Kindergarten -- First Day -- Again


     I’ve watched first days of Kindergarten as a mother and as a school psychologist for almost 40 years. On these days I've seen events that were heart rending, humorous, embarrassing and inspiring.
      Some schools allow parents to stay for a while. Others  forbid them to even enter the room. That usually moves the drama to the hall. I’ve watched teachers skillfully gather the group to a circle for a story and others deal helplessly with three or four crying five year olds.  Sometimes I have had to usher the crying 35 year olds out of the room and to my office. 
Many kids these days have had lots of preschool so the separation is less traumatic, but not for mom and dad camcorder in hand, and tears in their eyes. For this event I’ve never been able to maintain that professional psychological distance we’re supposed to have. I’ve often shed a few tears even before the parents and the kids, so I took my own babes into this monumental transition wondering if I would fall apart when it was our turn.  I did -- just a little. Some were tears of joy when a friend took my shy daughter under her wing (they are still friends 23 years later). With my son the tears quickly dried with shock when he introduced himself as “junkyard dog”. He was the happiest Kindergartener you’ve ever seen. He saved all his tears for the last day of Kindergarten when he clung to his beautiful young teacher and sobbed at the prospect of leaving her.
            I have often thought that I should take my own camcorder and film what takes place 10 minutes after the parents leave, so they could see how quickly kids adjust. Instead I have made many phone calls reporting how well their child recovered to ease the hearts of parents suffering their own separation.
            At one school the PTA has a coffee and rolls event in the auditorium with lots of tables for signups and information. It is the grown up version of gathering them for a story and usually eases the parental transition.
            I always treasure this little part of my work. To be present at such a significant moment for so many families is a gift.  When called upon for advice I encourage parents to send their child into the big world with the message, “I will miss you too. I know this is a little scary, but I know you can do it. I believe in you, and I can’t wait to hear all about your day.”      
           Life is short; childhood is shorter. I believe we should honor this precious time and its painful and joyful steps.