A Helicopter Parent Goes to Kindergarten

This week our parenting columnist is thinking about the lessons that might be in store for her as she sends her first child to Kindergarten.

How did you feel when you sent your child to school for the first time?

As school goes back in session next week, I will join scores of other local parents sending my first child to Kindergarten.

So many emotions surround this particularly big milestone for me—excitement, nervousness, pride, and expectation. As our school principal told all of us newbies, this is a special moment in time that will never come again.

Oh, I know how important this time is; sometimes it’s all I can think about.

Like many modern parents, I’ve invested a lot in my children, with the intention of giving them the best start in life I can. I’ve carefully considered the wide range of hot button childrearing issues, and done my best to make the best decisions on their behalf.

I don’t really want to think I’m a helicopter parent—almost no one does—but well, sometimes the shoe fits.

I’ll admit I really, really care how this first year goes, perhaps too much at times.

I keep thinking about what the author, Robert Fulghum wrote in his book, “All I Ever Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Even though I know Kindergarten is a lot different than when I was a kid, sitting in my son’s classroom, I think much of what Fulghum said still applies. Kindergarten teaches formative lessons that can fundamentally influence the adults those children become.

I think it just might also have the ability to be transformative for parents as well, especially those of us who might be prone to hover.

I recently asked some parents of older kids what they wished they had known when their first child started Kindergarten.

I think the most interesting response I got was: “That your little angel is not an angel, and neither are anyone else’s kids.”

I was kind of caught off guard and taken aback by that answer at first, even while I admired them for their honesty. Still, it seemed awfully discouraging.

But, when I started really thinking about it, I thought there might be an important insight there, especially for the helicopter parent.

Perhaps when your child takes those crucial steps away from you, as a parent you have the opportunity to really see them, and not who you think they are or imagine them to be.

With this awareness, perhaps you as a parent can put aside all your expectations, hopes, and goals, and start to really notice all those things from your child’s perspective. Maybe this knowledge can help you put your own ego aside when the teacher tells you what they see in your child, whether those things are affirming or carry a challenge.

While raising a child and guiding them through their education involves you, it isn’t really about you is it?

Maybe with this understanding a parent can step back and let them try, and fail, and learn, and try again.

Can we learn to hover less, and lift them up more?

To borrow from Fulghum, perhaps for a parent Kindergarten can also be an opportunity to learn; to learn what I really need to know about my kid, to help him become who he is meant to be.

Maybe that will make a “race to nowhere,” actually a journey to somewhere.


What things are you thinking about as your kids head back to school?

Becky Joyce August 24, 2012 at 03:36 PM
"...to learn what I really need to know about my kid, to help him become who he is meant to be." That says it all! Excellent writing about a very emotional subject.
ElectraDaddy August 24, 2012 at 10:52 PM
My twins started kindergarten this past Tuesday (Aug. 21st). One of them was quite excited about it and the other was very apprehensive. Since they're in separate classrooms, I went with the one who was apprehensive. I knew that taking him would mean I'd have to be strong for him, so bursting into tears simply wouldn't be an option. It worked. I didn't cry. He wound up liking it and when it was time for parents to leave, he was fine. I, of course, cried in the car.
Kirsten Branch August 24, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Good for you, and congratulations on making it back to the car!! They definitely take their cues from us, so stiff upper lip it is. I proudly managed not to shame myself to fellow parents when sitting in his classroom on Back To School night and had a mement when I got a little watery of eye. (But of course now they know if they read this column, since I put it in print ;)
Kirsten Branch August 24, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Appreciated, Becky!


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