I’m not sleeping very well these days. Those of you reading this who know me are familiar with my ongoing struggles with insomnia, but since the beginning summer—long, relaxing days and carefree nights—my sleep had gotten better. But something happened a few weeks ago that send me into insomnia land all over again.
It started with an innocent trip to Target. It was early July and I’d taken the day off (one of the many perks of self-employment: a day off whenever I feel like it) and decided that instead of taking my daughter to daycare, I’d keep her home and we’d go splash around at the pool. But first, I needed a new cooler for our picnic lunch. We ran to Target to pick up a cheap one, and I was astounded to find that the back-to-school displays were already out. And for the first time it really hit me that I’d have to buy my daughter some, because in a little over a month’s time, she’d be starting kindergarten.
Paper, pencils, crayons … I can handle all that. What threw me to the edge, strangely enough, was the backpack. I know, from having friends with older kids, that kindergarten teachers want students to have standard-sized backpacks, not the little kid ones that she currently carries.
My daughter got all excited: “Look, Mama, Sofia! I want a Sofia backpack! Look, Barbie! I mean, I want a Barbie one. I mean, I want Minnie …”
I helped her put one on, and it was ridiculous how big this thing looked on her. I thought, “How can they ask these little kids to carry such big bags?” And then I thought, “What if some kid makes fun of my kid’s backpack?”
Stupid, I know. This probably isn’t even a thing, but I have a very vivid memory of being teased about my rainbow backpack, and it’s haunted me ever since. So there I was, worrying about my kid getting teased in school. And this unleashed a whole avalanche of kindergarten worries:
– What if she doesn’t make friends?
– What if she doesn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch?
– What if boys tease her?
– What if boys like her?
– What if she likes boys???!!
– What if something dangerous happens at school?
And while she was happily settling on the Minnie Mouse light-up backpack and matching lunchbox, Mommy was having a silent heart attack in Target.
As if that weren’t bad enough, while we were standing in line to check out, I reached into my purse to pull out my wallet and read the text I’d just received (Bad phone! Bad phone!), she saw something shiny at the front of the store and took off without telling me. I looked up and found her gone, and heard her crying from the popcorn counter. She’d gone to see a picture of a princess on something, and gotten lost.
SEE??? I thought to myself. If she can get lost in 30 seconds with me at Target, what can happen in kindergarten????
I’ve heard lots about kindergarten anxiety in kids, but my child doesn’t really have separation anxiety. She’s gone to daycare for years and loves babysitters, and her preschool experience was wonderful. She’s very excited about it kindergarten.
We’ve met and really like her kindergarten teacher, and we have heard marvelous things about the school.
In short, our daughter and her new kindergarten class will be fine, I’m sure, and it hasn’t occurred to her to be worried about it.
Me, on the other hand … well, I’m getting more nervous by the day. Even as I write this, I have butterflies in my stomach and start to tear up. Because this is where it all begins. This is where the kids start talking back, ganging up on each other, forming cliques—all that school stuff I hated and are the reasons why I wouldn’t go back now if you paid me. This is SCHOOL—where she starts worrying about how she looks, being worried about what others think of her when she decides to wear a Halloween costume to school. This is where hugs and kisses from Mommy start not being so cool. This is where my tiny little girl—who I swear was a baby last week!—has to sit in a big cafeteria full of hundreds of kids.
My daughter is a cuddler—she always wants to cuddle with me. She tells me about once an hour that she loves me, and often adds, “Even when I’m grown up, I’ll still be your baby and I’ll never stop loving you.” And I am terrified that school will suck that sweetness and affection out of her. I see her reaching out to chosen friends at school and see them turn away from her, as kids are wont to do, and I feel my stomach drop and think, “You little %^&*, how dare you turn away from my kid!” I know all this stuff is normal, but that doesn’t make it easier for me to watch or think about. And it’s sure to multiply with school.
And let’s not even get started on the increasing incidents of bullying and school violence that truly petrify me to the point of catatonia.
And this is when, despite my love for my work and my desire to continue doing it, I can understand the instinct to home school. It’s also where I understand the urge to wrap her in bubble wrap … something that can keep her safe from all harm or pain, for the rest of her life. Because that’s my heart walking around out there.
So here we are, three weeks away from the start of kindergarten, and it’s all going WAAAAYYY too fast, and all I can do is take a deep breath, put a big smile on my face, and tell her how great I know she’ll be in kindergarten. And I KNOW she will. It’s me I’m worried about.