Saturday, August 29, 2009

First Week of Kindergarten Confessions

I admit that I was surprised when I picked my son up after his first day of school and he was upset. Really upset. I didn't know what it was about. I had been standing out by the letter "F", our designated pick-up point with the herd of other anxious Kindergarten parents, when I saw him come out of the front door of the school in a line of other adorable and tired looking 5 year-olds. Immediately, he ran to me. And just as quickly, the teacher reached down and tried to move him back toward the wall. I understand why they did it. They need to keep order in the midst of the afternoon chaos. They have to keep track of all of those kids! I would be upset if they lost him. So, I do understand that. Really, I do. But my 5 year old... well, let's just say that he didn't. It was the end of a very long day away from me and he was done. It was time to be with mom now and there was no logic that could change that.

As the teacher moved him away from me, he burst into tears. The first thing out of his mouth was, "I don't ever want to go here again. Ever." I held him and just listened to his feelings. Thoughts spun around in my head: was the whole day like this or was it just the last few minutes. He cried and I held him, refraining from launching into the series of questions that were heavy on my own mind. The next thing he said was, "I didn't even get a snack. I didn't want what was in my lunch." Oh, I thought. Was there more that happened during this first day of school than what I had observed? I held my judgment, knowing that he was upset and needed to just work through his own feelings before I tried to talk more about it.

As he began to settle down, we were able to walk to the car and start talking about what my two boys wanted to do to celebrate the completion of the first day of school. We decided upon a buffet. As everyone settled into their seats, my older son asked Josh if he wanted to go back to school tomorrow. I held my breath, wishing that he hadn't asked that question, knowing he really didn't have that choice, yet secretly glad that he asked it. He hesitated, then responded: "If you ask me if I'm going back, I will always say... YES!"


He had a good day. He stayed on a green light (not my green stoplight kind of green referring to a state of calm, but the school version of not being bad sort of green light, which of course is really about being able to stay calm and regulated anyway... it just isn't used that way- yet.) and he had enjoyed his first day.


I was relieved that it had been a good day for him. But secretly, I think I was hoping it would be cut and dried that it wouldn't work. That I wouldn't have to go through the days and weeks and months of trying to keep him motivated to go to public school when I believe there are better choices that are more in alignment with my own beliefs about what young children should be doing with their time.

Day 1, I thought. It is only the first day. 179 more to go.

Every day this week, I started to see signs of protest. Tuesday, he half-heartedly said, "I don't want to go," as he proceeded to get himself dressed and put on his shoes. His actions weren't congruent. It was almost like he thought he was supposed to complain.

Wednesday, he was a bit more insistent that he didn't want to go. He got himself dressed, but refused to put on his shoes. But he got willingly into the car. I put his shoes on him while I told him a story when we had arrived at the school. This was the first day I left him at the door to the outside of the school and his brother walked him to class. (Well, actually, Josh knew the way, so Zack followed him to make sure he found it OK.)

Thursday, he didn't want to get dressed. Or eat breakfast. He was playing. It took Zack magic to get him excited about going. Yes, today was PE day and he had looked forward to this after hearing his big brother talk about it all last year. He got dressed with my help and we made it to school. Thursday was the day at pick up that Josh was totally escalated into a red light brain state (survival- fight, flight, or freeze) when the teacher tried to physically put him back on the wall.

Friday, he point blank refused to go. "There are too many rules," he said at my prompting. "I can't even get out of my seat." My older son and I worked together and eventually got him dressed and into the car. When we reached the front door to the school, he refused to go in. The teacher at the door tried to help and suggested that there was an oatmeal cookie for breakfast today. It wasn't on his diet (he has some dental issues going on), but at that point I told him he could have it today. He may have no teeth left when this is all over, but he will have gone to public school Kindergarten. It all just seems wrong somehow. Why is getting him to go in more important than anything else right now?

Granted, he seems to have a good time once he is there. And I'm glad for this. Last year, he had a brief time in Pre-K and he didn't like it. I didn't see the point in forcing the issue, so I didn't and pulled him out again to be home with me. It was a very good decision for him. It was what he needed. This year, I think he has a much better teacher who is kind and respectful. He is making friends. He smiles when he talks about school, except for the drop off part. And being away from me, which is very hard for him.

I don't know what next week will bring, but probably more questions than answers as we feel our way through this huge transition. Whether you are homeschooling and starting school now or transitioning to a program away from home, school is a transition for everyone. How is everyone doing right now?


Annie said...

Reading this post absolutely made me sick to my stomach. (I think I too was hoping he'd go red-light crazy and you'd relent.)

Is a full day necessary? I honestly think it is too long. Maybe a half day would feel OK for everyone.

This brings back the miserable feelings I had when my oldest son had to go to daycare when I had to go to work. I've never in my life felt so awful - physically, miserably awful. I broke out in a rash (for the first time ever) that I have had off and on ever since, when I'm over-stressed. That experience somehow wrecked my body's ability to cope!

We both lived through it. I homeschooled him from 6-9th grades. We were and are close. He is a grown man and married - but I want those days back that I missed with him. I wish like anything I'd listened to my heart - and my body - and put my foot down. Said, no way. I'd rather live in a one-room shanty than leave the dearest person on earth to me, when he still needs me.

Because there were other times and places when separation felt right. Not good - but right. When I finally put him into Montessori school it felt right. When he went to HS it felt right! (Whereas if I had to send my present 9th grader to that same large school, it would feel very wrong.) Quite honestly when he went to Iraq it felt right. But that daycare experience was absolutely wrong.

I guess I just operate on intuition... But, I tell you....if it really feels wrong now - you will probably regret it in twenty years.

gg said...

WOW! Kindergarten what a rough time it can be for the child and parent. Should I do this or should I do that ? Which one is right ?

After decades since my first one started kindergarten I still have a very vivid picture in my mind of a robust little 5 yr old that was so excited to start school, make new friends and learn. You'd think I would have been thrilled afterall I encouraged him to look forward to this time. I just did not know that I would not be taking him by car and walking him to class. I was devastated when he told me "NO"! "I am riding the school bus"! I walked him to the the street and watched as he got on the bus then ran into the house and got my keys and followed the bus to school. I then sat outside the gate and watched as he walked proudly to his classroom. He went straight to his classroom and never even looked around at his surroundings. I did this for two days and both days cried like a baby!! I wanted him to need me to take him to school and I think that is why I was so upset, he had gotten beyond "needing me" after all he was growing up. I just wasn't ready for it so quickly I needed to be needed. That was 24yrs ago and it seems like yesterday.

Time for the second one to start and I had no problem opening the door and having her "big brother" look out for her. He was glad to do it and I was glad he did it. (LOL)

Mine only went 1/2 day. They had no full day kindergarten at that time. I don't think he would have done as well if he had to have gone the full day. It is too tiring for them. I'm glad your son has a teacher who is understanding. I honestly feel if their teacher is not understanding it can ruin the whole year and the following year. I wished I would have spoken up when my son was in second grade and he had a teacher that yelled. I now see the trauma that it caused but his Kindergarten teacher was a kind and gentle person and this was a real plus, if she were alive today I would thank her for it. I know it made a differance for him in liking school.