We survived kindergarten.

And I’m here to tell you that you will too. I promise.

I’ve been reading lots of anxious-mama posts on Facebook lately about preschool graduations and kindergarten looming at the end of summer, and it’s inspired me to share a few thoughts from my experience during the last year. I was in your shoes not long ago, and I remember how it feels. In fact, I’m currently drowning in “my baby finished kindergarten and she’s so big and capable and she doesn’t need me any more” self-pity right now. Solidarity, folks.

Making lists is how I cope with emotion.

So here you have it. A few tips from me to you on how to rock kindergarten.

>> Say yes. Our kids’ social lives — at least while they’re this young — are in our hands. During the first few weeks of school, you’re likely to field invitations for play dates on early release days or get-to-know-your-classmate gatherings at the room mother’s house. I turned these down initially — graciously, of course — mostly because we had legit plans on those days. But also because of my intense fear of small talk with strangers. As the year progressed, though, I began to realize how important these little dates are to Lily’s social development, so I started saying yes. We’ve been on a few outings, and I happily made awkward small talk while watching my daughter flourish.

>> Get involved. One of my all-time favorite things to do is volunteer in Lily’s classroom. I’ve done everything from helping students with reading and math to drawing faces on construction paper turtles. It’s especially fun to be a fly on the wall in Lily’s classroom and get to see what it is she does every day. And, of course, I love the little sideways glances and secret smiles she throws my way. Even if you can only go an hour a month (like me), you’ll be happy you did. So will your kid.

>> Give what you can. Be prepared to be asked for money. Often. Our schools are hurting for funds, so we always try to give what we can. Even if that means tossing in an extra $5 for field trip registration to help another kid participate. Every little bit counts.

>> Go to as many events as possible. My favorites were the Mother’s Day Tea and the Positive Behavior Awards, at which kids are recognized for everything from friendship to creativity.

>> Read the daily folder. This is going to be your primary means of communication with the school, so empty it every day and take note of the important stuff. On any given day, it’ll have a newsletter, announcements, your kid’s projects, permission slips, book fair forms, and sometimes coupons for free fun stuff, like bowling or ice cream. I loved that folder because I’m a paper nerd. But you’ll need to make it your best friend, too.

>>Wear your pride: Marc and I bought school t-shirts at the spring carnival, and whenever I wear mine, Lily announces with a huge grin, “That’s my school!” Best $10 I ever spent.

>>Ask questions, even if you think they’re stupid. Don’t be afraid to email your kid’s teacher, call the school, talk to the principal, etc. I once wrote Lily’s teacher because I didn’t understand how to fill out the book fair form. She answered quickly, Lily got books. Boom.

>> Follow your school’s (or school system’s) social media feeds. They’re informative, current and, as is the case with the Wake County School System’s Twitter feed, can be highly entertaining.

>> Make friends with the school secretary. If you’re like our family and had sick children for 80 percent of the winter, you’ll see a lot of the school secretary. She’s the face of the place and she deals with everything … late kids, sick kids, head lice, you name it. Not to mention trying to work at her desk with a million little interruptions a day. Throw her a smile or thank her with a little treat every now and then. It will make a difference.

>> Thank your kids’ teachers. We can’t afford elaborate gifts, but I found creative ways throughout the year to say thank you, with homemade cookies, small gift cards and personal notes. They’re doing wonderful things for our kids for VERY LITTLE money. Reward them when you’re able.

>> And don’t forget everyone else who helps the school thrive. When Lily and I approached the crossing guard this morning, she started to put up her sign. Then she realized we were actually there to see her. Lily handed her a thank you note (with a small gift card tucked inside) and gave her a hug. The smile on Miss Lottie’s face could have lit the planet. We also delivered homemade gifts to the principal and front office staff, as well as the after-school care director. They’ve all made a difference in Lily’s life this year, in ways both big and small.

>> Most of all: SOAK IT IN. I can’t believe our first year of elementary school is over. I’m sad to “lose” Lily’s teachers, and in a weird way, I’m bummed that I won’t have an excuse to drive over to the school again until August. It’s been incredible to witness Lily’s growth this year — physical, emotional, intellectual, social — and hold in my arms a very confident, smart, happy little girl.

Kindergarten will do wonders for your babies. And at the end, I say you’re still allowed to call them that. Just be prepared for an eye-roll.


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