Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kindergarten, Blessed Kindergarten

We are nearly through the first week of kindergarten.  One more early morning until I can tell my alarm clock where it can stick that beep.  And no, six thirty won't ever get any easier.  I worked for years at a job that required me to be up between 5:45 and six, and it NEVER was anything less than a soul-sucking drag.  But I digress.

On Tuesday morning, we embarked on that new journey of kindergarten (and new for me, public school kindergarten.)  After five and a half years of being at Kiddo's constant beck and call, I am a free woman every weekday between 7:30 and 2:45.  And it is glorious.  Next week, my school starts back, and I'll be teaching three days a week, but that'll be great, too.  I can still eat my lunch in peace and quiet, and nobody will ask me why my shoes are that color red or whether or not they will be allowed to watch TV next Thursday at 4:15.  (Admittedly, freshmen questions aren't always a vast improvement, but at least they won't be touching me while they ask.)  It's a grand time to be alive.

Now before you write me off as the worst parent ever, no wait, just go ahead and write me off because if you don't get this, then you either don't have kids, or we are very different people who may never completely understand one another.  (That's okay.  Just don't touch me.)  Back to my K-5 narrative...

Kiddo was so massively excited about Tuesday, that I've been considering sedation for the past two weeks (for one of us, not saying which.)  So Tuesday morning dawned bright and bouncy and with new clothes and shoes.  We managed to get out the door with everything (including Kiddo) and made it to the madhouse that is first day at an elementary school.  EVERYONE was walking their kids inside, and the halls were like a VR simulation of a salmon swimming upstream.  The thought of my petite five year old finding her way through that madness every morning gave me the vapors, and I pushed the thought to the back of my mind.

In the classroom, the parentals instantly ceased to exist as Kiddo marched in and up to her teacher like a boss.  I don't think she acknowledged us once after she crossed the classroom threshold.  She's awesome like that.  We hightailed it (well, a squeeze between a million people version of hightailing it) out of there and on with our days.  There were no tears on anyone's part, and I got so much done on my first day of school that I should probably get some kind of award or something.  Maybe a statue on the front lawn.  Or a song.  Yeah, write me a song and make it sound like Billy Joel.

After navigating the carline, I managed to pick-up my newly-minted kindergartener and head to Barnes & Noble for her post-first-day-of-school treat.  Sometime between eight o'clock and the moment when she lugged her new tote bag to the car, Kiddo had morphed into this kindergarten old-hand who spoke of her day's activities with a jaded nonchalance.  She has started using terms like "first bell" and lamenting too-short recess breaks.  Dinner conversations will never be the same.

This morning was a bit different than Tuesday morning.  Yes, I still had everything out and ready to go the night before (this is a necessity for non-morning people like me.)  But Kiddo dragged and dallied, and I nearly lost my mind.  (I didn't even manage to get a picture of her in her adorable new school dress.) But you know what?  She and her daddy still walked out that door at 7:22, and I was alone with my Earl Grey and laptop from that point on.  Ah the life of the introverted mom of a school-aged child.  (And no one is touching me till at least 2:45!)

All joking and rejoicing aside, however, this hasn't been a simple journey/decision.  I never attended public school, and in fact, didn't even attend a kind of brick-and-mortar school half of the time.  I knew we didn't want to homeschool, but beyond that we were a bit at sea regarding the where-do-we-send-her question.  There was the more liberal side of me that was leaning toward the whole public-schools-won't-improve-if-we-don't-send-our-kids-there argument, but then there was the less attractive side of me whispering, "She's smart.  She's reading already.  She's advanced.  Send her to private for a better education."  Of course, money played into the decision as well.  Do we make the massive financial sacrifice that is tuition, or do we send her to public so that we can afford things like dance/music/art lessons and a new car sometime in the next thirteen years?

We debated/prayed over these questions for a long time.  Ultimately, however, we decided to go with our local, zoned-for public school.  Kiddo's education is extremely important to us.  We both went to college, and I went to grad school, and we have similar ambitions for her.  But. And it's a big but.  We also want other things for her.  We want her to know that she's special, yes, but never to think she's better.  We want her to value diversity and equality.  We want her to learn kindness and tolerance.  Not that you can't learn those things when you're homeschooled or attend private school, but in our relatively small circle, school seems like the best place (or at least one of the first places) to encounter people who look and think differently than you.  As tempting as it is to protect and shelter our precious girl, it is imperative to us (and especially meaningful to me) that I stay focused on our primary goal: preparing Kiddo to live and function without us.  That is our job as parents.  It's not a pretty or a particularly happy thought, but it remains true.  One day, we won't be here to take her to church or read her books or help her navigate the world and its bureaucracy (incidentally, I totally had to look up how to spell that word.  I just couldn't get it right.)  She might as well jump right in and start learning how to manage now while we're still here to help.

 So that's our first day of school experience.  No tears from anyone.  All smiles.  Now it's time for me to get back to work on lesson plans and trying to stay awake.  Six-thirty is killing me, and the old Earl of Grey isn't holding up his end of the caffeine bargain.  Until next time.

Edit/clarification: This is a post about our personal decision/thoughts regarding school.  It is not meant to reflect on anyone else's choices for their children/families.  We're all just doing what we think is best for our particular child/family.  Unless you're sending your kid to Nazi Dictator Day School, I'm not judging your choices.

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