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Thoughts on My Youngest Starting Kindergarten

This has been a rough week. It’s hard for me to write anything after a week like this. I simply feel drained. Exhausted to my bones. Sleep seems like a better option, but I’m committed to the discipline of writing, so here I am.

 

Here’s the thing beneath the surface of a busy and transitional week…

 

This week I watched the most joyful, hilarious, little ball of life I know fade and flicker. My five year old came home sad every day after kindergarten.

 

It never occurred to me that he might not thrive somewhere. In a matter of minutes, he makes friends with people he’s never seen before. If his bright smile and bouncy blonde curls don’t win people over, then his wit and engaging playfulness will surely charm them.

 

He pretends to be shy, but he can’t keep that up for long. He draws people in, gets them to smile, to take themselves less seriously. He is an old soul – describing things with colorful accuracy and reaching deep into profound truth in the normal routines of life.

 

He is, obviously, the apple of my eye. I would keep him home with me forever, if I knew it was best for him & if I didn’t feel this darned call to do other work in the world.

 

I tell him often: “You are a kind-hearted boy, and a kind-hearted boy is a gift to the world.” He has taken this to heart and considers “kind-hearted” to be part of his identity.

 

But, to describe Kindergarten, he has used words like “terrible” and “murder.” He says the adults make rules that they do not have to follow, like using inside voices or not talking at all. Sometimes, when asked about school, he simply does a thumbs down gesture, not willing to talk about it again.

 

He has told us about getting in trouble every day for talking. He was given a behavior report for not listening and being inattentive.

 

I want to be rational. I want to say, “He’s just five. Being corrected is part of how it goes for little boys in school.” But, instead, I just cry. Dropping him off, thinking of him during the day, trying to tell people how he’s doing…the tears are just below the surface.

 

I’m not sure why.

 

Maybe it’s because he’s my baby, and I’m sad a phase of my life is ending. Maybe it’s my own triggers around being good and not getting in trouble. Maybe it’s all my imaginings about the different trajectories a label or a bad start could lead to.

 

I think my biggest fear is that his free spirit will be crushed, and he will actually conform to the standards of the system…and then, something I’ve loved most of all will be lost.

 

The feelings well up within me, but then I make a level-headed move. I make an appointment with his teacher. She admits she is strict, that Kindergarten is a huge shift for the children, that there is more sitting still and being quiet.

 

And then…she talks about my boy. She smiles when she describes him. She calls him a free spirit. She’s really only had to correct him for talking, never for a being uncooperative, having a bad attitude, or hurting anyone. She says he is not in trouble. She is just teaching the kids order.

 

She reminds me that kids bring up the things that bother them when they get home, because that’s where they feel safe.

 

She says he’ll be okay.

 

And, I decide to trust her for now, though the tears still flow.

My name is Candace McCallister. I am the founder of Sweet Water Offering, a holistic health enterprise to support women and families to heal naturally. My background is in biology, counseling, bodywork, and nutrition. My husband and I are helping to start an intentional Christian community in Little Rock, AR. We have three lively and beautiful children.

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