Between the summer of 1999, the summer I graduated from college, and last year, I developed a disdain for summer vacation. At best it was childhood nostalgia. At worst, it was a slap in the face as the reality of an 8-5 workday and a small amount of vacation time became understood.
This summer, though, I rediscovered the point of summer vacation as Daniel’s Pre-K year ended. It was a relief to have the school year over with its homework, frantic nightly routine, lunches to make, firm bedtime to meet. June 6 came, we made it through Pre-K graduation and exhaled, feeling the tension leave our bodies. We filled Daniel’s summer with two different summer camps, afternoons with grandma and two beach trips. We all moved a little more slowly in the evenings. If we were running late, we could adjust bedtime without difficulty or repercussion. Our mornings started later, so we didn’t rush as much, could sleep in a bit and enjoy a commute without traffic. The slower speed was nice, and for the first time in many years, I felt like summer was defined.
Summer vacation ended on Monday of this week when Daniel started kindergarten. Kindergarten is a milestone year, and I’m struggling to wrap my brain around how he can be a kindergartener already. Five is so old, yet so young (remind me to apply that some logic to myself in a few weeks when I turn 37. Doesn’t work the same way, does it?).
Daniel isn’t attending the same school for kindergarten that he did for Pre-K. We didn’t have the greatest year last year. He learned a lot and met wonderful people, but at the end of the year – before that actually – it was clear the school wasn’t a good fit for him. We thought the routine and structure would be great, but it turned out that perhaps they depended too much on structure and routine and were too inflexible. There were a lot of expectations and pressure, pressure we all felt when he didn’t meet the expectations. And at the end of the day (or year, rather), we felt as a family that it wasn’t right for so much pressure and anxiety to be placed on the still-small shoulders of a new 5-year-old.
So the school wasn’t a good fit for him–so what? Many more schools out there, and we’ll find one that fits, right? It’s not a big deal.
It is a little bit of a big deal. And the issues we had went a little beyond a too-rigid structure and to the fact that our little boy is baby square peg just like his Momma Square Peg and Daddy Square Peg. I bring it up because it was a pretty bad year and impacted all of us. I cried a lot. We were short and frustrated with Daniel and with each other. We argued with teachers and administrators. We spent a lot of time on the phone and email. We felt like failures which I know had to make him feel like a failure, and he tried so hard. So very hard.
And we didn’t say anything. Couldn’t say anything because we were scared and worried and anxious. And angry. I was angry at the school, the world, everyone. I couldn’t post anything because I was and am trying to figure out how to give Daniel privacy and not stigmatize him in any way while at the same time, this is all we were thinking and talking about. And selfishly, I also worried about schadenfreude and whether others would revel in our difficulty (“that perfect KeAnne doesn’t have a perfect life after all!!” Ed. note: not that I ever claimed to). So that’s why I bring up the school change. Because it’s nothing, yet everything.
I have a LOT of feelings about it, especially how it contributed to my already not-great opinion on religion. Jimmy has a LOT of feelings about it because it was his alma mater. That’s not important. What is important is that Daniel is great. He’s smart, sweet and funny as he’s always been. We enrolled him in a very small, private kindergarten taught by a wonderful teacher who adores him and understands that one size doesn’t fit all. The three of us have so much less anxiety, and that is such a good thing. He is going to have a wonderful kindergarten year (even though he still refers to it as “work”).
Here’s to building a better hole for our square peg.
First Day of Kindergarten!