The Learning Curve

Of course, the days of kindergarten are no more. My wily charges are soon-to-be fourth graders, bigger fish in the proverbial pond. But I remember well their grand entry into the Land of Books and Pencils…

Well, we made it through those first crucial weeks of kindergarten. Ten days. Two hours. And sixteen minutes. But who’s counting? No one was abandoned on the bus, abducted by aliens, locked in a closet or swallowed by a third grader. By all accounts, the transition proceeded quite smoothly (aside from our collective exhaustion). Although it could just be that their tiny bodies are still in a state of shock and their brains haven’t fully processed the information. Had the proper processing occurred, they might then realize that THEY SHOULD BE MISSING MOMMY MORE. Way more. Instead, they’re off each day merrily making friends, kibitzing in the hallways and doing all sorts of fun stuff with scissors, glue and “smelling-good markers”—three things I’d have banished from the curriculum till Jr. High if it were up to me.

In essence, I’m the one who has an array of adjustment issues. At times, I’m a pitiful creature who suffers needlessly and miserably with the pangs of separation—the I-miss-my-kids-even-though-they-make-me-crazy sort of malady. But I expected as much. At least in the beginning. I worry about this and that and the other stupid thing, driving myself batty in the process. My husband can readily attest. “Hey, don’t pack that hot dog in her lunch! Don’t you know one of her friends will make her laugh and she’ll choke to death!?” Like I said, he can attest to the ridiculous nature of my concerns.

Maybe the term ridiculous doesn’t quite cover it. I watch the clock more than I’d care to admit, flip through the television channels pausing wistfully on their favorite programs and wonder what they’re doing at noon and at one o’clock and again at two-thirty. Okay, I wonder what my little urchins are doing from the instant the bus rounds the bend and fades from view in the morning until it reappears in the afternoon with dozens of tiny faces pressed against the glass, wordlessly revealing what the day had brought to each and every rider.

Quite frankly, my curiosity gets the best of me. More than once I have fought the urge to stuff myself inside a backpack and tag along for the day. Safely tucked away, I could spy without ever being discovered—shamelessly satisfying my desire to know what really goes on in the life of a kindergartener. Oh, to eavesdrop on their conversations over the course of a day…. I can’t imagine anything more telling—or delicious. Of course, imagining is about all I can do at this point—because thus far they’ve been less than cooperative in the information sharing arena.

Maybe it’s because I’m viewed as an outsider now—a meddlesome mommy with a hidden agenda. Or maybe it’s because they’re veritable zombies when they first get home, stunned by the tsunami-sized day they probably had. “Mommy, you ask too many questions. I just don’t want to talk right now.” So we empty backpacks in the middle of the kitchen floor, together sifting through the day’s artifacts—my only clues as to what went on there in the Land of Kindergarten. And from what I can gather, most of it is good—which makes me feel good.

There are half-eaten lunches and prized drawings, books and crafty things galore “…that we made all by ourselves!” and strange-looking tidbits of memorabilia stashed away for keeps—like the pebble “…I tucked inside my sock so I could add it to my collection, Mommy” and “…the penny I found on the floor today!”

But there are tears, too, in the telling of “Mommy, I missed you so I cried a little bit,” and the bumps and bruises and behemoth-sized band-aids with which skinned knees were patched—lovingly, I might add. “The nurse is really nice and she gave me this be-U-tiful brown band-aid! I’m leaving it on for-EVER!” Three days certainly came close.

And there are warm remembrances too. “I love my bus driver…and the girl in the yellow shirt with blonde hair helped me find the nurse’s office…and the tall girl with purple butterflies on her shirt hugged me so I’d stop missing you at lunchtime…and my teacher always makes me feel all better, Mommy.”

Maybe this transition thing is going even better than I thought. As for me, I’m still on the learning curve wagon, trying to figure it all out and get over myself besides. What a sissy.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel

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