Transitioning To School Is Stressful AF For Parents Too

by Krista Bordner
Bonfanti Diego / Getty

Our kiddo started kindergarten this year. One word sums it up: Overwhelmed.

This process has involved a trajectory of emotion. Anxiety, excitement, fear, joy, relief, anticipation—you name it, I felt it.

All we wanted was for him to get into our local, alternative, lottery-based elementary school. If he could just get in there, everything would be okay. So, maybe we don’t fit in. So, maybe it doesn’t work with our full-time work schedules (i.e., lots and lots and lots of parent involvement during the school day, which runs from 8:30-12:30 — WTF is that?).

None of that mattered. I was willing do anything to get him into this school. After a few grey hairs and many more stress pounds, it all fell into place. I told myself I’d quit my job and eat canned soup and Wonder bread, if necessary. (No, I wouldn’t. But I still feel compelled to write it like maybe I would do that.)

So, why this school?

Every student has a right to be included. For my son who has ADHD and is on the spectrum for autism disorder, that’s all that matters. This is a school where his differences don’t marginalize him, but are appreciated. Where they don’t try to squash his personality and character, but instead guide him on the path and give him the tools that make the most sense for him. This right to inclusion is so core to this school’s values that it’s in the students’ bill of rights.

That’s right, people. Everyone at this school has a right to be included, and it’s their number one rule.

Bullies. Creeps. Those assholes are out there. And I know, I know, I know that growth comes from pain. I hate it. But it’s inevitable. Still, there will be plenty of time for “othering” and “marginalization” in middle and high school so I’m hoping to stave that off at least until then so he can gain a firm understanding of self-worth. That way, he can learn how to build real, long-term friendships and learn to brush off the soul-crushing naysayers.

And then the stars aligned. Magic happened. We got in. The Tuesday before school started.

So, now we’re at this amazing, alternative, lottery-based elementary school. It’s what we wanted. The perfect school for him. And we are so fucking overwhelmed. Kindergarten is no joke, you guys. It’s hard. I have to actually show up on time or risk signing him in at the office as tardy, which is poo-pooed. Then I have to pick him up a mere four hours later. I have to go to parent meetings and potlucks and auctions and help raise funds for the school. There are monthly field trips and performances and required weekend positive discipline trainings.

Then there’s the requirement of either volunteering in the classroom four hours per week or owning one job and volunteering in the classroom two hours per week. This one is brutal. How do other parents do this and not get fired—what is their secret? I thought about outsourcing it and hiring someone, but I get the impression that’s not cool. And I’m not made of money. So, I took on the only remaining job: field trip coordinator. It’s a choice I regret. But it was the only job left and there’s no way I can swing working full time and four hours per week in the classroom. So, now I herd cats. It sucks.

And then there are the emails. Oh. My. God. So many emails. The latest is a string of emails about Captain Underpants and the devastating developmental consequences it will surely have on these young minds. It started with a parent inviting others to go and watch it together at the local basketball stadium. And then it quickly morphed into a lecture of shame about why it’s inappropriate. Everyone wears their conflict resolution hats and says things like, “I respectfully disagree” and “I honor your opinion, but I would never let my kids…”

Lots of polite fights. After twenty “reply all” emails of respectful feedback that everyone and their mother insists on sharing, there are a gazillion other “reply all” email strings simultaneously flooding my inbox.

If Captain Underpants is inappropriate, then I can assume Jurassic World will not go over well. I’m so busted. Mother of the year over here, guys. Just saying.

Working mom, interrupted. But it’s worth it.

Look, at the end of the day, kindergarten is stressful, but it actually is worth it. I’ll complain a lot about the endless emails and the required participation because I’m a “venter” and I have to let it out. But it’s because of these annoying requirements that this school is so, so, so good. If it weren’t required, I wouldn’t participate because it does take a lot of time. And I’m only one of hundreds of parents in that situation. Now I need to suck it up, put on my big girl pants, and lend a fucking hand. That’s how we make sure our son is in a loving environment that fosters a future social justice warrior.

As we move into 2018, I’ve stopped beating myself up and I see that the other parents are human just like me. They’re well-intentioned and kind and imperfect. And the teachers are friggin’ awesome—they do everything in their power to positively influence our kids, and that includes accepting and celebrating my son.

I recognize how fortunate we are. I can’t imagine a better school for our kiddo. He is happy and he’s actually thriving. He even made his very first friend, which is huge. It’s a lot of work, but his gorgeous smile—which we see more and more these days—makes it all worth it.

Thank god for schools like his. I’ll vent and complain, but I wouldn’t send him anywhere else. Just don’t tell anyone that we let him watch Jurassic World.