Ruminations on Kindergarten

My daughter is starting kindergarten on Monday.  Let me repeat this, my daughter, the small creature who at one point delighted in playing soccer with my internal organs, the baby who used to fit neatly in the crook of my arm, the kid who was the terror of the toddler room, is starting kindergarten. 

When The Fiend was younger people would say things to me along the lines of, “Make the most of this time while it lasts” or “They grow up so fast”.  These pearls of wisdom most often came in response to The Fiend screaming at the top of her lungs in the grocery store or after an incident of over the top honesty toddler style (Mommy that guy has boobs!).  In that context I found them terribly annoying.

If someone were to say either of these things to me today, I might burst into tears.  How did this happen?  How did five years go by without my noticing?  How is it possible that I got old enough to have a kid in kindergarten?

This precocious and spirited kid is about to be unleashed on the public school system I can’t help but have two thoughts.  “She’s grown up so fast” and “Her teacher has no idea what’s she’s in for.”

The Fiend is no longer a baby or a toddler or a preschooler.  She is a school aged child.  This is all at once awe-inspiring, flabbergasting and exciting.  But mostly it’s scary.  Up until yesterday I drove her to preschool and left her in the care of no less than three teachers.  The bathroom was right inside the classroom.  They didn’t go to a cafeteria for lunch.  And did I mention there were three sets of adult eyes at all times?

On Monday I will place my most precious possession on a school bus full of children, none of whom will be wearing seat belts.  The bus driver will be the one to make sure she doesn’t climb out the window, run up and down the aisle while the bus is in motion or try to climb out the escape hatch.  If you know The Fiend you understand these things, as well as others that I can’t even conceive of, are well within the realm of possibility.

The adult at the end of the ride will be the one to guide her to her classroom when she gets off the bus at school.  I will have to believe the person charged with the task is up to the challenge.  I will have to accept that The Fiend’s legs are short so it won’t be too hard to catch her when she eventually tries to escape.

The teachers and administrators will have the task of ensuring that she doesn’t get lost or decide to exploring on the way back from a bathroom break. I will have to will myself not to panic at the thought of The Fiend with a hall pass.

I will have to accept that all these folks have been doing this for a long time.  There are systems in place, checks and balances.  Surely losing a kindergartener is a rare experience.  But The Fiend is pretty rare.

Of course the reality is The Fiend is a bright, well-behaved (for everyone but me) kid.  I know that the teachers and busdrivers and adminstrators are highly competent, perhaps more so than I.  Everything will be fine.  In fact it will probably go swimmingly.  She may never want to come home.

Then why do I wake up in the middle of the night worried the teacher will be a slave to procedure who will make it her life’s goal the break The Fiend’s sassy spirit?  Or sweat when I see a schoolbus?  Or cry everytime I see a backpack? 

Obviously innumberable mothers and children have succesfully navigated this process.  There is no reason to think that we are so unique that we should be any different.  And not all the feelings are bad.  I swell with pride when she talks about how she’s going to ride the school bus and learn to read and eat in the cafeteria.  I am pleased as punch to see her so excited to ride the bus.  I smile broadly when she checks and rechecks her backpack to make sure everything is in order.  

I think the thing that is so difficult about kindergarten is the realization that time is short.  Your baby is no longer a baby.  Even though The Fiend has been in daycare from 18 months on, being in school seems so different.  I’m not ready to let her go yet, not even a little.  But she is ready.  My little girl is embarking on the epic journey of education which inevitably will lead to her leaving the nest.  I miss her already.

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