The Drop Off: Letting Your Children Go…To School

This is an embarrassing, but absolutely genuine, story. When I was 12 I had exhausted the educational possibilities of my quaint and comfortable elementary school and had to move up to the rank of junior high school. As I am sure all children who have gone through this transition feel, I felt a caustic mixture of excitement and dread. My elementary school was both manageable and familiar and my awaiting junior high was nothing but mysterious and intimidating: new unfamiliar faces, puberty run rampant, domineering teachers, and the looming threat of detention. So, the first day of school I was dropped off down the street from my school by my mother (to be dropped off in front of the school by your mother was just too humiliating) and I walked the long lonely block to what seemed like the hulking brick prison that awaited me. Upon catching site of the school and the throng of humanity and inhumanity pouring in to the building instantaneously began puking in the bushes. It was obviously nerves, and years later I found out from a few friends in high school that they too puked on their first morning at junior high. I cleaned myself off, walked in to school along with the rest of them, and wound up having three fantastic years in a place I never wanted to leave.

Every year around this time (September) I am reminded of this sometimes awkward transition happening throughout the country, if not the world. I just recently dropped my son off at preschool, with no vomiting and no incident–just genuine unbridled excitement. This was remarkable considering the previous year’s introduction to day care, which was a transition that was met with a trail of tears from both my son and his beleaguered parents. And I have friends (parental peers) that have all recently (this week) had largely positive experiences moving their children up to the next level of school (preschool, elementary, etc).

Still, parents are (and I say this with nothing but empathy) often paralyzed by the difficulty of letting go and allowing their children to be intimidated, be afraid, and be in the experience of moving onward and upward. This is not to say that parents are not justified in their concern. Plenty of children have an enormously difficult time with this transition, and parents would be advised to be wholly receptive and sensitive to their children’s needs during this time. But there is a belief among some parents and administrators that the “phase-in” process needs to be met with a great deal of attention and lingering (in some cases). This sometimes leaves parents feeling unsure about the transition, which is tacitly communicated directly to their children.

There is no real answer or solution to this issue; there are only personal views and personal experiences. As all children, and all parents, are unique and hold different needs and distinctive requirements for a comfortable transition into school. So, I am opening this space up for readers to share their experiences, personal anecdotes, thoughts, opinions, and concerns about this transition. I wish everyone and their children the best of luck and ease during this life passage.

28 comments

Kristen H.
Kristen H7 years ago

I do a training for parents who are transitioning their kids to kindergarten, and some of the things we recommend are: Attending the open house or orientation day, touring the school, meeting the teacher, and getting familiar with the classroom and other rooms (cafeteria, gym, library) and playgrounds the child will frequent. Some of the other things we encourage are: Getting a list of the other children who will be in his class, to see if he/she already knows someone; setting up play dates with other children who will be going to that school (from the neighborhood, from they daycare, etc), so the children feel like they have friends already when they get there. Also, this gives parents a chance to get to know one another before "d-day." And of course, the MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER: Is to stay involved with the school even after your child starts. Participate in school events and go on field trips. Have meetings with the teacher, counselors, principals (if necessary). Get to know the front office staff, and let them get to know you. Be an advocate but also an ally. The teachers will appreciate it, and so will your children.

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Monica M.
Past Member 8 years ago

One thing for sure, though: schools MUST come up with better security against student bullying and against pervs who want to sneak into schools and hide in the washrooms!
Experience New York

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Janice P.
Janice P8 years ago

I was not ever afraid to go to school. We had a very long walk of a couple of miles, but walking with the other neighborhood kids made it fun. There was always an older kid, who led the way. By a process of attrition, one by one, they moved on to high school, and eventually, I became the older kid who led the way and watched out for the younger ones. By the time we arrived, most of our overabundant energies had been worked out, and we were ready to learn.

My mother, as I learned only about 55 years later, was the nervous one. Even though she made sure that an older neighborhood girl watched me, she, nevertheless, followed us all the way to school, hiding behind buildings, trees, etc. all the way. (My mother must have been exhausted from that round trip by the time she got back home. I never saw her. She could have worked for the CIA and been very successful.) The vision I have of imagining my mother playing "I SPY" every weekday morning still tickles me, even though I have known this for 5 years. It is just another very fond memory I have of my beloved mother and my time in grade school.

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Hester Goedhart
Eternal Gardener9 years ago

Hear, hear, Frank L.. absolutely true.

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Annie Wooten
Annie Wooten9 years ago

Dropping my son off to his first day in kindergarten was seriously one of the hardest days of my life. I didn't show it though. We greeted the teachers and classmates with excited smiles. We talked about school for weeks gathering supplies and talking about all of the new fun things he will learn. I gave him a hug and a kiss before we got to the classroom. I wanted to squeeze him soooo tight and let him know how much I love him, but I didn't I smiled and told him to have a great day. This was the first day of his little life. It wasn't just mommy and son anymore. It was his time, his time to learn the abc, make friends, to share. It was the beginning of all of the things we have all been through, first kisses, bad grades, love lost, friendship and more. It just broke my heart that day. He is on his journey now, he's not my little baby anymore.

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Maria H.
Past Member 9 years ago

Just want to point out to Jennifer R that not EVERYBODY has hellish school years. Of course it's not all perfect, but I send my son off knowing he's going to learn social survival skills that he could not learn with me standing over him protectively 24 hours a day. Not that I'm throwing him to the wolves, and of course you know your own child best, but for my son school is a good experience. Don't assume we're all sending our kids to school because we just don't care enough to homeschool.

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Lindsey H.
.9 years ago

I can't wait for kindergarden

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Maria Westin
Past Member 9 years ago

Today's children is way too overprotected.

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Nancy D.
Nancy D9 years ago

Amanda, your experience with your kindergartner is the same one we had when our kids began preschool. 28 years later, they approach life in the same way. The two younger live at least a thousand miles from us, although phone calls, e-mails, webcam visits are frequent, and we remain close. I torn between missing them (which I seldom bring up in our conversations) and pride that they have the confidence to follow their dreams. They are both engaged in professions that make this old world a better place, and we are proud of what they are making of their lives.

In fairness, I must say that middle school was rough on them, especially when we moved 200 miles away one December. Our oldest announced that we had ruined his life after the first day in his new school. Of course, all three recovered nicely and treasure the friends they have from both locations.

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Amanda M.
Amanda M9 years ago

I went to a small private elementary school (when I say "small," I mean sixth-grade graduating class of 5!), so the transition to a large public middle school made for a lot of rude surprises. However, I managed to survive despite such troubles as having friends move every time I made them (the middle school's district included a large number of apartment complexes with a high turnover rate) and the constant threat of bullies (seventh grade, I used to get beat up by one every day just for the "crime" of getting off at the same bus stop!).

My older daughter is in second grade now, and we live in a small town (pop. 3400) where the elementary, middle, and high schools are clustered in the same area. Kindergarten for her was a breeze, and she loves it at school. We live within walking distance of the school, and when we're at the drop-off zone and she sees one of her friends, POW, she's off and running without so much as a goodbye! While part of me is wishing she'd at least say goodbye, part of me is also glad she's so independent and not "clingy" like some of the kids are. It'll be interesting to see if her little sister is the same way or a complete opposite! She'll be starting kindergarten when her older sister is in fifth grade (elementary school in our county goes to fifth grade), so her older sister will be there to help pave the way. Middle and high school...who knows? I'm sure they'll have an easy time, but never say never!

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