My Kid Just Started Kindergarten and I Am Not OK

The sheer mortality of it all! HOW? How, I ask you, is it possible that I, the very man who seemingly just weeks ago scaled spider-man style down the eight stories of his college dormitory with nothing but handrails and a headlamp (for fun, I might add!) could be standing here with a kindergartner. It is positively unthinkable. WHERE did the time go?! On the occasion of a birthday, someone will often remark that “it’s just another day” in order to ameliorate the sometimes negative emotions one experiences upon another year’s passage, but this can’t just be another day because what it feels like is a futuristic vortex, sucking me irresistibly toward the grave. Since having children, I have often been aware of the dramatic change it has brought about in terms of my relation to time (something I hope to write about in the future; given the above considerations– I’m sure I’ll soon be dead), but no moment has been so palpably disorienting as the first day of kindergarten. I have never walked away from a schoolhouse in a state of such bewilderment and confusion… and I once took a seminar entitled, “The Aesthetics of the Sublime”. Also, Algebra II.

… and another thing, WHO in the hell decided this is the way it’s supposed to be?! I have spent the better part of the last six years caught up in the daily enterprise of vigilantly overseeing the immediate care, rudimentary education, and character development of my child- attentively watching this Being unfold before my very (often bloodshot) eyes- and you expect me to tra-la-la into a wholly unbeknownst, public forum and drop her off there- where she’ll spend 2/3 of her waking hours for 2/3 of the year… for the next dozen years (which amounts to more than twice the time she’s been alive!)- with a couple of government employees who are outnumbered 20-1 by a peer group that will, odds are, wield the bulk of influence in her further self-construction over the course of the year? HOW can this be right?! When we left the back-to-school open house last week my immediate instinct was to rush away from the place with my family like a man on the lam from the Russian mob, rifle through our house for the essentials, and abscond to some quaint little village in the Swiss Alps where we would raise dairy goats and rediscover the wonders of Latin. And my kid goes to a great school with a fantastic teacher!

… and what’s more, WHAT am I supposed to do with myself? “You’re gonna have so much free time now!’, they said. It’s true. The coming months will provide me, in many ways, with an elasticity and openness that I have deeply missed. But that joyous fact is offset radically by intense questions about what new purpose might be undertaken- coupled with the reclamation project of reacquainting myself more fully with subjective passions and interests that have largely lain dormant since the pre-kid years. And everyone keeps piping up about this newfound “time” as if I am entering into my just reward after a long haul- that I ought to be feeling the refreshment and anticipation of a sailor stepping on shore for his first day of furlough or a shopkeeper letting down after the ceaselessness of winter’s retail. Instead, I feel like a man who has, all of a sudden, been released from a high and holy calling, dismissed by dint of social normativity from quite possibly my life’s most profound work.

Kindergarten can be a difficult time for a child. The bigness of the landscape and the first, fresh whiffs of possibility can at once exhilarate the soul and overwhelm it. I fully expected my daughter to hear whispers of questions within her such as:

Who am I now?

What will I be when I grow up?

Am I doing this right?

Can they all tell that I’m afraid?

What I didn’t foresee, on that inaugural day of her formal educational career, was to find these very same quandaries waiting for me when I came back through the door of this now-empty home. It looks like I’m the one with homework to do. At least, until 2:30.

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'My Kid Just Started Kindergarten and I Am Not OK' have 16 comments

  1. August 26, 2015 @ 9:49 AM Aubrey

    Wonderful post. I enjoy your voice immensely.


    • August 26, 2015 @ 11:01 PM Bret Spears

      Well, that just made my day. Thanks, Aubrey!


  2. August 26, 2015 @ 1:57 PM Jennie

    I’ve never felt such a real gravitational pull as when we walked our girl to the kindergarten classroom and then walked away WITHOUT her. I turned to my husband and asked, “So we’re just gonna LEAVE her here?!”

    When I was pregnant and preparing for her birth, I couldn’t wrap my head around the math of two people walking into a hospital, life changing, and then three people walking out. Now I can’t understand the reverse of that math.

    I feel you, homie.


  3. August 26, 2015 @ 6:55 PM Beverly

    Homeschooling is a wonderful option. Just think, you could work on Latin, American history, and creative writing, etc., together at the same table. You would do a great job!


    • August 26, 2015 @ 11:02 PM Bret Spears

      It is definitely an option I have considered, Beverly. Thanks for the encouraging words.


  4. August 26, 2015 @ 8:51 PM Louise

    Sigh, it’s hard, that first day of Kindergarten, pre school, high school…oh boy it’s really bittersweet. But trust me, it’s better than that day you drop your child off at college. THAT is a day there are no words for 🙁


    • August 26, 2015 @ 11:05 PM Bret Spears

      Sheesh… you’re killin’ me, Louise!


  5. August 27, 2015 @ 8:28 AM Bonnie presley

    Oh goodness this is SO how I feel too! I came to lunch one day and My kindergartener was crying. I really wanted him to be sick or have some great excuse so I could bring him home with me. I wanted to cry with him and hightail it outta there! Such a mix of emotions for sure.


    • August 27, 2015 @ 10:10 PM Bret Spears

      Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone, Bonnie. It certainly helps. I am so glad the article resonated with you.


  6. August 27, 2015 @ 1:01 PM Jannette

    Bret, such a heartfelt read. I have some of the same changes going on but am also excited by what lays ahead for all of us. New avenues are going to open for us to experience the kids in ever expanding ways, that will deeply enrich our own lives. New conversations and ways to grow together…’s scary but wonderful for all of us. Love Nana ! Keep sharing, I love reading your blog!


    • August 27, 2015 @ 10:11 PM Bret Spears

      You’re too good to me, Nana. Genuine thanks for these words of wisdom.


  7. August 28, 2015 @ 8:31 AM Monica

    I was the parent who followed the bus all the way to school and, yes, peeked in the kindergarten window. As strange as that sounds, I was not alone:)


    • August 28, 2015 @ 1:42 PM Bret Spears

      … and it’s good to know that I’m not alone. Thanks, Monica.


  8. October 6, 2015 @ 9:41 AM Eric Hyde

    Literally lost my breath twice from laughing. Your writing is the embodiment of wit meets experience. Love this.


    • November 17, 2015 @ 12:34 PM Bret Spears

      Thanks so much, dude. Glad you liked it.


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