Kindergarten in Hawaii started August 5th. It’s been 4 weeks of school and I have been a mess all three weeks. A. HOT. MESS.
But not in the way you think. There are parents who are struggling with the transition to Kindergarten because their children are struggling. Children who are having a difficult time separating and are crying and clinging to them at the doors. If that is you...I get it. It is tough.
There are parents who are struggling because their little boy/girl “is growing up too fast.” This is a huge transition when kids go from “little kids” to “big kids” and you might be sad as a parent to transition into this phase. If that is you. I get it… It is tough.
For my child, the transition at drop off has been okay (an expected amount of nervousness about not knowing anyone and not knowing what to do), but after years of daycare and Pre-K, it only took a couple of days before she understood the new routine. And just a little over a week to identify her new best friend.
And I actually LOVE seeing my child grow up. I think it’s awesome that she can jump out of the car and get breakfast and go to her classroom (even though she already had one day that she was late to class because she was busy talking with her friends).
It started with the least fun scavenger hunt ever (school supply shopping).
Oh geez...can you just send me a bill and take care of it for me? This used to be fun, but 8 rolls of paper towels later, I have a cart full of random supplies and an empty wallet. Then the school uniforms (I want to buy cute clothes, not a bunch of school shirts and khaki pants.) Boo.
And then they need a very specific size cardboard box DECORATED for their desk. Three Costco trips and two additional grocery stores later, we were able to find said box.
Then comes the transition schedule!
The first two weeks that did this transitional schedule where I went for orientation one day, then she went for an hour for testing, then they did half days EVERY OTHER DAY, then an early release, and then full days.
Trying to figure out this schedule was driving me insane. I understand that it was designed to ease children into the structure of school, but I almost forgot to pick her up because the schedule was so weird. (Actually, my husband came to the rescue because I was on the other side of the island when i realize that her after school program’s transportation didn’t start until AFTER the transitional schedule was over).
Now that we are into “regular” days, it’s getting easier. But school starts later than I am used to dropping her off at day care. So we have this awkward 30 minutes where it’s too early for her to go to school but there’s nothing to actually do. And that is throwing off my whole morning routine.
Packing a lunch for a Kindergarten child is really not a difficult task. We are lucky that peanut butter is allowed (and that is her preferred sandwich), so making a sandwich every morning should not be a problem.
But remembering to buy HEALTHY snacks that do not have to be refrigerated and keeping them from eating these snacks during the week has been another challenge.
And then I’m like 50/50 on remembering the water bottle that she is allowed to keep at her desk throughout the day.
We are in a school that has not caught on to the research about homework in elementary school. (You can read about it here, but basically, many are now in agreement that it is not useful in elementary school). This school sends nightly worksheets (simple ones actually), but the expectations for perfection on penmanship are already a little excessive (in my opinion).
The Class Dojo app and messages, the red light/green light behavior charts, and the nightly homework are all things that I am familiar with because of my clients over the years.
As a parent, I am trying to “go along” with the system and bite my tongue so that I do not influence my child’s opinion. But the therapist in me was cringing when I had to sign the note agreeing that children on red would lose playtime. Actually, in Hawaii you are not allowed to use recess as a punishment.
Do I turn this into a fight or let it go? I signed it “I cautiously agree.”
My daughter literally shook her head at me and said, “I knew you were not going to like this one.”
So, yes I am a hot mess.
The transition to Kindergarten has been easy for my child. She loves to learn. She loves her teacher. She has already made a new best friend and has reunited with old friends that started Kindergarten last year. She packs her own lunch and does her homework before I get home from work (so far).
But, I still can’t remember what time school really starts, I forget her water bottle more days than not, and sent her to school today without even brushing her hair.
So, if you’re a hot mess mom because you can’t stop crying, because your child is already struggling with red light behavior throughout the week, because they are growing up too fast, or because your packed lunch consists of a grab bag of processed sugary foods. I get you.
I am right there with you. And I think the transition can be harder for us than it is for them.
Let’s all take a deep breath and be compassionate to ourselves. The truth is, we are not actually a hot mess at all. We just want to set our children up for success. And no one (despite the school supply drop off day or the hour long orientation) really prepared us for this.
What is the hardest part of the school year transition for you? Please share it with me!
Jennifer Taylor, LCSW, RPT is an experienced child and family therapist and public speaker who specializes in trauma, ADHD, and conduct problems. Discover more about her diverse clinical background and family. Reach out to Jennifer with questions or comments by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org
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