I remember watching my eldest get on the kindergarten bus on her first day of school. There was fear in her eyes and she looked way too tiny to be heading off to face the world on her own. My heart broke a little and I wanted to yank her back into the safety of my arms.
But, there was also a part of me that was happy about entering this new phase of motherhood. I pictured my kids going off to school happily, learning and growing, making friends easily, and turning into well-educated adults before my very eyes. I figured I would stand back and view it all serenely.
Yeah, that wasn’t the way it went down. At all.
First of all, I had no knowledge of “learning differences.” My kids had progressed through babyhood and the toddler years without any red flags popping up so I thought we were home free in that department. Nope. And, let me tell you this: school can be a nightmare for kids with learning difficulties. I cannot state that strongly enough.
Next, there are AMAZING teachers out there and there are sub-par teachers. There are awesomely creative teachers and there are teachers who are tired and counting the days until retirement. And, there are teachers who for one reason or another, just aren’t a good match for your child. When that happens, the school year can be long and tough for everyone!
Another sad fact is this: some kids are mean. Really mean. One boy in my daughter’s class went so far as to paint her name on the side of the portable to get her into trouble. Fortunately, he spelled it wrong! But, that whole year was a nightmare of constant bullying for her. They were only in second grade and I cringe to think of the levels of bullying that kid was capable of in the older grades.
Sometimes, your own children are the issue. Maybe they have trouble bonding with their peers. Perhaps, they have habits that others find annoying. This is even more stressful for moms because guilt is added to the mix.
Finally, you will perhaps find that your child’s school does not have the same values your family does. From the time they were quite young, our kids would come home confused and angry about what they were being taught that went against our belief system. We had to have many painful conversations with them that we had hoped to delay until they were older.
How you handle all this, will of course be up to you as a parent. Some moms take the “back-off” approach and allow the school to handle any issue that comes up. As for me, I turned into a ferocious mama bear whenever my kids were threatened in any way; physically, emotionally or morally. My face was very familiar up at school and that was scary and exhausting for this shy, compliant mom. But, I wanted my kids to know that I had their backs and that they didn’t have to battle alone.
I could write a book about the experiences I had as a mom of school-aged kids. But, what I want to stress most of all is that I didn’t get to stand serenely by as my kids skipped happily off to school. And, for one reason or another, you probably won’t either.
But, as with anything worth doing, the struggles are all worth it in the end. All of my “kids” are well-adjusted adults now. And, after all, isn’t that the goal of school in the first place?