Little Buddy, Sweet Kiddo, has been letting me know what he needs lately.
It's lots and lots and lots of company. Unless he's in the bathroom, he is wanting companionship, nonstop. I try to think with my adult brain what it is that he finds so comforting, and then the answer is simple:
He just doesn't want to have to do it-- any of it-- alone.
School has been undeniably in our face. I waited until kindergarten was coming up close, and even without mentioning it, the presence of this transition was palpable, present. Last Thursday, Kiddo went in for a twenty minute evaluation with one of the kindergarten teachers. Her smile and calm demeanor was just what Kiddo needed. His brief time in the classroom made him hungry to explore the room more. On Friday, we received word of his class placement, which was with the teacher who had tested him, and then went to the school for an Ice Cream Social. He ate an ice cream sandwich and I picked up a yard sign to tell you how I'd like you to vote in the next local elections... vote for funding the arts in schools, folks!
We were happy this weekend, for the most part. Happy and busy. And smart: with the need for constant companionship, it was good that I scheduled two great babysitters. Saturday night found Joe and I discussing what we could do over the next few weeks to make this school transition go more smoothly. Of course, we discussed it over some heavenly Viet/Thai food, and later over a pint at one of our favorite pubs. Sunday, another beloved babysitter gave Kiddo lots of undivided attention while we visited with some friends and whiled away the afternoon together.
This was just what we all needed. Kiddo seemed to revel in the attention and the downtime---after a few very intense weeks of an "I want to crawl back into your skin and possess you" level of contact and need--helped me focus on what was important. At bedtime last night, I reminded Kiddo that if he got up to look at books we would need to turn the light off at eight o'clock. "You have school tomorrow." I didn't want to say it, right before bed, but there it was. The rest of the evening was pleasant-- he looked at books until 8, then lights out. I went upstairs, watched some PBS and made a schedule for the week, the crowning glory of which is an afternoon/after-school schedule which is super-consistent. He's going to start kindergarten with half-days, and so I wanted our afternoons to be extremely predictable, with no big demands asked of him.
Here's what our afternoons will look like:
11:15 -- I make our lunches
11:40--I walk to the school to pick Kiddo up
12-- We head home with a small snack.
12:30 or so-- Home, wash hands, lunchtime. (see how I made that lunch in advance, so we don't have a hungry child grumping at me?)
1:15-- playtime for Kiddo; dishes/dinner prep time for moi
1:50-- eye exercises
2:30-- Snack Storytime
4--Household tasks/finish responsibilities (hanging up bags, coats, etc.)/homework
4:45-- start dinner together.
5:30-- set table, get ready to eat....
Boringly awesome and consistent. I congratulated myself for this, then headed off to sleep...
Until one in the morning, when a sad, tight voice rose up the stairs: "Mommy. I need you to be with me."
Nice thing was, I knew that was coming. It was almost written in the playbook-- "Even if they seem fine, they will need you in the wee, quiet hours." I took one for the team, grabbed my pillow and went downstairs to spend the rest of then night alternately in the throes of a child's death grip and on the 12 inch margin of the bed.
This morning, though, went off without a hitch. (Okay, so he put his pants on backward, but that's easily fixed. ) No tears, nor tiredness. I dropped him off at the school for a short orientation/practice day. He found his seat easily, nametag waiting for him. Kissed him goodbye and left with all the other parents.
I wonder, sometimes, what the outcomes of certain situations would be if I didn't do the extras? Like in this case, I wonder how our morning would have gone if I had told him "go back to bed, you're fine" instead of just being available. What a big, potentially scary unknown Kindergarten must be for some kids. For us adults, I think it would be comparable to starting at a new job or office, where we are coming into a new environment, with its own structure, both in the routine and socially. If I were to need some reassurance, would I want my husband to brush me off and say "oh, honey, don't worry about it, you'll be fine"? I'd probably want a little more-- I'd want some reasons he thought I would do fine, or some empathy and few words of wisdom. Mostly, though, I would want to feel like I wasn't doing it alone. That I had some help for those harder, longer and less-familiar days. I would want to know that my family understood this was a challenge, appreciated the situation, and had my back.
If your own family--parents or spouses-- can't express support, encouragement, and offer a sense of security, who is left to turn to?
We continue to hold Kiddo close while still holding to our guidelines for discipline and behavior. We continue to try to say 'yes' to what we can, and to say 'no' smartly. We want him to know we are, indeed, here for him. We are consistent--boringly consistent-- and this is what will help Kiddo continue to feel secure, cared for, and that the world hasn't enormously changed. His mornings will broaden his horizons-- they will challenge his understanding of what he thinks he knows about both himself and his world. His afternoons will hold him, secure, snug in knowing that his place at home of being a loved, creative, contributing member of the family has not changed a whit. Not in the least.
And to all of you who have children going out to school for the first time~ my best wishes to you and yours.