You Cry, I'll Cry, We'll All Cry for Kindergarten!

Our city has a “River City Roundup” in September. It's a week where there are rodeos, livestock shows, parades, etc. For some reason, the elementary school I went to always celebrated this week with gusto. On Friday, we were encouraged to wear cowboy/ cowgirl gear and had lunches involving “six shooter sandwiches” and “yee-haw yogurt”. It was a hootenanny of time!

Because of that memorable week, I always associated “River City Roundup” with another school event that occurred each year- Kindergarten Round Up.  My little brain thought that Kindergarten Round Up involved wearing jeans, plaid shirts and handkerchiefs and twirling lassos to collect all the little incoming Kindergarteners.

Now I know I was slightly off in my interpretation. We can’t use rope lassos on 4 and 5 year olds. Or ride horses in school. We can say “Howdy, pardner” and shout “Yee-Haw!” but we might scare the poor children and it’s not really relevant.

My first experience with Kindergarten Round Up with my own children occurred seven years ago with my oldest. Four years ago I sent my middle child. Today was my last time rounding up my child for kindergarten when I took my baby for his big day.

I started the day with a trip to Target while he was at preschool where I picked out a darling new outfit for him and some cute new shoes. We rushed home from preschool so I could feed him lunch and get him ready for his big afternoon. He seemed very excited and had a lot of questions.

“Will I be in Kindergarten or in one of the grades?”

“How can I be in 3rd grade if I can’t multiply?”

“What if my teacher doesn’t know how to multiply or divide?”

“Will I get in trouble if I can’t spell “category?”

“How about Diplodocus?”

I attempted to soothe his fears and then it was time to get dressed. He refused.

“I want to wear what I have on!”

“But what you have on is dirty. Look! I bought you a whole, brand new outfit! Even new shoes!”

“I don’t like those! I don’t want to wear that!”

And then the waterworks started.

“But buddy! This outfit looks so nice. Kindergarten Round Up is a special day! You should dress up so Mommy can take pictures!”

He was inconsolably crying by now, and running around the room trying to avoid having me change his clothes. My usually very calm, very easy going child, was having a full on meltdown because he didn’t want to wear what I bought. I think it was more about the anxiety he had about the day than the outfit. I kept trying to shove him in the clothes despite his very vocal protests.  

My husband, who had come home from lunch, suddenly appeared in the doorway.

“Sweetheart…..” he quietly started, but I knew what he was going to say. I knew that this was a fight I didn’t need to fight. I knew that the darling outfit from Target was not going to get worn on this special day. I knew it was time to throw in the towel.

“Okay, buddy. Just pick out something else to wear then. Something clean.”

He put on an old t-shirt, some old shorts, and his nasty, dirty red, white, and blue Crocs that he wears everywhere. We got the snot off his face and dried his tears and headed to school.  

I looked in the rearview mirror when we were almost there and saw that his little lower lip was quivering and he was gallantly trying to not cry.

“What’s wrong, honey??”

“I’m just very nervous.”

And that’s when I lost it. My lip started quivering and I was gallantly trying not to cry. It hit me at that moment. My baby is going to kindergarten. My baby is not a baby any more. And it doesn’t matter what he wears to Round Up. What matters is that I help him see that, even though he is nervous, everything will be fine. What matters is that he is starting his life of education at this very moment. What matters is that he feels safe and confident and ready to take on the world.

So we pulled ourselves together and we marched up to that school hand in hand. I gave him a quick hug and let the secretary walk him back to the kindergarten rooms so it would be less traumatic for both of us. I knew he would be fine. I wasn’t sure about myself.

When I picked him up two hours later, he was all smiles. He had a great time and is ready to start kindergarten tomorrow.

“Mom? I’m sorry I didn’t want to wear the outfit you bought.”

“It’s okay, buddy! It doesn’t matter what you wear. But maybe you can wear the new outfit again sometime.”

As soon as he got in the door, he went upstairs and changed. Then he asked me to take his picture. Gosh, I love that kid. He is no longer my baby. He is growing up. He is headed to Kindergarten.

Hang onto your hat, Mama! It could be to be a wild rodeo! Yee-haw!