January Registration- This Cannot Be Happening

January RegistrationA few days ago, I received an envelope in the mail… the one I’ve dreaded.  It was an envelope from the Registrar; the one that says “January Registration.”

I remember the first time I received this envelope.  It was January of 2012 when the registration forms for Buddy and Goose arrived.  I met that envelope with a mixture of excitement and worry.

Kindergarten will be so great for them!  They will learn so much! I hope they’re ready.  Of course they are! I hope they can make friends.  They’ll be fine! And so on until the day came that they climbed the steps of the bus for the very first time.

But this envelope is for Bear… and the emotions that go with it are more complex.  This is my youngest.  My baby.  The last.  I took the mail from the mailbox, saw the envelope, sat in my car and cried.  He is my baby, but he is also my partner in crime, my best friend.

When the Buddy and Goose started school, it was me and Bear.  For the first time, I have regular periods of time with one child… alone.  My attention is not divided by 3.  We have adventures.  We go to cafes that I wouldn’t dare bring 3 kids into.  I joke that he’s the best boyfriend that I’ve ever had, and it’s true. When we go to the diner and he’s impatient waiting for food, I tell him that while we wait we should talk because that’s what grown ups do.  When I ask what he’d like to talk about, he grins and says, “You, momma.  Let’s talk about you.”

When I’m shopping and manage to pick out a few things for myself, he insists that I try them on before we leave. “We have to go to the dressing room, momma.  I’ll hold the hangers.”  And he does.  And he doesn’t complain.  Ever.

On Christmas, the kids were all given Kindle Fires.  When I was setting them up the night before, I noticed that one didn’t seem quite right, but I wasn’t sure.  Confession:  I made a conscious choice to give the wonky one to Bear, because I knew that if it was defective, he’d be able to handle it without a meltdown.  It was broken.  I told him a replacement would come on Saturday.  He didn’t bat an eyelash.  When Saturday came and I was notified that the package wouldn’t arrive until Monday, again, no problem.  When UPS arrived Monday with his Kindle, he was SO EXCITED, but by a cruel twist of fate… it was also broken.  Disappointed but not a tear, he asked if I could order him a new one.  I said I would.  He moved on.  If it had been Buddy’s Kindle that needed  replacing twice, you might have heard him screaming clear across the globe.  If it had been Goose’s, there might have been weeping, or at minimum sulking. Bear accepts change and disappointment with an ease I wish I had.  He teaches me daily that an unexpected change of plans is an opportunity and not a crisis.

I’m going to need to channel his inner-calm come September, and I will because I have to, but it will still feel like a breakup.

Kindergarten isn’t for wimps.

Since our last talk, Buddy and Goose have started kindergarten.  They are almost done with Kindergarten.  I’m going to have 2 first graders in a few short months.  First Graders.  I’m only barely muddling through kindergarten.  How will I ever manage 1st Grade?  I’m not exaggerating for effect, either.  Kindergarten is hard… on parents.  The kids have adjusted beautifully.  They love school.  For me, it is exhausting.

Let me tell you a few things about Kindergarten for those who haven’t been through it.

Kindergarten is 5 days a week.  That’s not a typo.  5 days a week.  Monday through Friday, I have to empty their backpacks of work sheets, art projects, homework packets, handouts, fundraisers, flyers, PTA bulletins, snack bags and more.  I thought that the pile of stuff that comes home with them from preschool/daycare (2 days a week) was overwhelming.  That was peanuts compared to this mess.  We’ve had to up-size our recycle bin.  At least the preschool stuff was all work the kids had done at school.  I didn’t have to do anything with it except decide if I should store it in their Keepsake Boxes or whisk it into the recycle bin stealthily concealed between pages of the community news.  The kindergarten paper deluge is a mixture of stuff  that I sort into keep, recycle, and return to school piles.  The return to school pile is often the largest and most time-consuming.

These kids are 5.  Their homework requires a ton of effort on my part and theirs.  They aren’t disciplined enough to do it without supervision.  Sometimes it doesn’t get done.  And when that happens, it is always my fault and not theirs, as in, mommy decided that a bath or dinner or toenail clipping or something trumped homework on that day.  We manage.

Then there is the endless barrage of forms: fundraisers, field trips, portraits, extra-curricular activities, yearbooks (Yearbooks?  In Kindergarten?) etc.  Each form requires me to fill it out… twice.  One for each child.

Are you keeping up so far?  Great!  I’m not done.

I also have to keep track of the “specials”.

Is today computer lab or phys ed?  You can’t wear those shoes today; you need sneakers.  It’s library today, so make sure your books are in your backpack or you can’t take out a new one.  Keep it all straight or your kid will be the one sitting out in gym because she’s wearing Mary Janes instead of sneakers… not that I know from experience or anything.

For all the effort that I have to put into it… I’m really in awe of their teacher.  She has 2.5 hours to cover a massive amount of material with 5 year olds.  I’ve been classroom “helper” a few times, and my brain is scrambled when I leave there.  That she can manage to teach all day long (one group in the morning and another in the afternoon) without losing her mind is nothing short of a miracle.

Am I whining?  Yup.  I am.  And if you think I’m whining now, just wait until September.  The whining has just begun.

There is an up-side to this kindergarten routine, though.  My kids are reading.  I can’t think of anything more wonderful than that.  They are learning and experiencing other great stuff too (including getting to see baby chicks hatch from eggs), but the reading and writing part makes me giddy.

Another benefit?  I get to have time alone with Bear now and then and I treasure it, because one day, he will be getting on the bus too and it will be his backpack that I’ll be complaining about.  Just like that, the “baby days” will be gone and all of my kids will be “school age”… and I will cry… and drink wine… and try to remember… while keeping up with the next exciting phase of parenthood.