For years, my friends with older children told me this day would come. Even my husband, who is a second-time father, has shared many stories about how fast his oldest son, UT college student, grew up… But of course, I didn’t believe them. My infant’s, toddler’s, preschooler’s kindergarten days were in the distant future, right?!
Then this August, reality set in.
I HAVE a kindergartener!!!
What I have learned is no matter what others tell you, it is not until you are the parent walking down the hallway to your child’s kindergarten classroom that you truly realize what is about to happen.
As I walked Caleb down the hallway to his classroom, I felt like I was in control of my emotions and feelings. After all, Caleb has been in child care since he was an infant! Then it happened. I had to let go of his hand, watch him walk into the classroom, and sit at his assigned seat. All at once my head, my hand, my heart experienced a physical reaction from a rush of feelings, a desire to reach for his hand … how do you even explain what a parent experiences in words?
In this moment it became real that my son was officially in kindergarten.
Caleb gave me a hug and kiss, slapped a high-five, and did a fist bump before I left the room. This has been our practice since he was a toddler. As I left, I asked myself the question that I believe many moms ask themselves in this situation…
“Did I prepare him for kindergarten?”
If so, “What did I do for him?”
I sat in the park across from the elementary school and let my mind flood itself with sweet memories as I sought the answer to my question. Here’s what came instantly to mind:
1.) Prioritizing Time during Early Childhood
Motherhood is overwhelming! Each day is spent working, maintaining our house, preparing meals, taking care of my husband and our children, and caring for the dog. Geez, this list is not complete, but I have written enough that I already feel spread too thin! It’s a daily challenge to find balance between family and work.
Since becoming a “mama” it seems I spend a lot of thought in trying to define myself and motherhood. I know this is personal because it is defined by both my expectations and the expectations of others in my life. This is true for us all. I found this site in which women shared their definitions of motherhood and it really spoke to me.
2.) Applying the Systems Theory
Before I became a mother I was a social worker – personally and professionally and have used systems theory in both. As a social worker, I consider the reciprocal relationships between myself and/or individuals and my/their environment. I apply the systems theory by looking at relationships for myself or among individuals, groups, organizations, or communities and mutually influencing factors in the environment and looked at how my son does this as well.
The first day of kindergarten, Caleb and I walked a few blocks to the elementary school. My six-year-old nephew Julian, live near us and came too. I felt pride in knowing Caleb was surrounded by friends and family for this big occasion. Having aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents that live within an hour is a blessing that cannot be taken for granted. Beyond family, I have been involved in a mom’s group in which our children started out together as infants. We have remained friends and participated in special occasions for our kids. I think he has observed how our family values relationships and hope he will be successful at making friends in his kindergarten at his elementary school.
3.) Making the Most of Teachable Moments
Among the many emotions I experienced, one of them was excitement! I left Caleb sitting at his desk waiting for his kindergarten teacher to give instruction to the group. This was the beginning of school education and the end of a phase of my educating him. I reflected on how I thought my husband and I prepared Caleb for learning in kindergarten.
Did I take advantage of the teachable moments that would help Caleb to excel in school?
Our family enjoys boating, bike riding, hiking, camping, and traveling. We have exposed Caleb to a variety of indoor and outdoor activities and I believe Caleb will be able to follow instruction and complete classroom activities that are similar to the ones we did together.
4.) Eating Heathy Foods (or Grow Foods as we call them!)
When you marry someone with Type I diabetes, it’s a commitment to support a good diet. I thought I knew a lot about nutrition. But, it was when Caleb was a newborn that I truly thought about the foods I ate and carefully selected for my family. I still have a vivid memory of the first time I walked down the baby aisle and looked at all the commercial foods! Even though this foods is great for babies, I knew preparing homemade baby food from natural foods was the best choice. But, honestly, I did not even know how to get started! It was the kindness and guidance of family and friends that showed me how easy it was to prepare homemade foods for my son. This is how my business was born.
Today if I were to describe the foods I give to Caleb in two words, they would be “Grow Foods”. These are foods that consist mostly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, variety of proteins and the “right” fats to help him grow. It’s hard to imagine my baby has become a little boy who is 6 years old, almost 4 feet tall! Healthy food choices make a difference from the start and go along ways beyond even kindergarten into adulthood!
5.) Cultivating Play Time
Throughout Caleb’s early childhood our favorite play to shop has been the Goodwill store. for gently used books, games and toys. Each time I go to drop off a donation, I leave with great finds that provide opportunities for my husband and I to play with Caleb.
As a family, we enjoy the outdoors and we encourage Caleb to play outside as much as possible. It’s often a one-on-one game of tackle football, basketball, chase and even hide-and-go-seek. Our goal is for Caleb to keep my husband and I young and for us to keep him off the couch and distracting him from the television and video games. If we can’t play outdoors then we enjoy puzzles, books and of course, action figures. There are no words to express how much I have enjoyed watching him learn through these activities together!
This year Caleb is starting kindergarten knowing his alphabet and reading words, counting and doing simple math, expressing himself through art and design.
He is ready for kindergarten because the time we, his parents, and his teachers have spent helping him to grow and learn through play, healthy foods and family time.
How are your little ones doing this back-to-school season?