Why Kindergarten Is Worse Than You Think

One of the things no one ever tells you about becoming a parent is just how hard the transitions will be. The first time I dropped my 2-year-old at her half day of daycare (one day a week!), I sat in the car sobbing. But it isn't just the first time, either.

I cry when my kids go back to school after spring and summer break. I cry when they sleep in big boy/girl beds and learn to hold their spoons. This stuff is hard for moms (and dads) no matter what. But kindergarten? Whoa Nellie! No one ever tells you how hard that will be.

Articles like this one about the new pressure in kindergarten suggesting that childhood is becoming truncated and kindergarten is no longer fun don't really help either. I want my baby to stay a baby! And I am not alone.

There is not a mom I know who isn't freaking out over kindergarten in one way or another. I swore I would never be that mom, but here I am, totally freaking out.

It started last November when I became convinced that we should shell out $24,000 a year on our daughter's tuition to a private school. With one right behind her, it would be $48,000 soon enough. But no matter! My daughter must go there!

Once some good friends who are educators talked me down (not before I shelled out $500 in application fees and countless hours on school tours), it became clear: my problem wasn't public school. It was me. I didn't want to let go of my baby.

Sure, articles saying that kindergarten is a pressure cooker and creative kids with lots of energy don't fare well scare me. But that is their intention. They want to scare parents. But they don't need to. We are already scared and the fear is real. It's there behind every tense smile when someone asks me: "What are you doing about kindergarten?"

The other parents and stand around on playgrounds, discussing our school choice (our city has a "choice" program), and every time a parent says they made a different choice, I question my own. Meanwhile, I know they are all doing the same.

The problem isn't the school or the many scary articles or even public versus private. The problem is scores of moms and dads who aren't quite ready to let go of their babies.

And who can blame them? It seems like just yesterday we were changing their diapers and nursing them and rocking them to sleep. Now we are about to send them out in the big, bad world. How will they fare? Will they be happy? Feel loved? Learn to love education? Get enough time to play and still be kids?

And now I am crying all over again. Of all the transitions I have been through with my 5-year-old, this one is the hardest and I know I am not alone. It's the dirty little secret of kindergarten (and the months before it). Beware mamas (and daddies), it's coming for you, too.

Did you freak over kindergarten?


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