Starting Kindergarten Katie-StyleIf you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know that my little girl started Kindergarten last week. It has been quite an adventure for the whole family. Based on my experiences so far (and yes—I know they are limited), I thought I’d offer some tips and insight for those of you who have preschoolers.

Preschool Helps and Hurts
If you’re on the fence about preschool, I can say I think it really does the job in preparing kids for Kindergarten. I say this from the standpoint of having sent my first two children to Kindergarten without this preparation. It’s too soon to tell whether or not the skills taught in preschool will help Katie out academically this year, but from a social and transitional perspective, things are going a lot smoother as a result of her preschool experience. Preschool taught Katie that teachers are nice, not scary, and that other children like her. These are two fears that I think a lot of kids have when they first enter school. They’re nervous because of the what-ifs: what if my teacher is mean, and what if I don’t make any friends? By putting these fears to rest during preschool, Katie is now able to get along socially, and her mind is free to concentrate on the important stuff—like learning to read!

I do have to say that there was one drawback to the preschool experience, and I really wouldn’t even call it that, but a couple of nights before Katie started school, she had a breakdown of sorts. She was thinking about school, and of course, the first thing that came to mind was preschool. At that point, it was her only frame of reference. Then the tears came. She missed her preschool teachers and all of her friends. She made it clear she didn’t want a new teacher, and she didn’t want new friends. She wanted what was comfortable and familiar. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing; it’s natural. We’re all a little wary of change and fearful of the unknown, but we can’t protect our kids from these discomforts forever.

Blisters Really Hurt
Two days before school started, a mysterious—and may I say, gigantic—blister appeared on Katie’s big toe. It was a nasty, puss-filled thing and apparently it hurt – bad! To make a long story short, Katie refused to wear any “tight” shoes, but had to have socks, so on the first day of school, she hobbled down the hallway with bright white socks and pink sandals. I have to say I was a little embarrassed (terrible, I know!) and felt compelled to explain to everyone why I dressed my daughter this way on the first and most important day of school. Katie was completely unaffected of course. Knowing her, it will be the next big trend.

Good Teachers Help—A lot!
Katie lucked out and got the same Kindergarten teacher my son had, which really put my mind to rest. Ms. Smith has done so many things already that have helped my daughter transition to Kindergarten. For instance, during orientation she gave Katie a card with a warning on the front that read, in bold letters, “DO NOT PEEK.” She then leaned down, looked into Katie’s eyes, and with much drama instructed Katie NOT to open the card until the night before Kindergarten started. As it turned out, the card contained a precious message that wished Katie sweet dreams on her last night as a preschooler, and taped inside was a tiny package of “magic” sequins and beads with instructions to sprinkle them under her pillow to help her sleep soundly. Katie fell right asleep that night! I could have kissed her teacher!

A Little Empathy and Patience Never Hurts
If you knew our Katie, you would know that she is our “special” child, and by that I mean she is unlike any of my other three children. She has her own way of doing things and a very, very strong will. When she doesn’t like something, the whole house knows it. She makes us laugh the biggest laughs and cry the biggest tears. We were genuinely worried about her starting preschool and prayed daily for her teachers, but in genuine Katie-style, she shocked us all. She was impeccably behaved. Her teachers called her an angel. We were so proud…and so confused. Was this the same child they were talking about? Our Katie?

The trend has continued into Kindergarten—straight smiley faces so far. Again, we are so proud, but when she comes home at the end of the school day, something changes. She is “our Katie again,” and as much as I love this girl, she is not always pleasant. It’s frustrating to try to understand why she’s so good at school and so difficult at home, but I’m determined to focus on the positive. I will praise her for her school accomplishments and pray for patience and empathy when she misbehaves at home. I keep asking myself, would I want it the other way around? Of course not. Katie is comfortable enough with me that she can be her true, uncensored self. Her willingness to do that means she knows I love her unconditionally, and for that, I am thankful.

The first day of Kindergarten has come and gone, and so far so good! I can’t believe we’re here, but I’m looking forward to all of the adventures ahead. I will keep you posted!