A few months ago I was anticipating Zip starting school and wondering what it would be like. I wondered what it would be like to have him gone all day. I was a little sad about losing the freedom to take vacations whenever we wanted or visit a museum together on a Wednesday morning. I contemplated how his world was about to expand – new teachers, a school full of potential new friends, and his days spent in a place relatively unfamiliar to me. What would all of that mean for us? (More on that in Kindergarten Countdown and From Beaches to Backpacks.)
So here we are, halfway through kindergarten. And you know what? It’s really been pretty great. While I do miss the flexible schedule (I almost planned a trip to Vermont for May, then realized Zip would still be in school!), I appreciate by the structure that having a child in school gives to our days. And I am really appreciating having some time alone in the house. On Thursdays I have the whole day to myself – seven glorious hours! I felt a little guilty about that, but my mom sagely advised me, “You’ve waited six years to have a little time to yourself. Just enjoy it.”
It has been so much fun to watch Zip unfold as a student and as a member of his school community. Watching the improvement in his writing over the past few months, as he has gone from writing a few words to paragraphs? Amazing. And having him read to us at bedtime, finally seeing reading as rewarding rather than a chore? Equally amazing. His biggest challenge in the classroom is talking too much. I’m sure my report cards never said that. No way. Never. *heehee* Okay, so maybe once in a while.
The biggest adjustment has maybe been realizing that the bubble we’ve been able to live in, more or less, is starting to disappear. When Zip was little, we had a decent amount of control over what he saw and heard and learned. We could limit what he saw on television and heard on the radio. We handpicked who he had play dates with (mostly my friends’ kids, of course). We didn’t share disturbing news with them. My boys both go/went to daycare, but we were selective about where we sent them. And at daycare, the teachers were carefully supervising the kids’ socializing. If we had issue stemming from Zip repeating something inappropriate he heard from other kids, we could approach the teacher and usually she was already on top of it, sending the same message at school that we sent at home. If we really didn’t like what was happening at daycare, I suppose we could have moved him, but fortunately we loved our daycare.
|So eager to get to school!|
But I see that changing. Very slowly, but it is changing. I’m amazed, in a good way, at Zip’s independence this year – riding the bus, walking alone from his classroom to the school office, going through the lunch line and picking which friends to sit with at lunch. Small things, but I’m still a bit awe-struck to see my baby moving through the world this way on his own.
On the other hand, social interactions are not so closely monitored anymore. There is the half hour bus ride, recess on an expansive playground with 150 kids and a handful of staff, and lunch in a noisy cafeteria where the aides can’t hear everything that goes on. That is a lot of time for kids to talk about..well, whatever they talk about! Usually it’s something like “playing puppy” or how much money the Tooth Fairy brings (our Tooth Fairy is apparently on the frugal side), but it has also included the big kids on the bus sharing all the “bad words” they know.
While I can still choose who we have play dates with, I can’t choose who my son befriends at school. Does he choose kids who are making good choices or the kids who are struggling to do right? And how does that influence his choices? Although we definitely still have influence as parents – Zip still cares a lot about our opinions – he is a lot more tuned in now to what his friends think and do. I can see the peer influence growing.
It hasn’t been earth shattering. Sometimes his interest in what his peers talk about is cute – “Momma, what is ‘Gangnam Style’?” But we find ourselves having a lot more conversations these days about how other families might make different choices than ours. We’ve had to explain that although some kids bring toys on the school
bus, they aren’t supposed to (school rule) and our family is going to follow the rules. Last week Zip came home and asked if he could get a poster of Sharktopus for his bedroom, like his friend. We went on-line to price out what a Sharktopus poster would cost and that is when I realized Sharktopus is a campy horror movie and the posters are violent. Zip was intrigued, but we had to have the discussion about how we aren’t hanging violent pictures in our home. And then there is Zip’s dinner table announcement, “Some of the kids at school sing ‘Condom Style.'” Oy. “Okay, well don’t sing that. That’s not how the song goes.”
It’s just small stuff right now, but I see the tunnel up ahead. I see that while we keep doing everything we can as parents to instill our values in our children and to help them make good choices, the world around them is really going to have its influence too, sometimes in ways I don’t like, and that influence is going to grow as they get more independent and more invested in their peers. I can see the attraction of homeschooling now – not that I have any urge whatsoever to try it!
Regardless of what goes on outside our home, I know that what goes on in our home will continue to matter too. So we’ll keep talking with our boys about our values and listening to their thoughts, and let them know when we agree with what happens outside our home and when we don’t, and have faith that they will carry those messages with them.