Two Jews on Parenting: Ready? Oh, K.

The Two Jews on Parenting both have 5-year old boys. One has an earlier birthday and is finishing up kindergarten, while the other will start this September. In this latest edition, The TJoP discuss expectations: which were met and which are yet to come.
Jeff says:
One of these 5 year olds is starting kindergarten. The other one is finishing. And as usual, their parents have a lot to say about it.
I cannot even fathom that my little boy is going to be in kindergarten in a few short months – from the savvy veteran in Pre-K to the rookie in elementary school (undecided as of this writing). I can remember those first days in daycare when my little Sam clung to me for dear life and had to be pried off me by two adults. I can remember those cries of “Stay with me” and “Don’t go.”
And before I know it, he’ll be taking a bus – a big boy heading to kindergarten. He says he’s excited for the bus, but I’m not sure if I am. I’ll put on a good face for him and tell him to be brave, but inside I’ll be Jell-O – or since it’s TC Jewfolk, Kojel. And I’m certainly not going to be very productive that day, no matter how hard I try.
The whole process of deciding which kindergarten and which program has been daunting. Of course, I’m spoiled; and any school around here would be a fine choice. But it certainly isn’t as easy as it was for my parents.
I’ll be nervous for Sam that he’ll have to trust a whole new set of strange adults. And I’ll be nervous that he’ll be in a place with some kids twice his age. I know (but I won’t tell him of course) that he won’t see some of his Pre-K friends as much… or ever again. He might play sports with some and go to Hebrew school or camp with others, but the reality is that some will just go their separate ways. In my kindergarten class, there were some kids who advanced with me through high school and some who I never saw again. And then there was Paul, who seemingly disappeared until he popped up in the local news for mugging Donald Trump’s mother (true story).
I’ll find comfort knowing that he’ll probably know a few kids on the bus and in his class. I’ll find comfort knowing that I won’t be alone with these feelings. And I’ll find comfort knowing that one of Sam’s many nicknames is “Mr. Friendly.”
I’m hoping that homework will continue to be something exciting and not a chore like brushing teeth, getting dressed, or eating. I’m hoping that the big bad world of kindergarten will provide new experiences that Pre-K simply can’t offer.
And then there are the really selfish things. When you have a kid who doesn’t eat peanut butter or tuna or most forms of cheese, packing a kosher dairy lunch can be a chore. The rotation currently consists of fake chicken, bread with cream cheese, and cereal. I can’t wait to throw in a turkey sandwich or some leftover steak.
I know it’ll all be fine, but I’ll certainly be savoring these next few months.
Carin says:
Henry has been telling people he’s “almost in first grade” since January. This weekend, I realized I needed to stop correcting him; in 6 weeks, two days before he turns 6, he’ll be done with kindergarten. My baby! Cue “Sunrise, sunset.
When your baby starts kindergarten, there’s some amount of expected mishegas. And as the day approaches we all get stressed out. To start school in this big, unknown building! To put your tiny person on a bus and wave goodbye. It’s normal to worry about these things. It’s a big deal – even when your kid has been in preschool, kindergarten is a world with much bigger kids (Henry’s school is a K-5). There are no naps. There are actual report cards. In preschool, we could play hooky, see a movie, visit Grandma on a Tuesday, but kindergarten is real school; attendance counts. Kindergarten is the beginning of a journey that’s going to stretch on for at least twice as long as their entire life so far. You kiss them goodbye and they stagger away, swaying under the weight of a backpack that holds 80% of their worldly possessions; and the next thing you know, they’re adults.
Of course I was worried. How would my non-stop talker finish lunch in 15 minutes? I worried that he wouldn’t make friends easily, about whether he’d finally grasp the difference between sharing important information and tattling. I worried that, with a June birthday, he’d be the smallest and youngest and an easy target; I worried that in a room with kids 8 and 9 months older than him, he’d be pinpointed by the teacher as immature, fidgety, a problem.
So we prepared. We practiced eating more quickly. He tied and untied and tied his shoes again. We went over the routine until we were all confident. And when Henry started kindergarten, we started kindergarten with him. I volunteered in his classroom, my husband went to parent-teacher conferences. We went as a family to Turkey Bingo, Family Fun and Fitness nights, the winter concert, the anti-bullying assembly, the fundraising pancake breakfast. We’ve formed relationships with other families, teachers and staff. This summer, we’ll spend some time working in the school’s community garden. Somewhere during kindergarten, school stopped being an unknown building where we send our baby everyday and became the hub of our new community.
It seems like a lifetime since a year ago, when we went to Kindergarten Roundup at our elementary school. And in that lifetime, we’ve all learned a lot. Henry learned to read, to play dodgeball, to play something called head dodgeball. He quickly learned that if he talked instead of eating at lunchtime, the afternoon was going to feel very long. He learned that if your best friend falls asleep on the bus, you should wake him up when you get to your stop and not just leave him there to end up miles away from home. He learned about ants and the food pyramid and Zumba and the difference between goods and services. Some kids didn’t want to be his friend, but enough did. He learned to speak up without tattling. He’s learning to manage his impatience as his friends lose teeth and his remain non-wiggly and firmly in place.
I continually learn that we can’t control everything that happens to them, we can only be here for them when they get home to help them sort it all out, make sense of the world, and find a path through it. So to the incoming kindergarten families, we welcome you and salute you. It will be great. The first rule of the school bus is never leave a man behind. And make room in your freezer before Turkey Bingo, because you might be a winner. Happy almost first grade, H.M.