Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kindergarten Recap

Kindergarten is over.
What a year!

I didn't know what to expect going in to the school year. Being that Jonah is my first child, I was rather unprepared as to common school-parent etiquette. When the teacher asked for parents to sign up for ONE class activity in order to give every parent a turn, I signed up for one (I now know that a pushy mom can be in the kindergarten class as much as she wants. If only I were a pushy mom...). When the first day of school rolled around, I had no idea I was supposed to provide the teacher with a gift/bribe of cookies, candies, flowers, or gift certificates to get her to like ME...I mean, my child. In the same vein, I didn't realize that Valentine's Day required a similar $20 gift, or that I was supposed to know her when her birthday was (how do parents get a hold of that kind of information???). I'm not so dumb that I didn't send Jonah with a gift for Christmas and Teacher Appreciation Week, but they weren't large and didn't boast any kind of bravado. Although our gifts were probably smaller than the other students', I think the handwritten notes we included provided the sentiment we were trying to convey. I didn't know how to invite Jonah's classmates to our home for a play date, I felt awkward around the other moms who obviously knew each other from the neighborhood/church, I never found the time to get involved in the PTA (even though I paid the dues...I wouldn't have known how to get involved anyway, I guess), and I must admit I did let Jonah skip three days of school to play with his visiting cousins. I often wished there was a handbook for new-to-school-parents. But alas, I stumbled through the year, worrying about whether or not Jonah was making friends, whether he was happy, and whether he was figuring out who he wanted to be. In kindergarten.

I learned a lot about Jonah this year. Having had no other children to compare him to, I figured he was average on all levels. (okay, I knew he was more energetic than most, and a little uncoordinated, but he is MY child, so...) I learned his level of enthusiasm blows most kids out of the water. Everything is fun. Everything is exciting. Everything is cool. I think that's great. It scared a lot of his classmates off in the beginning, but I think they learned to love him for it. I also learned that he has a brilliant little mind. I am one of those parents that feel strongly that children should be children. They should be allowed to have fun and explore and live life carefree for as long as possible, because heaven knows kids grow up too fast. So I never did a single flashcard with him, I didn't enroll him in any enrichment activities prior to school, I didn't drill him on his letters, numbers, how to write his name, how to use a pair of scissors or color in the lines...I didn't expect him to know ANYTHING, really. I just wanted him to be a kid. Somehow, he walked into kindergarten knowing how to read (I blame TV), and from day one, he just took off academically. His teacher was a little perplexed and concerned by how quickly he learned and how far ahead of his classmates he was/is. When she expressed her concern that he should be instructed at a second grade curriculum that year, my response was, "Uhhh...der...um...duh..." I didn't coach him to be that way. I didn't even CARE that he was that way. I just wanted him to be confident and happy. So it ended up being a challenging year, trying to keep him occupied in class and trying to provide him with valuable learning opportunities at school while the rest of the class was doing something completely different. He rolled with it really well and his teacher did her best to teach him outside the kindergarten curriculum while at the same time managing his high level of energy (and the distraction it often created). I laid awake many nights, wondering what I was going to do with him and how I was going to keep him motivated. But in the end, Tyler and I have decided we'll just take each year as it comes. Skipping grades isn't an option because socially, he's very young. VERY, very young. But he's an unassuming kind of smart for now, which is nice and which means it shouldn't get in the way of his learning to effectively interact/relate with other kids. Learning to make real, lasting connections with other children will be an ongoing challenge in the years to come, as they have been up to this point.

He's so weird its lovable. At least I think its lovable. My greatest hope is always that other people will feel that way too.

He often makes comments about how much he likes himself. I think I fail in so many respects when it comes to motherhood (don't we all?), but when I hear him say things like that, its a reassurance that I'm at least doing something right. And I like him, too.

His favorite classes this year were P.E. and computers. He loves reading, writing, math, and science. Art is okay, but music was boring. And recess...well, recess ROCKS.

It was a year spent commuting. We figured we would have moved a long time ago. As it turned out, we didn't live in that house even one day this school year. Out of the entire year, we only had two tardies. Not too bad, for a kid who doesn't even live in the same town as his school!

So today was the last day of kindergarten. He was excited for the summer, and as I picked him up, I expected to see a 6 year old tornado of energy bursting through the school doors, screaming some nonsensical comment about upcoming summer festivities. Instead, as the other children were running past him, Jonah approached me rather solemnly.

"I don't want to say goodbye to my class."

I wrapped my arms around him. "Are you feeling a little sad?"

With that, he burst into tears. Sobbing, he told me how much he didn't want the school year to be over, how he didn't want a new class next year, how he would miss his friends, and how he loved his teacher. When my child cries (for good reason), I cry. So the two of us were frozen in the middle of the playground -- me on my knees holding a crumpled little boy -- in tears. When his teacher shuffled out after the last of the kids, she approached us explaining he was upset about something that had happened in class, but when I told her he was sad because he didn't want the school year to end, she joined us in our mid-playground hug and said that was the nicest thing that had happened to her all day. (He later told me he wanted to schedule a play-date with his teacher...so cute, so naive.)

When we pulled ourselves together, we made our way to the car for the last time in his kindergarten year. I reflected on how much he has grown this year -- both physically, and socially. I thought about how quickly this is all passing me by, and how lucky I am to have been given the charge to care for such a wonderfully sensitive, forgiving, kind-hearted, dynamic little person.

We talked about how its okay to miss people, but that we should always try to remember the fun experiences we've had, and look forward to new experiences and new people that will give us even more opportunities to learn and grow.

And then we went to MacDonald's and got chocolate milkshakes. Because milkshakes make everything better.


  1. I got teary when I read about how you both cried at the end of the year. I am always sad to see some students move on at the end of the year (note: some kids, not every kid...). As a teacher, I know that I have taught them the year's curriculum and that they are ready to move on and grow, but it's still sad. Even though they come back to visit, the relationship is never the same and I miss them. As for gifts, you know what I have kept over the years? The notes and letters that parents have written to me. There are a couple so special to me because they remind me that in the face of everything else negative you deal with as a teacher, I am here for a reason, to make a difference for kids. It's powerful and I keep those notes close to my heart.

  2. That was very sweet, but it also scared me to death. I had no ideas that so many bribes were involved in Elementary school. Is it now run by the mafia?

  3. I am now the parent of an 'almost' 6th grader and I still don't know about half the stuff you talked about. I feel like a pretty awful mom most of the time too because I can't stand the school politics and clique moms. It's like highschool all over again! I drop my kids off and I pick them up and that's the extent of my school interaction. It's horrible!

  4. Liz that was beautiful, I cried while reading it. He sounds amazing. I wish we lived closer I would love to meet your boys and for Mary to be able to play with them! :) Kierstn

  5. OK Liz - you made me cry! I just love to read your writings and I am so very grateful you share these incredible stories about your kids! Much love - Tammy

  6. liz, that was such a sweet post! and the whole feeling clueless thing really describes how i feel about the whole process. it also reminds me that i have some forms still to do to make this whole starting K thing official. i'm sad about henry going to K...sad that it isn't all day, i mean.