We have survived our first month of kindergarten.
I say ‘we’ because the collective exhaustion and nervous excitement in our house is as much mine as my daughter’s. We have launched in to the start of elementary school, a private school with an excellent academic program (read: FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN) and what is turning out to be a rigorous amount of volunteer work to be done and service projects to consider, not to mention about 50 things that must be remembered each week, such as wear red on Thursday because we’re talking about the letter R this week! and library books are due Wednesday! and by the way, come up with a community service project for your family that you can present in poster board fashion to the entire campus by the end of October!…it’s been a little draining. Happy, and satisfying, even…but very, very draining.
As with any shift in the family routine, you learn things about yourself, and particularly about your child, that you might not have seen before. For instance, my daughter, my beautiful, spunky, desperately-wants-to-do-everything-right-the-first-time child, who has never slept willingly in her long five year span on this earth, now collapses willingly in to bed each night between 7:00 and 7:30. Gone are the days when bedtime routines took an hour of my evening and I spent the small chunk of time between her bedtime and mine returning her to bed and re-tucking her in. I now have at least an hour to myself each evening. It feels foreign. I have used the time to start re-watching my favorite TV show of all time, the Gilmore Girls. Don’t mock. I’m halfway through season one and I have season two waiting patiently in my Netflix queue. Lorelei Gilmore is sort of my single mom role model. One child. Prissy private school. Lots of coffee. A spunky attitude that I can hopefully hang on to until my child survives adolescence…I figure there are worse people I could be looking up to.
So there’s been this shift, and some learning curves. Apparently my child CAN sleep and I actually DO enjoy watching TV. And oh, the joy of being in kindergarten! That part is wonderful and all-consuming and keeps me going on the days when I realize I’m only a month in to this process and I already don’t like packing lunches. Did you know kindergartners at Zoey’s school get three recesses? And that one of them, the one before lunch, is LONGER than any recess they ever got in Pre-K? It’s a joy my child revels in each and every day. The opportunity to spend long stretches of time on the impressive playground equipment at her school brings her nothing but happiness. The after-school program that initially struck fear in Zoey’s heart has actually brought us full circle, which is to say that if I surprise her and pick her up early, before after-school care, there is foot-stomping and feeling mad and making Mom feel like a total loser. I remember this from last year. If I dared to pick her up early, before outside-time, there was hell to pay. She’s happy in after-school care. If I had her darling teacher, Miss Megan, to paint my face and create owls from card stock and bake scones with me, every day from 3:15-5:00, I’d be pissed if someone picked me up early too. I need to start remembering this. Next time I get off work early, I’m creating my own grown-up version of after-school care, and I’m going to call it NAP TIME.
Because DAMN AM I TIRED.
Single parenting is no small task, people. Well. Single parenting THE RIGHT WAY is no easy task. And I don’t mean to sound all perfectionist here, but we all acknowledge on some level that there is a basic right and wrong way to parent children in the year 2012. Sitting on your couch all day and smoking cigarette while you watch horrible daytime programming, and forget to pick up your child from school? Wrong. Forgetting that Friday is school spirit day and you have to wear Cascade Christian something-or-other? Also wrong. It’s a large spectrum, I’ll give you that, but I don’t intend to fall anywhere on it. I have always been this way and I probably won’t change. (You can reference the above paragraph, in which I point out that Zoey is trying desperately hard to do everything right in kindergarten, to the point that she comes home exhausted every day, and go ahead and wonder where that comes from.) The problem, when you’re a single parent and elementary school routines smack you in the face, is that you don’t really have another grown up in your house to rely on, to pick up the slack. Not that Bryan would have been one to remember that the Phone-a-Thon is coming up and the school wants volunteers, or that childcare needs to be arranged for the days in November when Zoey doesn’t have school, or that our daughter takes show and tell to school every Monday and the stakes are higher now, you can’t just bring anything you want like those babies back in Pre-K, IT HAS TO START WITH THE LETTER OF THE WEEK, but he WAS, back in the days before he was a drug addict, one who could remember that Friday was trash day or that the cars needed oil changes or the damn cat puked on the bed again and everything needs to be thrown in the wash. He used to be a guy who enjoyed starting dinner if he got home first. He enjoyed the whole bath time routine that I, personally, can’t stand. There is supposed to be someone else here, someone just as invested in this whole educating-a-child as I am. When Zoey collapses in a puddle of emotional tears for the 17th night in a row, the signal that it must be 7 p.m., there is supposed to be someone here that I can occasionally wave at and smile as I yell ‘have fun with that, I’m going to Target’.
At this point, I can’t even get him to arrange weekend visitation by Wednesday.
Being divorced, and a single parent, just adds an extra layer of grief and stress to the normal shifting of life. There are all the joys (playgrounds! solving the Mystery Animal clues every Thursday!) and the heartache (nobody wanted to play with me today because I’m too bossy! My name didn’t get called at Assembly and I really wanted to go up on stage because I won a 3-R award in my class!) and, of course, the Remembering 50 Things All At Once. (Box Tops. Box Tops, people…you know those little squares on certain food and paper items that you can cut out and send in to your school for money, the little squares that I’ve spent my entire adult life paying no mind to? I just remembered I need you to start cutting those out and saving them for me.) And along with all of these things, these very important and normal life-changing THINGS, the voice in the back of your single parent head, the voice who normally stays in her corner like she’s supposed to, rears her ugly head and reminds you ‘there is supposed to be somebody else here’.
I don’t know if the voice ever goes away. Maybe she does, years and years down the road, when your child is grown and gone and you aren’t really faced any more with the day-to-day tasks that overwhelm you and leave you wishing for someone to back you up. Maybe the voice sorts herself out when the days of wondering if he’ll even want to visit with his child this weekend are long gone. I think she’ll find her place in my head eventually, and calm down already, maybe when Zoey is grown and doing well. Maybe. I hope.
And, until then, I have about 50 things on my weekend to-do list, starting with Kindergarten Homework, and a weekly newsletter I need to read so I can compose my list for the week of 50 Things to Remember.