My baby, the youngest of my three children, started Kindergarten this year. Which means that for the 3rd time, I sat through a Kindergarten information meeting telling me all the things I need to know about having a Kindergartener. They teachers and school staff talked about the school rules, lunch accounts, curriculum, available services, and school supplies.
There were a few items that were missing from their list, however. Certain tidbits of information that would be good for all parents to know, but probably won’t be shared.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Get involved at school
We’ve all heard this one. There is a wealth of research that shows that having involved parents will help a child’s academic success. But there is a more selfish reason to get involved. It will serve you well as your child goes through school.
There are many ways to become involved in your kids’ school. PTA/ PTO is a good one. If you’re into that sort of thing. Which I am not. At all. I would rather gouge my eyes out than talk about raising money. Luckily, there are plenty of other opportunities to help, and most importantly, be visible. I will explain why in a moment. You could volunteer to be on a school improvement team, be a room parent for parties, help in classrooms, volunteer at family nights, go have lunch with your kids every so often. It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters that you are seen at school by the principal and that he or she could pick you out at least by face, if not name, if needed.
Why? Because there will be a time in your child’s elementary career when you will need the principal to be on your side. I have had to talk to my oldest son’s principal about a bullying incident. He knew me from being involved with the school improvement team and he handled it. He shut that bullying down! Would he have done that if he didn’t know me well? Probably. But having an “in” definitely doesn’t hurt.
2. Your child will develop his own little world. A world that doesn’t involve you.
Okay, I admit it. I can be a bit of a “smother”. When I watch “The Goldbergs” I always take Beverly’s side. I can relate to that woman. I love my own little smoochies, too, and cry over disgusting, ratty baby blankets. Until my kids went to Kindergarten, I was able to control them like my Spanx control my flabby belly. I knew where my kids were, who they were with, who their friends were, what they ate, when they pooped, and when they needed a tissue.
Once they went off to Kindergarten, though, I lost all that control. Now my baby spends 10 hours at school. TEN HOURS! He goes to the before and after school care while I work. That’s almost half his day! And 10 of the 14 hours I have left with him he spends sleeping. I have no clue what that dude does all day, who he talks to, what he eats. I ask him when he gets home. “What did you have for lunch today?” He usually mumbles something like “I don’t know. Meat.”
When we’re walking through the grocery store on the week-ends, he can be found waving to all his little peeps. “Hey, Braden! Wassup, Malachi?” Who ARE these people? Who is this kid who knows people I don’t know? And when did he learn to say "wassup"? My little baby is out in the world. Without me. <sob>
3. Your child will learn new words
Because they are around people you don’t know, kids learn a lot of new and different things from many new people: their teachers, their new friends, older kids in the bathroom. When my oldest went to Kindergarten, he came home saying things like “sit on your pockets!” and “one-two-three, eyes on me!” He also learned other words that we didn’t say in our house. Butt instead of bottom, fart instead of toot. And worse. “Mom? What’s ‘fuck’?”
“Um…. WHAT? Where did you hear that?”
“It was written on the slide and I read it.”
4. Your child will have a strange odor
This is something they don’t tell you and something for which I was wholly unprepared. After a full day at school, my kid stinks! Partly it is from wearing shoes for 10 hours. At home he is barefoot 98% of the time. Those little tootsies need some air out time or they get a little ripe. Partly it is from whatever meat he happened to eat at lunch and the inevitable ketchup or ranch or applesauce he spilled on his shirt. Partly it is from not having his momma around to wipe his face after meals. There’s a very real, very distinct odor that is a cross between sweat socks, a gymnasium, an orange grove, and a wet dog.
5. You don’t have to keep every project your child brings home
Your Kindergartener will bring home a shit ton of papers and projects. If this is your first school experience, you will want to keep each and every darling art project. Don’t. Seriously. You will be buried in construction paper if you try to do that.
You can come up with your own system for keeping only the most important pieces. I, personally, keep those projects or artwork that show my son’s age. Handprints, self-portraits, “When I Grow Up….”, etc. Those will be fun for him to look at years later. I keep a file folder for each school year. That’s it. His daily decodable readers and ABC coloring pages go promptly in the trash can.
Which leads me to my next point: You need to be a stealth ninja when disposing of any papers your kid brings home. If you are spotted throwing any of his precious work in the trash, there will be hell to pay the likes of which you have never seen. I have been known to smuggle papers out to the recycling bin with the newspaper or in a cereal box.
None of the above mentioned points are listed in the student handbook. You will not find them on the school website. These five stand out for me. For those mommas who have been through Kindergarten, what else do you think other parents should know?