Kindergarten Blues

by Brooke Burke-Charvet

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I have to share my kindergarten transition experience with you because I know so many moms are going through it. It’s a new experience for many families, scary for the kids and a bit overwhelming. I actually forgot how difficult it could be.

Rain just started kindergarten. She has been attending carpool, flag line and classroom parties with her two older sisters since she was born. Of all my children, I thought she would have the easiest transition because she is so familiar with the school, faculty, staff and many of the students.  But to my surprise, she had a very difficult time separating.

I didn’t make a big deal out of prepping her because she has been excited to go to school for so long that I thought she would skip through it with flying colors. But she held on to my leg, cried for her daddy, and as difficult as it was for us to walk away - we did so watching her crying in the arms of her teacher. It was very sad and heartbreaking, and we got a phone call to return back to school to give her one more goodbye.

I’ve been down this road before, although not this tough, and I know how important it is to be able to separate and walk away to give your child the opportunity to go through their own experience.  But jeez it was hard.

What surprised me the most that night was when Rain shared her feelings with David. She said, “Daddy, I’ve never taken one step without my mommy.” That both warmed and broke my heart. As busy as I am working, I really, really appreciated the fact that in her mind I have been there for her through everything.

But at the same time, I want her to be independent. I overheard her talking to her sister, Neriah, on the phone that night saying, “You know when you see Mommy at school and then she has to say goodbye? And when she says goodbye you feel like she’s never coming back? Well, I think it is easier if Mommy just drops me off that the curb and doesn’t come in so she won't tell me goodbye.”

When I digested this, not only was I shocked that a five-year-old could process and understand how difficult the actual visual and action of saying goodbye is, but also that she was able to recognize that struggle and then fix it by thinking it would just be easier if I dropped her off by the curbside.  Knowing how to avoid painful moments to feel better seemed like a reaction way beyond her years.

The irony is that there have been so many working days when I couldn’t actually park and walk my children in to attend the school’s morning ceremonies when I knew they wanted me to. Work doesn’t always allow that extra 20 minutes in the morning. So I scheduled these first few weeks off before I go back to work at Dancing with the Stars to be there for Rain and her sister to help transition her into kindergarten. And now she is telling me that she doesn’t need me and she prefers if I just drop her off at the curb!

Kinda crazy, but kinda smart and of course I will be selfless and do whatever makes it easier for her.

I thought it was brilliant, crazy and amazing and that is exactly what I did the second day. I pulled up, she asked me not to come in, I dropped her off, she waved goodbye with a smile and had a brilliant day.

Last night, she said to me, “Mommy, when you drop me off tomorrow morning, I’m not even gonna walk in with my sister, I’m gonna do it all by myself. “ It is pretty extraordinary for me to watch the process and see my children go through different stages of their lives in different ways.  And they are all so completely different. I ask a lot of people what their kindergarten experience was. One little girl said she remembered her heart pounding and it being scary because it was a new school and she didn’t know anyone. But she soon made a lot of friends.

One of my friends remembered his first day of kindergarten and said that he felt just fine until he looked out the window and he saw his mom peering in and then his tears started rolling. Truth be told, I think I cried as much as Rain did that first day. Watching her standing in flag line in her uniform, I realized that she was starting a new chapter of her life. I cried because I was happy, I cried because I was letting go and I cried mostly because it was a beautiful moment. Everybody goes through it in different ways. I think that it is so important that we empower our children to succeed, give them the confidence that they need, and allow them to handle new situations in their own ways. I never would have thought that Rain would struggle, but she did.  And it was ok. It gets easier every day .

Today she asked me to walk her in; I was so happy.  I placed a bunch of kisses in her hand so she could hold onto them all day in case she needed one to feel close to me.  (That tradition comes from a beautiful book, “The Kissing Hand” - it’s a great idea for any child/mommy bonding experience and one of our favorites. ) Then she pushed me out the door, which made the moment fun not sad. 

Every day is getting better…

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