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09/01/2017 06:27PM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Shiny sneakers. Sharp pencils. Unbroken crayons. Yellow buses. These are the telltale signs that back-to-school time is upon us. As the mother of an only child who started kindergarten this year, I am entering a whole new world. Sure, my daughter Vivi did Mom’s Day Out and Pre-K over the last few years, but things just got real.

It all started back in May when Vivi’s preschool class took a field trip to the elementary school. You could feel the excitement radiating from their tiny bodies as they filed into big-kid school. Even in the kid-sized classrooms and media center, they just looked so little. Compared to the fourth graders, they might as well have been a different species. I’m sure I wasn’t the only parent thinking, “Is my kid really going to be that HUGE in a few short years?”

To their credit, the preschoolers behaved beautifully. They listened quietly as the principal welcomed them and read a few stories. They scoped out the playground and discussed which piece of equipment they would conquer first. They were most impressed with the iPads in the kindergarten classroom. Only one child cried, and we all left looking forward to August.

Around this same time, however, my normally confident five-year-old became very clingy with me. She had always been a mommy’s girl, but this was a whole new level of attachment. Her preschool teacher told me that many kids, especially those who are more aware of the world around them, can become anxious about elementary school and glue themselves to a parent or preschool teacher. I was painfully shy as a young child, and the thought of my brave, adventurous girl turning into the kind of scared kid I was broke my heart.

Our family was patient and started our summer with fun little outings sans mommy to build her back up. Vivi got to swim and go out for pizza with her grandparents. Daddy took her out to play golf – and she sunk a 25-foot putt! It didn’t take long before my sassy girl was back and ready to take on kindergarten. The moment I knew we were going to be okay happened mid-summer when we drove by the elementary school on our way to the library. Completely unsolicited from the backseat I heard, “Mommy, I cannot wait to get my hands on that playground!” Yes!

With Vivi taken care of, it was now my turn to freak out. We waited all summer for some communication from the school. A week before school started all our friends started receiving calls or postcards informing them of their teacher assignment. I think we were the last family in the county to be notified. We waited three excruciating days from the time our friends first got their notifications before our letter finally arrived.

While we waited for school to start, my fellow kindergarten moms and I furiously texted back and forth as we launched an online investigation into the people our children would be spending the year with. Seriously, the CIA or FBI should snap us up to conduct undercover operations. Before the first day of school, we all knew what the teachers looked like, how many kids of their own they had, if they had a sense of humor, and where they vacationed over the summer.

Two days before school started, we attended orientation where students and parents got to check out the classrooms and meet the teachers. All was going well until my husband Patrick walked right up to Vivi’s new teacher and said, “We only stalked you a little on Facebook. How was Europe this summer?” Bless his heart. I didn’t realize I needed to lecture him on not waving our freak flag before school even started. Thankfully, the teacher rolled with it and talked about her fabulous vacation. Meanwhile, I’m worried we have already been branded as THAT family.

Having learned the lay of the land at orientation, Vivi strode confidently into the classroom on day one. She sat at her desk and reluctantly let me give her a kiss and a fist bump before shooing me out of the room. That’s my girl!

Vivi insisted on riding the bus home her first day. I had to stifle my helicopter mom urges and let her go, reminding myself that I had ridden the bus in kindergarten. Granted, they put me on the wrong bus my first day of kindergarten and sent my parents into a panic, but safety measures have changed a bit since 1980, right?

As I write this, we have completed two whole days of school and declared ourselves experts at this whole kindergarten thing. My girl got on the bus this morning like a boss, and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m looking forward to field trips and volunteering and even school lunches if it means I get to spend some time with her. I know more changes and challenges are heading our way, and we’re all excited to face them together.

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