My son’s entrance into kindergarten has loomed large in my head for the past couple of years. But I always swatted away any negative thoughts by telling myself that his first day was far away, so no need to worry prematurely. Well, the day is no longer far away, despite my desire to stop time. It is here and now, and my worry has turned into a full-blown dread that I can’t seem to shake. Mama has the Back-to-School Blues
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Outwardly, I’m doing a good job of keeping this dread from my son, as I don’t want him to pick up on my anxiety. We talk about what kindergarten will be like, and I think he feels a typical amount of nervousness about a new environment, new routine, and new friends. I just wish that my facade on the outside matched my feelings inside; that this was a milestone to be celebrated, rather than feared or mourned.
I stress about his ability to adapt to a long school day filled with more rules, structure, and indoor time than he is used to. More than that though—since kids are pretty adaptable and the transition will probably go better than expected—I worry about how all the rules, structure, and indoor time will affect his development. Will he have a hard time focusing if there’s not enough physical activity and outdoor time? Will the reduced amount of free play hinder his creativity and problem solving skills?
I worry about his teachers having to teach to a standardized test instead of encouraging him to follow his curiosity and dive deep into what interests him. I worry about what he’ll hear about social justice, race, and history given Texas lawmakers’ efforts to constrain how these subjects are taught in schools. (I worry about our underpaid and burned out educators, too, who have to shoulder these burdens and many others.)
Mixed in with all the worry is a sense of loss. The loss of our flexible routine and more leisurely mornings. Being able to plan vacations based on what’s best for our family, not the school calendar. The loss of fun, weekday outings with both of my kids. Mornings spent exploring the Greenbelt or playing hockey in the driveway or pretending to hide from monsters.
I’ve spent the last five and a half years being able to craft our days according to our values, preferences, and schedule. So I’m definitely struggling with the impending loss of control. As a stay-at-home mom, my job as his mom has been, by nature, all-consuming. It’s hard to take a step back and accept that so many others will be influencing him now.
Most of all, I’m losing time spent with one of my favorite people, as the amount of hours he’ll be away at school is going to triple. My son challenges me, amazes me, and makes me laugh all day long, and now I’m going to miss many of those moments.
If you don’t relate to my kindergarten blues, this all probably sounds a bit dramatic to you. You may have the urge to remind me, as my husband does, that my son is not going to prison. I know this is part of life, part of my son growing up and becoming more independent. I know that the transition may be rough at first, but it will get better, thanks to strong support from family and a school that genuinely cares about its students. But reminding myself of that doesn’t erase the sadness and worry.
Of course, if my son feels sad or worried about kindergarten, I will hold space for his feelings and be there to wipe his tears. I will be brave for him, and hopefully on his first day Back-to-School he will feel excited for this new adventure. Eventually, I’ll feel that way too. (I hope.) But in the meantime, I’ll be the mom with the back-to-school blues, wiping away my own tears as I wave goodbye to my new kindergartener.