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Challenge: Back to School

Got a kindergartner? 1st day survival tips for him (and you!)

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With back to school looming once again, here’s a look back at my tips and tactics (and a few tears too!) before my “baby” went to kindergarten. He is now about to start middle school and it still all holds true…

Back to school. These three simple words conjure up a broad array of images and emotions… a crisp new outfit for the first day, the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, the rustle of fall leaves, the anticipation and excitement about the year ahead… new teachers, new friends, new beginnings.

Those three simple words can also conjure up an array of darker emotions… anxiety about finding my classroom and who I would sit next to at lunch, apprehension about the academic challenges ahead and a general fear of the unknown.

As my first little tot totters off to kindergarten this fall, “Back to School” brings back many of the mixed emotions of my childhood. The excitement and anxiety I felt then I feel once again — but this time around, I’m feeling it for a 4 ½ year old who wears Thomas the Train undies. Who would’ve thought?!

Beyond the routine first day jitters, I’m wary of the logistics of getting my tike in Thomas tighties out the door each morning. How ever will we do it?! The bus is scheduled to pick him on the corner at 7:30 AM… not an unreasonable hour until I consider all that must be done before then:

  • Wake up the aforementioned tot in Thomas tighties
  • Urge him to get himself dressed
  • Make his lunch
  • Remind him to get dressed
  • Feed him breakfast
  • Yell at him because he’s not dressed
  • Prompt him to brush his teeth
  • Provide basic needs for his four siblings: a 2 ½ year old and 10 month old identical triplets . This task likely includes at least 4 diaper changes, several trips to the potty, three bottles, a sippy cup and more Cheerios than I care to consider.
  • ·Choke back tears and remind myself that kindergarten ≠ college and my beloved tot will be returned on the bus at 2:30 pm

Whew! Did I mention that this is all before 7:30?! As the summer days grow shorter and first day of school looms ever closer, here are a few of my survival tactics:

  • Buy a lunchbox. Maybe you already know this but it took some rotten yogurt and a note home from our local day camp for me to realize this is a critical requirement. I’m not sure why a brown paper bag sufficed when I was a kid and now I need to buy a $20 insulated, monogrammed mobile lunch unit but, since I am a sucker, I have one all set and ready to go. With a backpack to match.
  • Plan lunches. And specifically, peanut free lunch options. This is a lesson I learned the hard way on the first day of camp when I sent my poor little tyke into a peanut-free room with a PB&J sandwich, a nutty granola bar and Teddy Grahams that were apparently manufactured in a facility with peanuts. I sent my poor kid in with the peanut equivalent of a hand grenade – and he’s eager to remind me of this rather dramatic mistake every morning (still!). This kid isn’t taking any chances. So, we now have a range of peanut-free options: turkey & cheese, cheese & crackers, hummus & pita, cream cheese & jelly, even tuna fish… which, thanks to his new sophisticated , insulated lunch bag, stays fresh until lunchtime.
  • ·Go shopping. Consider wardrobe needs as hot, humid days are replaced by breezy, brisk ones. I’ve spent the past several years scrambling with each change of the seasons. Visually, it’s obvious that my little man is growing and intellectually, I understand that those socks stamped “12-24 months” probably won’t fit. Why is it then that on the first cold day, I’m always surprised when his sleeves and pants are three inches too short, there are holes in his socks and last year’s fleece won’t fit over his head?! A word to the wise: you know all those catalogs that are arriving now? The ones that offer 25% off new pants, sweaters, coats and boots? Well, pay attention to them and enjoy a bit of retail therapy. You may not need those snow boots for a few months but you can take pleasure in knowing that you’ll be ready when the time comes.
  • Relax. This one doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, when I took a tennis lesson this summer (the first and last time I picked up a racket in this not-so-new millennium), the instructor told me that I’d be a much better player if I’d just relax. To which I responded that it took 37 years (now 43! Yikes!) to get me this tightly wound and a one hour lesson wasn’t going to unwind me! But I digress… I do plan (and hope!) to relax. Or at least try my best to be more laid back. My guy will survive the first day of school whether or not he has the newest lunchbox, the latest lunch fad or even last year’s pants. If I’m relaxed, he will be too — and what better way to kick off all the new adventures that a new school year holds?

With “Back to School” officially around the corner and preparations well under way, I can’t help but consider three other simple words – the words that I will send my little guy off with and the ones I hope he recalls as he faces new experiences and makes new friends… three other simple little words: I love you.

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