The Post Kindergarten Blues: What To Know To Help Your Little One Start First Grade

By: Lisa Donovan

When our first born starts kindergarten, we as parents, are not sure what to expect. We have great anticipation for both them and us. We worry that they won't fit in or keep up or make it on time every day. We fumble every morning to pack school lunches, making sure that all the food groups are included — as well as a cute little note with dragons with hearts floating around his head draw on it. By the end of the year, we feel confident and capable and secure in our child's place on their new journey as students and in our roles as parents to a school aged kid. You spend the summer eagerly awaiting the "ease" into first grade because, you think foolishly to yourself, nothing could be as hard as starting kindergarten. Right? Wrong. Dead wrong. First grade has thrown everyone, right down to the hamster, through a fiery loop.

Now that we are close to the end of our first six weeks as a first grade family, I feel confident in sharing with you some of the shocks and secrets of entering what I now consider to be real school: first grade.

The first major issue we encountered was, I am starting to realize, a complete idiotic blunder on my part. I figured that it was pretty much a given that my son understood that his new class would be full of new kids. Uh-uh. Apparently, he and (according to other mothers who have been bowled over by first grade) other kids in his school thought — reasonably so — that they would only have a new teacher. The whole concept of walking into a room full of kids who were not in their class last year apparently left them all baffled. My son was morose for a week. When I picked him up from school and asked how it went — he broke down in tears. He could not understand why there were twelve strangers in his new class and only one girl from his old class. I can't recall ever, ever, explaining to him how this worked and feel utterly responsible.

The second issue, which was only relevant for about a month, is that instead of having a lot of time to move and physically assert themselves — first graders have desks. If you have a boy — you'll understand why this is completely unthinkable. Now that he has been doing it for six weeks, I think he really enjoys having his own desk and, according to his teacher, he really loves sitting there now to work. But, in retrospect, I think I would have tried to prepare him a little better for the long hours spent sitting vs. the free play time in kindergarten. The summer break is a perfect time to use as a transition.

The third issue: girls. Oh. My. God.

I have to start out by saying that I thought this wouldn't happen until at least eight grade. Foolish, foolish me. And I have to further state that it is not the boys that are the problem. They are still as beautifully dumb about girls as they were in kindergarten. It's the girls! Those flirty, blinky "oh my skirt keeps flying up, can you help me hold it down???", "you're my boyfriend so that means you have to do whatever I say", "sigh, you're cute, will you play kissing with me?" girls that are making me want to hide my son from the world until he's fifty five. I have no solution to this problem. Just consider yourself fairly warned. The last issue is one for the parents, personally. If you thought that letting go in kindergarten was hard you have no idea. Yes, kindergarten is that classic rite of passage and it is an emotional steamroller. But what I realized when my son started first grade was this: he's not becoming a part of another world, he is a part of another world. It is a world I am involved in. I sit with him every night and help with homework. I still fuss every morning at 6am to make sure his lunch is balanced yet not too boring. I still drive him there every day and sing songs in the car with him. I still go and have lunch with him every once in awhile. But he is becoming his own person in this world. That didn't happen in kindergarten. He still clung to me and ran to me when he got hurt. Now, he picks himself up, keeps playing and runs to me only when I call him. It's bittersweet, really. I am happy about the independent person he is becoming. Really, I am. I guess I just wasn't ready for first grade quite the way he was.

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