School-age

12 things I learned from my daughter’s first year of school

Long hair is the devil, check their pockets before they go to school and GOD HELP YOU if you forget library day.

Photo: Katie Dupuis

I started this school year thinking, “I’ve totally got this, junior kindergarten, you’ve got nothing on me.” We had the lunch box (and a back up in case the first one bit the dust early), the washable knapsack, a whole wardrobe of dress code pieces, labels in every item of clothing…you get the picture. If a mommy blogger recommended it, I did it.

My careful prep lasted for all of one week. The demise started with the first missing item of clothing (a shoe, weirdly) and spiraled from there. As we approach the last day of school this week (what?! How is it June?!) , we’re limping towards the finish line with a handful of uniform items that still fit or aren’t completely demolished, a totally different lunch box and knapsack from the first day of school, and we’re on our millionth pair of shoes.

So instead of bragging about how I conquered being a kindergarten parent (I didn’t), or how being prepared made all the difference (um, no), I figure the best thing I can do for other parents is summarize (or maybe admit?) what I learned during my kiddo’s first year of school.

1. Long hair is the devil.
Damn you, Elsa, for your long, flowing locks. If Sophie hadn’t cared so much about you, I probably could have convinced her to go for a shorter ‘do that required less detangling each morning. (I seriously should have taken out stocks in spray-in tangle tamer.) Also, when your kid has long hair, the “a student in your child’s class has lice” letter turns your blood cold.

2. Never attempt to bathe kids in the morning.
It never works. If you’re too tired the night before, just think about how insane the next morning will be if you add water. (I liken it to the Gremlin’s reaction to water, really.) Also, don’t make my mistake and try it in the winter. Their hair will still freeze through a hat, if it’s cold enough.

3. Even if you can’t get the lunch made the night before, clean out the lunch box.
Twenty-four-hour-old applesauce-soaked carrots with a side of sandwich crusts is extra disgusting the next day.

4.  God help you if you forget library day.
Screaming and gnashing of teeth will ensue upon pickup that evening. The first time it happened to us, Sophie described in detail the horror of having to read a book quietly while others picked one to take home.

5. God help you if you forget pizza money.
See above, only amped up a few notches.

6. Even if your kid has been potty-trained for months (maybe even years), send the extra clothes the teachers suggest.
Trust me, I would have saved myself two midday trips to school and a run to a children’s store for new pants and undies if I’d just listened.

7. You’ll feel like a complete jerk if you’re consistently late on either end of the school day. 
For a whole week this April, my kid was late every day. I don’t even know why. By the fourth day, the principal was asking if our alarm clock was broken.

8. Make time for concerts and picnics and whatever other event makes your kindergartener light up.
Because they will bring it up FOREVER if you miss something (we didn’t, but Sophie told us for weeks after the Christmas concert, “So-and-so cried because her mom missed the concert”) but also because your heart will swell (and break) when you realize how big they’re getting.

9. When they plant grass or beans or whatever else in the spring, DO. NOT. LET. IT. DIE.
‘Nuff said.

10. Check their pockets before they go to school (for lip balm, Fashems and Happy Meal toys in our case) and before they go in the washer.

11. Thank their teachers as much as you can.
Would you like to spend all day, every day with 30 versions of your four- and five-year-olds? Yikes.

12. Celebrate the milestones.
Even when she’s still writing the E and S in her name backwards in June. She had the O, right?

Enjoy the summer, fellow parents. You’ve earned it (and you need to rest up for whatever grade is heading for you next!).

Read more:
7 things kindergarten teachers want you to know
Getting ready for the first day of kindergarten
Why junior kindergarten was good for my three-year-old