Tag Archives: adjustment to school

From There to Here

Just a moment ago, my children were kindergarteners—spindly creatures with wee arms, knobby knees and tinny voices. I remember well our maiden voyage to the school’s Open House one afternoon late in August—to the shores of Mrs. Morehart’s classroom, a warm and welcoming place at the end of the hall where my husband and I, like everyone else, crammed our oversized frames into impossibly small chairs eager to consume all that a parent of a kindergartener could possibly need to know about the year ahead. There was talk of cubbies and snow boots, art smocks and mittens. Bus schedules. Lunch lines. Recess and snacks.

Together, with our knees awkwardly pressed to our chests and our irrational fears lurking just beneath the surface, we learned about the magical nature of story time, the Puppet Lady who would come to call, the wealth of educational experiences our children were slated to have and, of course, the vastly important assurance of bathroom proximity. God knows how dearly we valued that. In any event, our concerns were adequately addressed as a collective sigh of relief wafted over the cozy grove of Lilliputian-inspired tables that filled the room and the brightly colored whateverness with which said room was adorned.

Indeed, Mrs. Morehart was a woman with whom we became enamored almost instantly. Her classroom promised to be a venue where impressionable minds would be nourished, creativity and curiosity would be duly celebrated and respect for others, as well as oneself, would be cultivated above all else. What’s more, surnames and bus numbers would be indelibly imprinted upon the forehead of each and every five-year-old and the aforementioned godsend-of-an-educator would refrain from passing judgment on those who were wholly incapable of enforcing bedtimes as well as those who might be inclined to serve dinner in the bathtub on a school night (to, of course, remedy the not-getting-the-kids-to-bed-at-a-reasonable-hour problem).

In truth, no one’s forehead was defiled in the plan to distinguish students or to ensure that the right child got on the right bus at dismissal. In any event, the curators of our precious cargo did, indeed, coordinate the logistics of transportation (and practically every other aspect of child management) seamlessly and with great aplomb. That said, the Land of Kindergarten was a place we parents could feel genuinely good about leaving our charges.

Never mind the wave of apprehension that literally consumed me the following week, when that big, yellow beast-of-a-school-bus groaned to a halt in my street and a certain couple of somebodies were expected to board and then traverse the uncertain path that would come to define their lives as kindergarteners—without me. Needless to say, a great deal of time has passed since then—despite the fact that it feels like mere seconds ago that I sat in one of those tiny plastic chairs, a red one I think, fretting over the exceedingly remote possibility that my children would be trampled by a herd of Converse-wearing, backpack-toting third graders or, tragically, mauled by a rogue pencil sharpener.

Thing One and Thing Two are worldly fifth graders now—not-so-spindly creatures who positively thrive on the thrum of activity present in their school day. No longer are they overwhelmed by long lines in the cafeteria, the deafening roar of eco-friendly electric hand dryers in the restrooms or an oncoming herd of third graders for that matter. They know practically every nook and cranny of their beloved school—where favorite library books can be found, which teachers have a debilitating affinity for chocolate chip cookies and, not surprisingly, how to efficiently navigate to the nurse’s office from virtually anywhere in the building. What’s more, they’ve learned how to deal with unwieldy band instruments, lost book fair money and, occasionally, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

In that respect—yet ever so reluctantly—I acknowledge the vast chasm that exists between then and now, there and here, even though it has felt so completely fleeting.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. The content of this article, as it appears here, was previously published in the Khaleej Times.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel


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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Growing Pains, Mushy Stuff, School Schmool

A Tale of Two Schools

Middle school is an exhausting, uber-dramatic, soul-sucking affair—or at least that’s the impression my sixth-grade daughters would have the world at large believe. I could be wrong. Maybe it’s just me they’ve tried so desperately to convince—that life as an 11-year-old is hard, especially during said epic transition to the Land of Angsty Tweens. But I’m a tough sell. What’s more, I find their collective woe-is-me sort of grousing fairly amusing, which, I assume, will ensure me a cozy spot in hell. Possibly a corner office, with a window overlooking a bumper crop of my shortcomings.

At any rate, between the histrionics involved with not having the right notebooks, Sharpie markers and/or molecularly superior two-pocket folders, animated accounts of kids almost getting stuffed inside lockers and my so-called insensitivity regarding polka-dotted underwear on gym days, I can’t keep up. Indeed, during these first few weeks of school I’ve failed in a fashion that is nothing short of spectacular. That said, I’ve been less than attentive to the delicate nuance of fashion trends germane to Hollister, Hello Kitty and the hideous nature of skinny jeans. I’ve expressed outrage and, occasionally, an air of indifference toward their ever-changing moods, the irony of which is not lost on me. But perhaps most disturbingly, I’ve neglected to commiserate with those who deem their plight wholly intolerable.

Shame on me.

Hence, the commentary I’ve grown far too accustomed to hearing: “Mom, for your information, we’re going to die. Unless, of course, you go back to Staples and buy the stuff I told you we needed for science. Otherwise, we’re going to die. Also, would you puleeeeease refrain from visiting our school and putting cutesy notes inside our lockers? It’s entirely possible WE WILL DIE OF EMBARRASSMENT if you keep doing that. Either way, we’re dead.”

Point taken.

As one might expect, however, the discussion doesn’t end there. “Yeah, Mom, it’s not enough that we have to lug our backpacks and instruments ALL THE WAY to our lockers, remember the stupid combination, dump 17 million things in there and try to make it to the right class with the right stuff at the right time. We also have to deal with the possibility that someone might see your note reminding us to bring our instruments home or telling us to have a terrific day. How can we have a terrific day if you treat us like babies?!” said the soul-crushing, self-absorbed demon seed who probably doubts I ever attended junior high or wore a training bra.

Ouch. Naturally, I feel compelled to defend, and enlighten, and perhaps embellish—all in the name of making an impression upon the difficult-to-impress crowd.

“It’s not as if I haven’t navigated the thorny path of adolescence myself,” I shriek inside my head, delivering a soliloquy to end all soliloquies, “anxiously wending my way through hallways crawling with upperclassmen eager to feast upon my naïveté and/or steal my milk money. Needless to say, I’ve been stuffed inside plenty of smelly lockers. Probably. Possibly. Well, almost. I lived in CONSTANT FEAR of such an occurrence anyway, scarring me for life. And believe it or not, I, too, was burdened with the insurmountable task of (gasp!) memorizing locker combinations. Furthermore, there were no backpacks to speak of, let alone ones with a profusion of padding and ergonomic designs for the namby-pamby among us. We actually carried our books and pencils and massive quantities of notes to and from school. Through the blinding snow. Uphill. Both ways. Don’t even get me started on the banal quality of cafeteria offerings back then. Suffice it to say, you will never grow to know and loathe the essence of ‘mystery meat,’ nor will you develop a crippling aversion to sloppy joes, destined to last a lifetime.”

“Need I even mention the communal showers…or the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad gym suits we were required to wear, grades seven through twelve—the ones that were obscenely restrictive and stylistically heinous?! Of course, I must, lest you fail to appreciate the good fortune you now enjoy, to include deodorant. Lots of deodorant, for one and all. Never mind that insufferable wedge of the calendar designated for obligatory boy/girl square dancing during the 70s era—an event that could only be classified as sheer misery, especially in the eyes of teens and tweens whose lives were devoted to building a society of budding wallflowers,” said the veteran wallflower, as she recounted that which, ostensibly, was a soul-sucking affair.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (reminiscing, sort of). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting, School Schmool, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

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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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Kid-Speak, Love and Loss, Me Myself and I, Mushy Stuff, School Schmool