I thought Jake was just plain excited about kindergarten. But I should have known his wheels were turning.
I pulled the mail out of the mailbox the other day and he asked if there was anything special in there for him. Lo and behold my five-year old has ESP. I handed him an envelope addressed to us from his school and told him we could open it once we got in the house. Of course he couldn’t wait, and mid-way up the walkway, he was tearing into the envelope that housed his teacher assignment, bus badge, and list of school supplies for kindergarten. That was it. It’s official – he’s going to kindergarten.
I read him the letter and the list of school supplies. “Jake, isn’t that great? We can go shopping and get you what you need.”
“Mom, can I watch a movie now?”
“Uh, sure, Jake.”
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this sudden bit of indifference. But I let it go, knowing that something was brewing in his head.
Fast forward to two days later. Jake and I were headed to the grocery store, just the two of us. I struck up the old kindergarten conversation.
“Jake, I was thinking just you and I will go out and buy you school supplies. We also need to get you new sneakers and some new pants and shirts. Oh, and PJs, because you seemed to have outgrown all your PJs.”
“Mama, I get NEW PJs??? Really??? Do they have PJ day a lot at school?”
“Um, no Jake. Maybe once or twice. But you need PJs and I figured we’d be out shopping…”
“Oh, ok, mom.”
I looked back and saw him peering out his window, deep in thought. I was torn between letting it go and trying to help him solve whatever was stewing in his head. So we went over the list of things for school, laughing at the fact that he had to bring baby wipes in on the first day. He thought that was pretty funny.
We marveled at buying four packs of crayons, and markers, and colored pencils. We surmised that you must do a lot of writing at school.
We wondered why we didn’t have to buy any paper. Would they have to write on the walls, their hands, their shoes? Hmmm…there were just so many things about kindergarten that we didn’t know.
Then I talked about all the new experiences – gym, music, art, cafeteria, playground, and friends. Yes, new friends. I mentioned that we’d get to go to school the day before it starts and meet his teacher. I told him we’d find his cubby and that there would be lots of new friends there that day also getting to know their way around. I asked him if he was excited.
“Maybe, mom, maybe not. I don’t know those kids and maybe they won’t be nice.”
It just about broke my heart. But finally, we were at the root cause of this sudden indifference. The mood in the car had gone from excitement and anticipation (and giggles at all we didn’t know about kindergarten) to hesitation and uncertainty. And who could blame him? I’d been feeling the same way myself. Turns out, my little man wasn’t as strong, self-assured and resilient as I’d thought.
No, my sweet little five-year old was feeling a bit off kilter with this big change looming. Absent of a security blanket, he put his thumb in his mouth and covered his eyes with his fingertips, letting me know that he too had feelings of uncertainty.
I know I won’t be able to erase the anxiety on the first day. But I can spend the next few weeks preparing him for the change, reassuring him that he is wonderful and kind and a great kid to be friends with, and reinforce all the positives that come with this change.
And on that first day, we’ll wait for the bus with our brave faces on, give one another a quick hug, and he’ll be on his own to handle this change by himself. A pretty big step for a five-year old, isn’t it?