Last year, I sent my oldest "baby" to kindergarten. My dreams of a utopian school year were only crushed by one person: me. Why? Because I made some rookie mistakes, mistakes that nearly drove me over the edge. Here's what I did, and why I won't be doing it again this year:
1. Make sure every snack and meal are perfectly balanced.
It was incredibly stressful to make sure that my child's every snack and meal contained just the right protein-to-carbohydrate-to-fat ratio, including two servings of fruits and veggies. I browsed Pinterest for ideas, to find T-rex shaped ham sandwiches (on whole wheat organic bread, of course) and homemade sushi that appeared to be created by a contestant from Top Chef. These carefully arranged entrees and sides (like starfruit and kale salad) were arranged in $50 bento boxes with cute little chopsticks tied on top with brown twine. Listen, there is nothing wrong with a sandwich and an apple. It all gets traded anyway.
2. Carefully select her outfits.
It's grade school. Prepare for sweat, marker streaks, mysterious brown stains, and dirt. The kids will get holes in their clothes and scuffs on their shoes. They will drag their monogrammed Pottery Barn backpacks up the bus steps and down the school hallways. Stop trying to coordinate your daughter's pants, shirts, hair barrettes, and socks like she's a Gap model. Before your child walks out the door to school, there is only one question you need to ask yourself: Is the child dressed? If the answer is yes, high-five your kid and give yourself a pat on the back. Success!
3. Volunteer to help at every classroom party.
I have three young kids. Last year I would frantically find a babysitter (at $10 an hour) to watch my younger two so I could show up at every class party with organic carrot sticks, Martha Stewart craft supplies, and cutesy favor bags in tow. I'd leave tired, sweaty, and crabby. What is with the classroom parties? There is one for seemingly every single event. It's Tuesday? Have a party! It's National Pollution Awareness Day? Par-tay! This year, I plan to help at two parties, tops. I'm saving all that money I would have spent on party supplies for a new bottle of much-needed wine.
4. Keep every single paper she brings home.
You'll retrieve no fewer than 27 pieces of paper from your child's backpack every single day. There will be permission slips, worksheets (most half-completed), announcements, award certificates, and all the random drawings your child creates during free time. Most papers will be stained, wrinkled -- or worse, damp from a mysterious liquid. Your kid wrote a whole line of capital Bs? Admire the paper, high-five the kid, and place the paper in the recycle bin (lovingly, of course). Then go celebrate a great school day with a non-perfectly-balanced snack.
5. Project what my child's future will look like based on kindergarten experiences.
Your kid cries when you leave him? No, it doesn't mean he'll live in your basement forever playing video games in his pajamas. Your daughter earns a "satisfactory" instead of an "excellent" for her reading abilities? Please don't e-mail the teacher, gushing in run-on sentences and all caps that you are certain the test was inaccurate. Your child has years to develop and blossom and learn, so open that new bottle of wine and toast yourself. Your kid is doing great!