right this very minute. And the baby didn’t want to be left out. So every afternoon I found myself struggling to say phonograms the right way–“It’s ‘oh, oo, uff, off, aw, ow,’ Mom. Why do you always get it wrong?”–while bouncing a baby who kept trying to grab the spelling list out of my hand and stuff it in his mouth, all while my preschooler is belting “You Are My Sunshine” from across the room.

And my husband wants to know why I have headaches so often.

Even as I struggled to figure all that out, I wanted to be involved. I’ve been a teacher, I know how hard it is. So I thought I’d sign up to help in the classroom.

I immediately regretted this decision.

First off, apparently when I signed up I forgot that I have two other children at home. Was I supposed to just bring them with me while I try to teach a bunch of squirrelly 5-year-olds about Van Gogh? Hard pass, thanks. I begged off for a few months before my husband arranged to go to work late on the mornings I spent at kindergarten. Whew.

Other rookie mistakes I made?

  • Contributing to every fundraiser for the first quarter. (I am now completely broke.)
  • Not charging my phone before class performances. (It died while my girl was in the middle of singing the sweetest Thanksgiving song and I nearly cried.)
  • Forgetting to return her permission slip/book order/library book/teacher requested item of the week on time. (How am I supposed to remember ALL THE THINGS?)
  • Sending her to school in a white polo shirt + khaki skirt with blackberries in her lunch box. (The stains were so bad I just threw her shirt away.)

Basically I was completely unprepared for how all-consuming kindergarten was going to be. I mean, it’s been great for her, of course. She has flourished, soaking in all the learning she can and making new best friends every day.

But it was really hard for me. Not because I missed my girl during the day–although sometimes I still do–but because I had no idea what I was doing.

And now–just when I finally feel like I have a handle on things–the school year is over. Summer will be here and gone before we know it. And then we’ll do it all over again.

Anybody have any tips to help this mama survive first grade?

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