I’m Not Ready for Kindergarten

Posted September 2, 2008 by

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I’m not the kind of mom who knows what to do at any given moment. You’ve seen her, I’m sure: the hip, together mom who looks great and says the right thing all the time. She’s the same kind of mom who always packs tissues, wholesome snacks, handiwipes, and an age-appropriate activity for her child to do, no matter the occasion. No, I’m more like the I-hope-I-brushed-my-hair-before-I-left-the-house kind of mom, the kind who frantically looks for a used Dunkin’ Donuts napkin when my son’s nose starts running. More often than not, I’m flying by the seat of my pants and hoping that they’re not ripped, mismatched or stained. (Just in case you were wondering, the pants are  OK about one time out of ten, give or take.)

So with my son starting kindergarten today, you can imagine how together I feel. Oh, his backpack is ready to go, and he’s got the prerequisite new pair of jeans and crayons from our back-to-school shopping trip. But I am pretty much a mess.

I didn’t expect to feel this way, you see. I really liked school as a kid, and I’m looking forward to all the new things my son will do, from reading to climbing the rope in gym class. (Uh, do they still do that, by the way?) That’s why I was surprised when I spent last week all weepy and puffy-eyed, going through his baby pictures while my husband humored me by agreeing to every outlandish claim I made about our son. (I knew I’d gone too far when Joe yelled, “Yes, yes, I’m sure he’ll be able to climb the rope faster than a half-crazed circus chimp!” )

But the truth is, I’m just plain sad to see my boy leaving toddlerhood—with it’s impossibly tight hugs around the neck and  breathy, whispered secrets before bedtime. Being a parent is such a strange push-pull: You spend each day wanting your child to grow up, while at the same time willing them to stay young. To me, it often feels like you’re in a state of half-mourning and half-celebrating with each new phase. But that’s life, after all. And I have to say, the joy of watching them grow makes it all worth it.

Anyway, wish me luck. Alex is fine and was ready to get on the bus at 5 a.m. I still haven’t brushed my hair and I have a ketchup stain on my shorts. Other than that, I think I just might be ready, too.


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Megan Devine, LCPC and Parental Support Line Advisor Report

    Dear Dave – your situation does sound challenging. In addition to the articles Elisabeth suggested, you may want to look into the Total Transformation program. In it, you’ll find tools to help your children learn more appropriate and effective ways of dealing with their challenges. One of the key components of the program is acting as the “coach” to help your child learn, practice, and improve his behaviors. Simply telling him to do it better is not likely to make things improve, nor, unfortunately, will removing privileges or comfort objects for long periods of time. As James Lehman writes, helping your child change his behavior involves creating “strategic solutions,” which means giving your son suggestions for what he can do instead of what he is currently doing, and then encouraging him to practice. Keep in touch, and let us know how this works.

  2. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Hi, Dave. Boy, it sure sounds like you have your hands full! I’m wondering if you’ve been able to sit down with your younger son’s school administrators and set up an IDEA or 504 plan for him? By law, schools have to work with parents of children who have been diagnosed with a disability, and a big part of this means coming up with a course of action for their education.

    Please read the following article in EP for more information:

    We also have other articles by ADHD expert Dr. Bob Myers that I recommend you check out…

    On Homework:

    On Younger Kids with ADHD:

    On Building Concentration:

    Hope this helps, and please let us know how it goes!

    P.S. Coincidentally, my son has recently become his kindergarten class clown. I think it’s because he’s in with a new group of kids and doesn’t quite know how to act socially at times. I wonder if this is the case with your son, as well, and that he’s compensating for a lack of something by acting this way? I think a lot of times, when kids (younger ones especially) tell us they don’t know why they do things, it’s because they probably don’t. James Lehman suggests that we stop asking “why” questions and instead start with “What” or “Is”. Kids usually realize that a “why” question spells trouble for them! (For example, you probably never say, “Why did you do such great job in this spelling test?!” 🙂 ) Yesterday, I tried a “what” question with my son at a time when I would normally have said “why” and was really amazed at how well he answered me and how quickly he calmed down. Then we were able to problem-solve together. Good luck, Dave, and I hope some of this is helpful for you and your son!

  3. Dave Report

    I have 2 boys aged 10 and 7. The older one had been diagnosed with ADD in first grade. Upon further testing by Dr. Sam Goldstein, it was determined he has an IQ in the mid 150’s but his silmultaneous and processing is only average. This discrepancy has caused him frustration as he can relate verbally amazingly well but writing it out is difficult. He has developed skills to better handle and adapt and some of this has just come from maturing with age and the help of medication (Adderall XR 10mg).

    However, my 7 year old was evaluated last year and also has the ADHD and is also taking medication. He is really having a difficult time adjusting to first grade. He is in the Challenger program and shows normal intelligence but wants to be the class clown. Last Friday, he was suspended from school as he continues to not listen and follow directions, talks out, makes kids laugh, stands on his head and lays across his desk. (His teacher has him right up front so she ‘can keep a close watch on his behavior.”)After being called to the office twice in as many days, he was told to call me about it at 9:30 am. on Friday. I explained his job was to sit listen and learn and use his manners. By 1:30 pm I was picking him up at school as he was suspended until next Thursday. (He didn’t take his meds that morning as asked(we didn’t notice until later), and it showed big time…)

    I have been home-schooling him this week. He has lost his privilidges and we cancelled his birthday party and presents that was scheduled for the Saturday after the suspension. We told him this would happen if he didn’t do better in school and we had to follow through with the consequence.

    I feel he is a bit immature for his age and is holding tight to being a little boy instead of being a big boy. We even took away his stuffed Humpty Dumpty; his favorite thing, telling him Humpty was not happy about how he was acting.

