All I Really Need to Know (About Parenting), I Learned in Kindergarten

I remember a year ago, when our little boy was about to graduate from preschool, a sudden wave of sadness came over me as I was preparing myself for the next BIG phase of his life – our lives, entry into Kindergarten.

We knew that this day would come eventually, and certainly have been reminded of it by almost everyone we’ve encountered since Lucca was born, but I always thought of it as something that would happen in the distant future like retirement or the day when I would learn to surf rather than something I would have to face so soon.

Then, when the summer was over, and the first day of school came, I was overwhelmed by feeling of sadness, anxiety, and joy.  As my husband and I walked our little boy to school that morning, I was bombarded by thoughts of everything that could possibly go wrong in school that day within the 8-hour period when he was there alone.  Who would help him put on his jacket when it’s cold outside?  Will he be able to open or close his lunch box?  Will he be able to find his way around the school?  And more importantly, who will comfort him when he’s hurt or is feeling lonely?  As I watched our little boy among 22 other kindergartener, I wondered how they would get along, and who will become his friend(s).

After half an hour of lingering in his classroom, my husband and I reluctantly left along with a room full of parents who no doubt shared same thoughts and concerns, and couldn’t wait to pick him up at the end of the day.  At first sight, I hugged him as if I hadn’t seen him in 8 years, and when I finally let up and asked how his day went, he simply smiled and replied, “It was great!”

In spite of all the scenarios that were running through my mind that day, everything went exactly as it should have, and it was great.  As difficult as it has been to send Lucca into a situation of which we – I have no control, I’ve learned that children adapt quickly to new environment, and they learn to do things on their own.  Despite the avalanche of worries, Lucca has not only obtained the necessary foundation for academic learning and learned to do things by himself, but also he has learned to build friendships and sort out and process his emotions on his own.

The lessons I’ve learned this year as a parent of a Kindergartener are as valuable as what Lucca has learned in school.  It has taught me to let go and trust that the values and teachings I’d instilled in him will guide him through the times when I’m not with him.  Although as parents, we instinctive feel the need to shelter and protect our children, I had to face the fact that I can’t be with him all the time, and that these moments away from home will eventually have a bigger impact on his life.

With the end of our son’s Kindergarten year quickly approaching, I’m delightfully surprised how much both of us have learned this year.  It made me think of a poem, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum, and that true to its verse, most of what we really need to know about how to live, and what to do and how to be, we learn in Kindergarten.

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

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About S. In

a cultural critic, an avid traveler and a purveyor of social justice and education equity View all posts by S. In

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