This year has been hard. My son started kindergarten and it wasn't the dreamy year I'd pictured in my mind. As I look back on this year, I realize that he wasn’t the one with something to learn, I was. Learning how my son learns has taught me more about parenting — and more about myself than any expert-written book could. My son may have gone to kindergarten, but I’m the one who got the education.
Here’s what my little guy taught me about the big world.
1. Little kids aren’t trying to be jerks. The transition to kindergarten can be tough causing all sorts of weird, nervous habits to develop in our kids. Nervous kids usually equal difficult kids. Mine was. Once I realized he wasn't trying to be difficult — he was just learning to navigate a new world — life got a whole lot easier for both of us.
2. Sticker charts are B.S. (at least for us). Trust me I’ve tried them all.
3. No one learns anything from being punished. I learned the hard way that my son learned nothing from being punished except to be scared of being punished. If my goal was to teach him how to do better next time then I had to actually teach him how to do better — not take away something he values.
4. Kids have a lot on their minds! I had no idea how much a six-year-old could have on his mind until I had a six-year-old. It may seem so exciting to go to kindergarten, but it's also a huge change with a lot of new things our kids have never experienced before. I learned to slow down and make sure I left time in the day for my son and I to just talk. Turns out, he's got a lot to say.
5. Always stand up for your kid. No matter what, kids need their moms to be their advocates.
6. Kids are amazingly resilient. If I could bounce back and brush things off as easily as my kid can, life would be so much easier.
7. Kindergarteners are still little kids. With so much expected of them these days, it’s easy to forget they’re just little kids who want to hang with their Mommy.
8. Things don’t always go like I picture them. You can have the perfect plan and it doesn’t mean it will go perfectly. I picked the "perfect" school for my son, or so I thought. Turns out, it wasn't right for him or me. I had to let the picture in my head go and do what was best for my kid.
9. Nothing matters if your kid isn’t happy. If you’ve ever seen your kid unhappy you know that there is nothing else that matters. It doesn't matter if his school has smart boards, iPads, or any other bells and whistles if he's not happy.
10. Kids need their moms differently as they get older. As a newborn, my son needed me to nurture, feed, and clothe him. But as a big kid, he needs my guidance and wisdom and attention more than I expected.
11. Not all kids are kind and it’s okay. Every kid is going to get teased and every kid will probably tease someone. Sometimes kids have to learn how to stand up for themselves by standing up for themselves. It’s harder on mom than it is on the kid.
12. Practicing what you preach isn't always easy as a parent. I tell my kids not to be impulsive then I lose my temper the minute things come unglued. It turns out being as well-behaved as I want my kids to be isn’t always easy.
13. Kids like to know their parents worry, too. To get my son to talk about what was on his mind, I’d tell him about some things that were on mine. He immediately opened up. Now, he asks to have time to “talk about our worries” almost every night. Turns out he was a relieved to know he wasn’t the only one in the house with things on his mind. (And, no, I never told him what I was really worried about was him.)
14. Kids hate it when you tell them how happy they should be. As parents we make choices for our kids that we assume are best from where they go to school to where we live. Just because we worked hard to get them in to the "right" school or live in the "perfect" neighborhood doesn’t mean they have to like it. They’re not ungrateful if they have a different definition of perfection.
15. Kids need very little to be happy. My son's days at kindergarten are long and intense. He's thrilled to come home and kick a ball around the yard or play with his favorite toys. I noticed the more intense his day, the simpler the way he plays. He just wants to have fun and be happy and he doesn't need much to do it.
16. Kids don’t get enough time to be kids. Gone are the days when kids spend a bulk of their time at school running around and using their imaginations. A lot is expected of little kids these days. So when they’re home, they need to be able to unload, relax, and just be a kid.
17. Someone kidnapped recess. I used to think I wanted my son to have it all at school. Now, I just want him to learn to love learning and get some time to run around outside. But long recesses are a thing of the past, whether you attend a public or private school. I can't help but feel sad for all kids. They need to move!
18. One good teacher can change a kid’s life. Not all teachers are good, but if your kid gets one great teacher a year that teacher can change the way your kid sees the world and herself.
19. Every kid is going to have a hard time at some point. It’s always a relief to hear others moms talk. That’s when I realize whatever is going on with my kid will pass and that he’s not the only one. Every kid will have to struggle at something.
20. Sometimes I don’t have the answer — and that's OK. My six-year-old stumps me with questions all the time from, “If God made the galaxy then who made God?”; “Mommy, why isn’t that boy nice to me?” I don’t have all the answers and I wish I did. All I can do is tell him the truth and try to find the answer.
Thanks to my kid for teaching me everything I need to know and everything I didn’t know I needed to know. He’s a fabulous teacher.
What has your child taught you?