I have vivid memories of my kindergarten experience over 30 years ago. I remember my friends, my classroom, the letter books we used, and how one day, after I yelled down the hall to tell my friend she forgot her crayons, my teacher squeezed my cheeks and told me never to shout like that again. She left a lasting impression on me, to say the least.

When my oldest son was preparing to enter kindergarten in September, he and I were both nervous. But I tried my best to prep him in how to behave on the bus and in his classroom, how to be kind and generous to his peers, and how to be respectful to his teacher. We worked on reading. We practiced writing. I hoped we were prepared. To say there have been surprises this year for both of us would be an understatement.

In the fall, I received an e-mail from his teacher that included a song the class had recorded in music class. My son had been out sick with pneumonia for several days, but the class waited for him to return so he could sing his line and they could finish the song. This song was an amazing gift from his music teacher and has brought tears to my eyes. It serves as a time capsule of my son’s cute little voice at 5 years old. And we’ll have it forever. There are some educators who are truly magical. 

I’ve learned some new kindergarten jargon, such as “kidspell.” I was stumped when I heard this word the first time. When my son explained it as “our teacher tells us to write the word the way we think it sounds,” it made a bit of sense, but it had me questioning how and when he is going to learn the proper spelling if he doesn’t learn it from the outset? 

I had no idea that bullies on the bus would start this young. On the 100th day of school, my son was so excited to dress up as an old man; soon after he arrived at school, however, I learned from the school nurse that another child had placed slime all over his face on the 10-minute ride to school. It upset him so much that his jubilance was squashed that day, and he entered the school crying. I wasn’t on the bus, so I don’t know the full story. But my heart ached so much over this act of cruelty to my child. From this, I learned how quickly things can happen out of my control.

I never knew I would dislike the term “playdate” so much (and think of it as pretentious and annoying). Sure, I had heard it before, but when my son started asking me to host them, I couldn’t bring myself to actually say “playdate” when asking another kindergarten mother if he or she could come over “to play.” I know I’m an anomaly, but maybe it goes along with my disappointment that most play has to be arranged days in advance now, rather than spontaneously as it did during my childhood. Perhaps this is an extension of how I’ve never called my kids’ pacifiers “binkies”?

I’m amazed by what my son has learned academically this year. Yes, I knew in September that the curriculum would be more rigorous than it had been when I was in kindergarten, but I didn’t realize my son would be reading me “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss’ birthday. It is truly lovely to be read to by your child.

And the biggest surprise? How much he has grown overall, academically, socially, and behaviorally. He has a late-July birthday, and my husband and I weighed the decision to send him to kindergarten at 5 versus waiting another year. All his preschool teachers told us they thought he was ready, so we ultimately decided to send him. And we are so happy we did. 

Can’t we just freeze time now?

Kate Cotter
Kate came to New England for college a decade and a half ago, and fell in love with all things Boston. She is the mom of two beautiful baby boys, ages 2.5 & 10 months, and loves watching them explore this lovely area of the country, experiencing Boston through their eyes. Heart-filling: spending time with my family, spontaneous hugs, kisses and “I love you Mommy” from my boys, reading great books, fall in New England, the Adirondacks, golden retriever puppies (don’t have any yet!), coffee, champagne, and serendipity. Can do without: Boston traffic, inconsiderateness, never-ending winters and stir-craziness.