You’re in kindergarten! At the same time that I’m thinking this is impossible to believe, I also know you’ve been ready for elementary school for some time now. You’re so independent and smart and curious, driven to learn, invent, and teach. You lounge cross-legged in your room as you research fossils or prehistoric animals on your own; you sit intently at the table to write and illustrate your own books, like Dinosaurs Rule! or Dino ABC; you design your own games, such as Dinosaura or “dinosaur school;” you write and deliver us notes — informative ones about how you want to go swimming, or silly ones about how your eye fell out; and you’re such a wonderful reader! Last year you impressed me by sitting in front of my senior English classroom and reading a real book aloud to my eighteen-year-old students. Of course I wasn’t surprised that you could read to them; I was surprised that you DID read to them. You were so brave that day.
I guess that’s the hard part: managing the fear of something new. There’s a difference between learning within your own comfort zone and integrating into a completely new environment. After three years at the Montessori school, you didn’t want to leave. But we thought the transition would be easier in kindergarten, when your peers would be going through the same thing, too, and we care just as much about your social and emotional development as we do your intellectual growth. So I tried to prepare you as best I could: we talked about it, we visited the school, we met the teacher. I got you a special dino fossil lunchbox and backpack that you loved.
You posed and smiled for me in your big-boy uniform and backpack on that first morning before we left, but you were scared, and as I drove you to school, you clearly documented your feelings from your car seat:
I was so proud of you for your self-awareness and honesty, and for the fact that you bravely walked into the school with me even though you were frightened. That’s what bravery IS Finn. It is not the same as fearlessness. To be brave, you have to acknowledge, face, and deal with fear. And you did.
It’s been two weeks now, and you’re still struggling with the transition. So am I. On days three to five, you cried and clutched at me when I left you, and although you were calmer this second week, mornings are hard. Sometimes you insist that you don’t want to go to school even though your teacher says you seem to be enjoying new friends in class. You resist getting out of bed, putting on your uniform, and getting out of the car even though you’re usually happy when I pick you up at the end of the day. It’s the mornings, you say. You don’t like the mornings.
I understand mornings completely, Finn. They will get better — and they will become part of a larger and more complex picture of what school means to you and your everyday life. When this morning I asked you, the 2-week kindergarten veteran, to list good things about school, you quickly replied, “I think my classroom is the best. I love the computers. My teacher is awesome. I like making new friends. My lunchbox and backpack are great!”
YOU are great, Finn. Congratulations on that — and on being a kindergartener.