The summer before my daughter started kindergarten, we talked every day about all the exciting new things she’d experience when school started. We spent hours searching for the perfect backpack and lunchbox. We checked out store after store to find the folders and school supplies that she insisted be color-coordinated. And we discussed the different subjects she’d study and new teachers she’d have.

But when that first day finally came, it wasn’t at all like I imagined.

It wasn’t filled with excitement and enthusiasm. Instead, she gripped on to me, crying and begging me not to let her go.

Where was my confident girl who pranced around grocery stores telling cashiers that she was finally going to kindergarten?

What I didn’t realize at the time was that this was completely normal. That if I had looked up and taken a look around at the other parents, I would have seen many of them in the same situation as I was.

Now that my child is about to enter first grade, I want to remember and share what to expect when your child goes to kindergarten.

  1. If they cry, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to go in. They really do want to go inside that classroom. They are dying to! They just want you to hold their hand while they do it because it’s an unknown world in there. But every kindergarten teacher is prepared to deal with this, and they deal with it far better than we, as parents, ever could. Trust them to take care of it. You are not a bad parent for walking away from a crying child at the door of their classroom.
  1. Your child will be starving when they come home. Absolutely famished. Before going to school, I never thought about how often my child ate or how long it took them finish a meal. However, in kindergarten, they typically eat once during the day and it is short — for only 20 minutes or so. Before starting school, my daughter never finished her dinner, now she asks for seconds and at times, even requests broccoli. (True story.)
  1. They will fall asleep in the most unexpected place in the first few weeks. The transition from preschool to kindergarten in regards to classroom time is quite large. Students go from following rules/instruction for three hours to now almost seven hours. One the fourth day of school we found our daughter asleep in the Barbie house with Ken propped up against her face.
  1. They might not want to go back after the first day. “There’s so many rules and the day is so long!” was what my daughter said the second morning of school. And she was right, but we tried to focus on three fun things she liked about the day that she didn’t have in preschool. After a few days, we heard less about the rules and more about the activities.
  2. They might not be the best behaved child at home for a while. I was shocked when my daughter started acting slightly sassy and talking back a bit more after school first started. My initial instinct was, “She learned this at school!” but then, after speaking to her teacher and hearing that she wasn’t showing any of those traits in the classroom, she explained that many children “use up” their positive behavior at school. At home then they tend to be over-tired, irritable and act up more often. It made for a few nights of early bedtime for her and an extra glass of wine for me, but in no time at all, we were back on track and I get my mostly-sane daughter back.

Lastly, kindergarten is a time to truly watch your child shine. From new friends, to teachers who bring out the best in your child, you will be constantly amazed by the growth you see in your child every day. And even now, looking at my daughter about to enter first grade, I almost wish I could see it all over again. Except not the sassy-answering-back part. I’ll wait until middle school for that one.

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