    I also feel this boy can do the work required. I just am at a loss on how to get this darling little boy to listen and follow directions and do what is asked in class. He says he wouldn’t act this way if I was there and can’t explain why he does these things. He is generous, kind and LIKES to share. It’s not like he tries to act badly, he just cannot seem to listen and follow directions (thank goodness his older brother has gotten past this behavior as he also had struggles in first grade).

    I do not know how to get him to take ownership and responsibility for his actions. He seems to live for the moment and doesn’t think forward to what consequences his actions may bring or learn from past mistakes. He says “I forgot” all the time when asked about not listening and following directions. I know he hears well, but actively listening and remembering is another story. I am afraid he will be expelled and we will have to find a public school that will take him.

  4. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Sandra>>Thanks for your comments! I definitely haven’t ruled out homeschooling, even though I was brought up going to public schools and my mom was a teacher in the public school system for 26 years. But there are some instances where I think I would probably homeschool: for example, if my son was experiencing bullying and his school was not addressing it adequately. By the way, I have talked to a lot of friends who have homeschooled–some loved it, and for some, it was a disaster. And as you know, I’m not the most “together” person, so…I think I’ll give the public schools a try and take it from there. Thanks for the advice, though. And let us know how homeschooling is going for you!

  5. Sandra Report

    Hi Elisabeth,
    I enjoy your posts!
    Your comments about your outfits and “interesting” accessorizing (i.e. food, kid stains, whatever!) cracked me up – I have a 3 year old (almost 4)! And my heart ached for your very-normal sadness at separation from your growing child. I have the perfect solution – why not homeschooling? Homeschooled kids are notably independent thinkers and learners, and the bonus is that you as the parent never have to go through the first week of school blues! 🙂 Of course, one of these days there will come the first day of college, or moving out to own digs, or getting married…but by then I think it would be easier in some ways (yeah, right…I’d guess it never gets any easier!!).
    Just another point of view…!

  6. Jody Report

    I am in the process of checking out pre-K programs for my son who has grown up so much in the past year and will be going to school next fall. I completely broke into tears reading your article. You worded it just perfect. And by the way, I am lucky to get out of the house with a decent hair do and no peanut butter on my pants or shirt. Now that my daughter is 2 the snot on the shoulder has slowed down.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Thanks, Karen! I love that you said it’s our “parental right” to cry. I guess it’s never easy, even when you’ve been through it a few times. Hang in there!

  8. Karen Report

    My son started kindergarten this year he is the last of 5 children so I thought I would be brave having gone through this 4 times before him. It was just as tough I was all teary eyed as he was getting on the bus waving back to me. I think he was the hardest because although this is a sad time it is a memorable bitter / sweet time that I will never go through again. This is my last kid off to the ranks of growing up. I also cried like a baby this past June when my 17 year old daughter graduated high school. I see this as a parental right so cry on!!!!

  9. Kris Report

    My child just started 2 days ago. He was running for class, and I was doing just fine until I read your article about the tight hugs and whispers. Tears started. But then he ran in my room, stripped down to his undies, put on a cape and goggles, and became jungle-man willing to save our home from criminals if I would just provide the sustenance of a few snacks. Smile returned. Every day is different. I want to freeze time right now, but mostly I am just so glad I am along for the ride! Thanks for making us stop every once in a while and think about all the good stuff:)

  10. Margaret Report

    I feel your pain…My daughter started kindergarten
    last week, and I already miss my little buddy by my side
    my middle daughter started 8th grade and
    my oldest son started high school senior year!!!
    So I am already looking forward to two graduations in
    June and a first grader…life is fun.

  11. Torontomama Report

    thanks for sharing this day. Difficult as these milestones are, I have been grateful for each one. I sometimes think we don’t do a good enough job as a culture, of acknowledging transitions for our kids. the “Ginormous school” gives your son a chance to celebrate outwardly his ginormous step away from toddlerhood, and into the world of crayon ownership, pencil cases, a life apart from parents and new jeans.

    Hot diggity. Alex is on his way. And as for you? Well, you’re clearly on your way, too.

  12. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Susan, thanks for asking! I think he’s doing great. The proof was when I heard him telling his cousins on the phone last night how much he liked kindergarten because he gets to drink chocolate milk at lunch. (It’s the little things that make a difference, right?) He also kept talking about how “ginormous” his new school was, which made me see the whole thing through his eyes all over again. This is just huge for a kid, in every way. By the way, the thing I really liked about pre-school was that I could sit and watch the class, or help out as a parent. Maybe you could try doing that, too, once your little one gets adjusted. (It was a great anxiety-reliever for me, and I also got to know my son’s friends and teachers really well.) And Kym, I feel your pain. (I think I’d prefer going to the dentist, actually.) It will be OK, though, you’ll see. The pay off is when you see how excited your daughter is about learning new things and officially becoming a “big kid.” Let us know how it goes!

  13. kym Report

    I can relate 100%. My daughter starts kindergarten in 5 days. I keep count of the days like it’s a visit to the dentist! I’m preparing to be fine when she goes in the doors but once she’s out of sight I plan to have a good cry of a mixture of feeling proud, a little sad but mostly happy to see my “baby” off to her first day of school. hang in there and let us know how your son is adjusting.

  14. Susan Report

    What a wonderful post! My baby will be starting kindergarten in two years, but preschool is coming in six months, and I don’t know how I’ll cope. How did Alex do on his first day?

  15. Camille Report

    It’s funny, my daughter started middle school this year and I feel the same way. I think the older they get, the more they need us. Hang in there–there are many good stops along the way!



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