The first day of kindergarten is nearly here—your sweet child becomes a student. And you become a lunch-packing, permission-form filling, backpack wrangling ninja. That is, if you can keep it together.
It’s stressful, I’ve been there (and less than graceful). I hate to see good parents wasting good energy sweating the small stuff—you’re going to need that stamina for things like actually getting face time with your kid’s teacher, surviving city rec sign-ups next week, or catching Old Navy’s sacred 40 percent off sale. That kind of stuff.
So, with the wisdom gained from putting two kids through kindergarten (mine are starting grade one and four), here’s what I have to offer: Set your alarm half hour earlier than usual, make yourself a cup of coffee and watch some kitten videos. And whatever you do, don’t panic about the following:
1. What time to show up in the morning: Not all schools operate on the same schedule for drop-off and dismissal, which may explain how hard it is to find a definitive answer online. My school’s bell rings at 8.47 am, so I figure it’s safe for us to time our arrival to 8.40 am or so. That way we’ll have time to find the teacher—they’re often holding signs and/or wearing name tags—and the right lineup or door. If you’re in doubt, try calling the school—they may have a pre-recorded message—or travel in a pack with neighbourhood families. And don’t freak out if you’re running a little late—teachers will likely linger outside longer than usual to be sure all kids are wrangled inside (and to allow for the extra tearful goodbyes).
2. Whether your kid will starve: He won’t. You’ve likely put some thought into your choice of lunch containers and the foods that go inside. If you can, plan for your kid’s favourites for day one—maybe it’s guacamole and unsalted tortilla chips, with apple slices on the side. Some schools have a snack program, so only lunch is needed. At others, kids need lunch and two snacks, each packaged separately. Make sure you have enough containers or reusable pouches and go easy on yourself in these first days: pack carrot sticks and cheese strings, crackers and a small container of hummus, granola bars, muffins, homemade trail mix. We’ve got loads of snack ideas in case you’re looking.
3. Getting the perfect first day picture: It’s smart to block out 10 extra minutes to make this happen—try it on the front porch, beside a tree on the way to school (you can pose your kid here on the last day of school to compare how she’s grown), in front of the school’s brick wall (my fave), or use one of these arty DIYs. But please know: if it doesn’t happen, it’s fine! You can always do it on day two. Or three. (It’s going to be a long year.)
4. Accidents: You’ve packed a change of clothes in your kid’s backpack, right? Because water bottles spill, pee dribbles, mud splatters. Seal a clean shirt, pants, socks and underpants in a labelled zip-top plastic bag (genius: it can be used to send wet/soiled clothes home) and stuff it in the bottom of his backpack (we love this method for keeping an outfit super compact). You may eventually be able to stash the spare digs at school for good if your kid has a cubby, but don’t forget about it there (ie: be sure to swap shorts for pants once the weather turns cool). And just in case your kid needs wiping practice, we’ve got your back (and their bum).
5. Saying goodbye: Be honest: who is this going to be hardest for, your kid or…you? The best piece of advice, tough as it may be: resist the urge to linger. Get the heck out of there as quickly as you can (and watch him go inside from behind a tree/fence/tied up dog). You’ve got this. And if you really don’t, there’s more encouragement here and here.