My Son Cried On The First Day Of School & I Was Shocked

Even for the most social of kids, the first day of school can be a real game changer

I never thought my son was going to be one of those kids who cry on the first day of school. Not because there’s anything wrong with crying on the first day of school. I just thought he was so very ready that it would be a super easy transition.

My son started daycare at fifteen months. He walked right in and never looked back. After a long fifteen month hiatus from daycare at two years old, where he was home with me every day, he went back to daycare at three-and-a-half years. Again, he walked right in and never looked back.

My son will walk into a room of strangers and dance like no one is watching. My son has zero stranger danger, hugs everyone, says hi to everyone and is possibly the most social person I know.

My son was so excited to start school he made me buy a calendar at the beginning of the summer so that he could literally mark off the days until his first day of kindergarten. My son was going to take JK like a bull by the horns. He was ready.

My son bawled his sweet little eyes out his first day of kindergarten, and his second, and his third. My brave, social little boy who spent full days in daycare for a year before he started school, who has never had a nervous entry to anything ever, is not having an easy transition to school.

That’s because, though he had been in daycare, school isn’t daycare. I should have known better.

“Mommy I’m going to miss you so much,” he said through hyperventilating alligator tears, breaking my stoic heart into a million pieces. He asked me to come back and get him as soon as I could. This after his half day transition the week before went off seamlessly, without a hitch.

I was so confident this transition would be like all the others before. What made this transition, one he was so looking forward to, so very different than everyone before it?

There is a gravity to school. The building is big, the number of children multiple times bigger, the days so much more structured, the ‘work’ so much more. Yes, even in kindergarten.

I remember when my daughter started, the girl who had the same bedtime for three years had to go to sleep a half hour earlier once she started school, she was so spent from the day. No, you realize when your child starts school that no matter how structured their daycare was, no matter how much you tried to get kids who are at home full time ready, this is a whole new ballgame, for all kids.

So, in spite of the fact my son is not easily fazed by new things, he was the boy who cried on the first day of school. That moment humbled me, and reminded me that school is a big deal and that as choked up as I was that he was growing up, it’s like in that split second when I walked away, he realized it himself, and that overwhelmed him.

This month, many of us sent our babies off to their first day of school. Many walked in like they were veterans, and some, like my son are going to take a little longer to adjust. Kindergarten is a big deal. Ready or not, they’re growing up.  

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