This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 4-year-old daughter, who is ready to own full day Junior Kindergarten.
It’s that time of year when your Facebook feed becomes a stream of pics of people’s kids standing on the front steps in backpacks. Sometimes they hold numbers corresponding to what grade they are about the enter, and the caption will include weepy confessions of parental anxieties and poetic melancholia about their little ones growing up. The weepiest and most anxious captions will come from the parents (like me) whose children are beginning all day preschool, kindergarten or first grade. These folks will be out of their minds realizing their babies aren’t babies, their control over their child’s influences is severed and their child has been cast into the crushing gears of the societal contraption. You might want to set your Facebook controls to “hide all posts about parental fears and the passage of time.”
There are some core fears at the heart of all this parental agitation and, like a monster under the bed, these fears are best allayed by shining a light on them. Below is a list of what you’re probably dreading, and things to consider to help you cope.
Your child will be scared
You don’t want to let your child run through those schoolhouse doors, or board that bus, because you don’t want them to feel frightened about entering the gaping maw of society. It certainly is a scary proposition, and no doubt they will feel anxious about the building, the people and the proposition of success or failure. This is a child we’re talking about, though, one of the bravest creatures on earth. Every moment–every thunderstorm, every animal, every movie and every food is a scary new moment for them, and yet they soldier on. It was only a few years ago that they learned object permanence which is the fact that something hidden in “peek-a-boo” wasn’t gone forever. What’s scarier than that?! But they coped, didn’t they? And likewise they will cope with school which is probably an experience more fun and less scary than sleeping alone in their big kid bed for the first time. You’re the scared one, scaredy, not them. Once you realize that, you’re halfway there.
Your child will face social struggles
The world is lousy with bad actors. Not in the sense of “poor thespians” like Scott Baio on “Joanie Loves Chachi,” but “ill-intentioned persons,” like Scott Baio at the RNC. School means running a daily gauntlet of rude, insecure, mean, poorly-raised animal people. You’re freaking out about the daily battle your kid will face. But, you know what? Your child has already met a lot of them, and the jerks pushed your kid off of playground equipment, snatched their toys, told them they looked stupid, etc. etc. Your child survived.
You know what else? Your office is full of jerks, and your neighborhood and every other part of existence. It’s also full of friends and family and loved ones. Dealing with the aloof, the aggressive and the awful is a huge part of life, but there are always teachers and friends to help fight the battle. And it is very, very rare that the straights don’t outnumber the crookeds. It is more likely your kid will come home with a new friend than with a black eye.
Your life will be insane
Running your kid everywhere, remembering homework, and lunches, and clothes and supplies. It’s going to be a madhouse. But isn’t it already? Hasn’t it been for years?
Make the lunches and set out the clothes and pack the backpack the night before. Do it. You won’t want to do it, but you have to do it and you’ll survive. Unless you don’t pack the lunches the night before. Then you won’t survive.
Your child will resent you
You’ve tossed your child out of the pastoral idyll of toddlerhood into the cruel badlands of the real world. Will they be upset with you for thrusting them out of Eden? Of course they will. Even if you are a reasonably perfect parent, the second twenty years of your child’s life will involved them working through everything you did wrong in the first twenty years of their life. That’s just how people are. Sending them off to all day preschool or kindergarten may result in them getting a tattoo of your face with fangs and stink lines coming off of it, but so will everything else you do, good or bad.
Unless you really screw up, they’ll probably still cry at your funeral. So relax.
You will become irrelevant
You’ve been your child’s whole world for the past five years, and now they’ll be influenced by teachers, friends and media, while you recede into the background with less and less understanding of their tastes, their language and their decisions. True. But since their first postnatal hug, you’ve been receding into that background. The first time they walked on their own, they walked to you. The second time they walked on their own, they walked away. And the first time you couldn’t name all of the Paw Patrol puppies, they realized you were a square. You’re not IRRELEVANT, though, just LESS relevant. You’re still crucial – emotionally, logistically, financially, spiritually. They just won’t show it as much, and that’s okay.
Good luck this month, with both the Facebook feed and letting the baby birds fly. Keep in mind that, though your child may be facing a nerve-wracking new adventure, you’re the one who is losing your mind. Your child will probably be fine. Try to be more like them.
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