I thought I had everything pretty much under control when it came time for my older daughter, Carly, to enter kindergarten. Carly, age five, and her sister, Lily, age four, had been together in a full day program the previous year — which meant one schedule and two lunches. Even though the girls would be attending different schools in the fall, I expected the transition to school would be fairly smooth. How wrong I was.
Different schools meant different schedules, teachers, friends, transportation, meals, and so much more. Lily had to wear a uniform. Carly could wear play clothes, but had to wear sneakers on gym day. (Was that Day 1 or Day 5?) Some days Lily was allowed to wear play clothes, but she had to bring a dollar that day to donate to a special school fund.
My greatest challenge was working with a new special needs schedule. In previous years, both girls had received special services for various developmental delays, but each had the same providers.
Now Carly was passed along to a whole new set of providers. Not only did I have to get to know her teachers and the school staff, I had to be sure the school could understand and meet her special needs.
For my girls, the greatest challenge was going it alone. They’d spent the last two years as each other’s chief playmate. Now they were flying solo.
Initially, Lily had trouble separating from her sister and her parents. Carly, on the other hand, was anxious to separate. (She couldn’t wait to run to the bus every morning!) But she struggled with the transition to a new school. Eventually, each figured out how to fit into a new group of children, and this fostered independence.
At this age, children are becoming social beings. They enjoy belonging to a group, whether it’s a classroom or an entire school. They begin to make friendships, and are easily influenced by others. They will test the limits of their independence by talking back to you.
They also are developing organizational skills, partly because they understand time. (Monday is library day, Thursday night is gymnastics.) They usually keep better track of their belongings, but don’t count on them to do this consistently. Storytelling becomes a means of demonstrating an understanding of sequential events.
I quickly learned that my girls’ rapidly advancing language and storytelling skills necessitated new vigilance on my part. Common phrases to beware of: “Mrs. Daniels said I could wear a necklace” or “My teacher said I could have cookies for snack.”
This is an exciting time in the life of a child. As I watched our daughters graduate from their respective programs in June, I marveled at their maturity and independence.