Kindergarten? Not my baby!

By Felicia D. Pinkney

Can’t wait for kindergarten. Talk about f-u-n! They teach you how to spell, you get to paint lots of pictures and go on field trips. And recess — looking forward to that, too. Monkey bars … yesss!

Just one thing: Hope they have a desk that fits a 38-year-old mommy, because no way, no how, is my firstborn going into that big ol’ school by herself.

Guess I better rephrase that before CPS comes a-knockin’. What I meant to say was that I’m suffering separation anxiety a week before my 5-year-old even starts school.

Full disclosure: The anxiety actually began about a year ago, when I started prepping her for this rite of passage. Besides getting her ready academically, I told her that I’d also treat her to some grown-up stuff, such as having her ears pierced and getting her hair done at my salon. Plus, we’d get to shop for cute new clothes and school supplies.

But a funny thing happened; the more I got her ready for kindergarten, the more unready I became. That’s when the light bulb went on upstairs: My baby was actually becoming a big girl. And who wants that? I mean, really?

Oh, all right, I can admit that it’s OK at times. I cried tears of joy when she took her first steps at 11 months, and my husband and I practically threw a party when she was completely potty-trained. But kindergarten marks the official beginning of “I’m not a little girl anymore.” One day she’s writing “I (heart) Mommy”; the next she’s writing “I (heart) Tommy.”

See where this could lead? Kindergarten, bad. Mommy, good.

Call me clingy, a helicopter mother (you know, one who hovers over her kids), whatever. That’s just my nature, I suppose.

But what can I do, join a support group? Or for that matter, start one? I can just see it now … Hi. My name is Felicia, and I love my child too much to let her go to school … yeah, right!

While I’m at it, I may as well confess this, too: I sometimes stop what I’m doing just to watch my oldest daughter. That’s when I observe how much she has grown.

When I look at her, I see the baby who was almost as bald as Kojak but who now has thick-as-a-rope hair that’s almost down her back.

I see the toddler who spoke her first words — “yight,” babyspeak for “light” — only 4 1/2 years ago; now she communicates in Spanish and with sign language.

monsters inc sullyAnd I see the girl who used to be afraid of the hairy, scary monster that lives in the closet. Now she soothes her fearful 3-year-old sister with the same words I once used on her: “Monsters don’t live in Texas.”

I’ve had to turn my head away from her several times during moments like these, because my heart would get so full — and so would my tear ducts.

So does all this mean that I have “issues?” If so, at least I’m not alone. I’ve heard that some schools have developed crying rooms for parents who face kindergarten for the first time. And it’s also why they advise parents to hold their tears until after they drop off their child. Once you make it to the parking lot, they say, let it flow.

But I think I have a better solution: I’ll just have my husband drop her off on the first day. Either that, or I’ll home-school her. Maybe by middle school, I will have figured out how to let go.

This story was originally published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2006.