Renee Winick mug

Renee Winick

As we complete the first week of the school year, I think back to when my kids started kindergarten ten years ago.

Back then, I paid homage to one of my favorite books, Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by writing my own list of lessons — I called it “All I Really Need to Know I Learned When My Kids Went to Kindergarten”.

I’m actually surprised at how well the lists hold up. Here is a sampling of what I learned ten years ago, along with my current observations.

“Three and a half hours can seem like an eternity or a minute, depending on whether it’s your kids’ first day of kindergarten or their one hundred and first.” Those first days of school are still torturously long for this mom.

“Never underestimate the power of a sneeze. The right sneeze in the wrong direction can send home half of a class.” I had no idea how true this would be ten years later!

“Getting to a school event on time is actually much too late. Best to plan ahead and pack a lunch.” Exactly the same now. Exactly.

“At one point or another you will forget about show and tell, misplace a party invite, or shrink their favorite sweater. Forgive yourself. The kids have already moved on.” The missteps continue. Forgiving ourselves is invaluable parental skill.

“’Everyone is different and that’s awesome!’ are magical words. They can help to answer questions about cultures, religion, economics, gender and even fend off the beginnings of anatomical self-doubt.” Those words aren’t just magical for small children. The power of those words grows along with our children.

“Trying to teach math without using your fingers is like trying to teach reading without using letters.” We’ve moved on to fancy calculators, but it’s still true.

“Kindergarteners love to share — Hugs, laughs, secrets, socks, communicable diseases…” Seriously — 10 years ago. Crazy.

“Your child’s creativity, confidence and conscience are like fragile orchids – they need tending to on a regular basis if they are to grow and bloom.” It’s never too late to start tending!

“Forgetting a backpack at home can turn a mild-mannered minivan driver into this year’s next Indy champ.” Change that to the kids missing their bus and we’re revving the engines once again.

“There will always be someone smarter, quicker and cuter than your Kindergartener and that’s not just fine, it’s fantastic.” Teaching humility is teaching a priceless life skill.

“Your child may be the next Picasso or the newest literary genius, but you can’t keep every masterpiece they bring home. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself elbow deep in construction paper and on the next episode of ‘Hoarders.’” Please don’t look in my storage room. Apparently, I’m not great at practicing what I preach.

“It’s good to ask questions and to be an advocate for your child, but you don’t want to be ‘that’ parent. You know you’ve gone too far when you receive the ‘special’ volunteer assignment of taste testing the play-dough to make sure it’s still fresh.” Teaching your child self-advocacy can be tough on both of you; but it’s an absolute necessity if they are to succeed later in life.

“Kindergarteners laugh easily, smile often, sleep when they’re tired, stop eating when they’re full and find a friend in every new face. We should all start acting like Kindergarteners!” Truth!

The beginning of the school year can be a very stressful time for students as well as their parents and these days the tension and anxiety can seem overwhelming. It’s important to remember to give ourselves and others grace and understanding as we navigate these tricky days together. All we really need to know we learned long ago — do your best, care for others, learn from your mistakes and view every obstacle as an opportunity in disguise.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and successful school year!

Renee Winick has lived in Prior Lake for nearly two decades, where she resides with her husband and twin son and daughter. She is also a contributor to the TODAY Parenting Team website.

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