It was easy to spot the first-timers in the crowd for kindergarten roundup last night. They fidgeted in their seats and leaned in close to their spouses whispering with anxious looks on their faces. A few had eyes rimmed with red. I understood their anxiety. I was the same last year.
Kindergarten is that first step in the child breaking out of the cocoon you’ve created for them. If you assist a butterfly’s exit from the cocoon you will kill it. The butterfly must struggle and pump its wings so fluid will leave its body cavity and strengthen its wings so it can fly.
There are things beginning in kindergarten that children must learn to do and decide on their own. It’s tempting to reach in and keep doing things for them, thinking you are helping them to fly, but really you’re hindering the natural process of growth God designed. From as simple as learning to handle all their own clothing and zippers and buttons and shoes and coats and mittens and (hopefully!) not lose anything, to choosing friends and handling relationship challenges – the process of becoming responsible and independent begins.
Over the past year I’ve watched Little Miss learn to fly. She came home recently and informed me that she had joined mileage club for recess. The students had the choice to participate by running around a course set up on the playground. Four times around the cones equaled a mile and they received a little foot charm on a bracelet. I never would have chosen to run in kindergarten! She was proud of her decision and accomplishment. I had nothing to do with it other than congratulating her on a job well done.
She’s made wise choices in friends and dealing with those who have hurt her. All along the way, I sat next to her affirming her good choices and giving advice for various situations. But she was the one pumping her wings and learning to navigate this jungle called life, learning where it was safe to land and where it is not.
The responsibility of parenting never ends (as my in-laws can attest, having had two of four children and their families live with them during transition periods.) But over the years, the roles gradually change as you begin set them free to fly on their own, until one day they call and say, “Mom, Dad, I’ve accepted a job across the country, we’re moving!” Ahem. Yes, we did that.
Next year, we begin the process with T-Rex as he enters young 5’s kindergarten. A year ago I would have hardly believed he’d be ready for school, but now, he can hardly wait. They grow so fast!