I started thinking about kindergarten pretty much as soon as my kid was born. It's not that I was anxious for her to get out of the house, it was more that I was envisioning her adorably toting her too-huge backpack to my most favorite place in the world: school.
Projecting? Sure. Fortunately she loves school and also looks adorable with big backpacks, so there was no disappointment there. Thinking about kindergarten and getting ready for kindergarten are two totally different things, though, and there's a lot of stuff that I wish I'd known before that fateful late-summer day.
1. No One Is Going To Come Find You
The first thing you have to do for kindergarten is get registered. Some schools do a kind of a public service announcement, but ours didn't. You're going to need stuff like proof of residence and you might have to sleuth out attendance zones and bus routes yourself.
2. The Office Staff Reigns Supreme
Seriously. Get to know the people up front, because they know what's going on and where everyone is and how to get stuff done. Bring in some cookies and get ready to suck up.
3. Your Kid Will Have To Know Stuff Before They Go
Sometimes the school district will have a list of "kindergarten readiness" skills, like cutting with scissors, knowing letters, knowing colors, etc. None of this was a huge deal for us, since my daughter was a little older than her peers, but it's good to know anyway. Besides that, if your kid is still a little afraid of the sound of the toilet flushing like mine was, you might, um, want to work on that.
4. It's A Fine Balance Between Being "That Parent" And Being An Ally For Your Kid
One of the toughest parts about kindergarten was not wanting to be "that parent"--the one that is a thorn in the side of the teacher and probably shoots themselves in the foot by being so annoying--and wanting to be involved and an ally for your kid. Find it. The teacher is not the enemy.
5. Get Ready To Party
Christmas. Valentine's. Boxing Day. Birthday party after birthday party after birthday party. All with stuff to buy and supply.
6. There Are Other Ways To Volunteer
I won't join the PTA. I will never be room mom. If you're like me but don't want to be totally removed, offer to laminate stuff or make copies or cut crap out at home. That way you're being helpful but you can do it while watching True Blood.
7. You'll Probably Feel Guilty Sometimes
The biggest surprise to me was the guilt I felt when I couldn't come to every class party or event due to work, especially since there's bound to be a handful of parents who do. Your kid will probably notice this, and you will probably feel like shit.
8. You Might Hear Something You Don't Like
If your kid has never been to child care or preschool, get ready to no longer be the person who spends the most time with your child, and prepare yourself for someone else's opinions. You will hear about their development. Their behavior. Their less flattering attributes. You will probably not like it.
9. There's This Thing Called Teacher Gifts
And woe betide you should you forget one.
10. Don't Label Your Kid's Supplies
They all go into a community stash that everyone uses. Some parents have a serious objection to this for some reason, so they waste a few perfectly good hours writing their kid's name on every crayon. You can throw that little tantrum if you want, but everyone's going to use little Aiden F.'s crayons anyway.
11. Someone's Gonna Get Sick
There will be barf.
12. Someone's Gonna Get Lice
And by "someone" I mean every single one of you.
13. Your Child's Personality Will Probably Change
This was the tough one for me. I would ask, "how was your day?" and she would be all, "oh, you know, whatever." and that was a weird adjustment for me. But it's also kind of cool to watch. Just don't be surprised if you end up sobbing and wailing "my baaaaaaabyyyyyyy" in the shower a few times the first year.
14. It's Not That Serious
For all the talk about redshirting and readiness and advanced kids and school ratings, try to remember that it's kindergarten, not some kind of competition. It's mostly a time to get used to being at school, and that's about it. You can't "win" at something like kindergarten. You just let it happen.
(Image: Hurst Photo/Shutterstock)