To the Kindergarten Mom Crying in Her Car After Drop-Off

By Published On: September 7th, 2022

Hop into my passenger’s seat. I stole all my kids’ good snacks and I’m about to blast some '90s hip-hop.

By Serena Dorman

Hi, I’m your emotional support veteran-elementary-school-mom.

Inside of your elementary mom starter pack, you’ll find an iced coffee that is slated to be picked up on your way to drop-off every morning (which you’ll perpetually be five minutes late to), a nice sweatshirt, heavy enough to conceal your nipples so you don’t have to wear a bra, that says something fun like “good moms say bad words” as a sort of mating call to any potential mom-friends you might meet at pick-up, a box of tissues, some dry shampoo, a stress ball, and a gift card to get a pedicure while you scroll through baby pictures of your kid on your phone.

I noticed you toeing the “what if?” cliff of self-doubt, and I’m here to talk you off the ledge.

Welcome! I’ve been here before. Twice.

First thing’s first—breathe, mama. I know it’s hard letting go because for the last five years it’s been just you and that kid 24/7 (which sometimes feels more like 75/10). And despite craving alone time to your core so many times during the sleepless nights that felt like they’d never end, they did, and now you can’t seem to shake that “missing car keys” feeling. 

They say having kids is like having a piece of your heart walking around outside of your chest—although I beg to differ; it’s more like a piece of it swan-diving off of the couch—and now that piece is out there in the real world where you have no control and no choice but to trust that you’ve done enough and that they’ll be fine. You have. They will. You will, too.

As a mom, I know you can get validation from 100 people 1,000 different times and still feel worried and scared until you pick your child up at the end of the day. So let’s run through some of those scary scenarios you’ve been playing in your head.

What if My Child Isn’t Ready?

Every child is going to be varying degrees of “ready,” but if we waited until we thought they were ready-ready, there would be a lot of 20-year-old kindergarteners. We have to trust that we prepared our kids to the best of our ability, and that’s enough. If it’s not? Their teacher will most definitely let us know.

What if My Kid Has an Accident?

I’m gonna be honest, even if your child has been potty-trained for a while, they probably will, and that’s OK! It’s nothing the school doesn’t deal with on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Send your child to school with an extra pair of pants and underwear if you’re worried, but if you forget, they probably have spares in the office. I’m no stranger to picking up my child and thinking: Hmmm … those aren’t the pants I dropped them off in this morning

What if They Can’t Find Their Classroom?

During the first few days especially, your child’s school is probably going to have extra hands on deck to help steer lost kiddos in the right direction. They’ll be pros by this time next week, I promise!

What if the Teacher Doesn’t Know That They Need 23 Kisses Every 15 Minutes?

Teachers—but kindergarten teachers, specifically—are angelic, ethereal beings who are able to tap into some strange magic and get your child to do unimaginable things like reading, even though at home they’ll search an hour for something you’re pointing directly to. Your child’s teacher is going to love your kid like their own. Honestly, this whole kindergarten thing is probably going to be harder for you than it is for your child.

Still worried? I figured. That’s why I called in the artillery and asked other veteran kindergarten moms to chime in with some words of encouragement:

“Everything is temporary. Feel your feelings. Encourage them and yourself. Enjoy it all.”

“You’ve done everything you can to prepare them for this. They’re going to do great!”

“Unless you want them living with you forever, this is a natural progression.”

“Be involved as much as possible! It makes school fun for both of you!”

“The smile on their face when you pick them up makes it all worth it.”

“You’ll get to hear from other adults just how amazing your kid is.” 

“It takes a village! Having other adults to care for, teach, and love on your kiddos is wonderful!”

“If they think you’re excited, it makes it easier for them to be excited.”

“As a former kindergarten teacher, I can assure you that their tears stop in class.”

“I’m an elementary school teacher who has observed so many kindergarteners walking in on their first days; they may seem upset when you’re dropping off, but more than not they are settled and distracted within 10 minutes of being in class. Kindergarten teachers are angels on earth who do so much to put kids at ease and help them foster friendships. A lot of kids are pumped to have something that is their own, as their school day is something they can handle without their parents. Also, it’s so common for kids to come home a little out of sorts for a while because they are tired from such a busy day, especially if they didn’t have full-day schooling/group childcare prior. All that being said, I still know I will have all the feels when my kiddo heads off to kindergarten next year!” 

“I am a kindergarten teacher and a mama of four. Our babe is a second-grader this year and we range up to a college sophomore. I would (and do) share with all the mamas that it really is harder on us than it is on our little ones. Love them up hard before school and send them on their merry way. Cut the cord. Even if they are fussing. Their teacher knows how to usher them in and get the day off to an amazing start. Trust them … your babies and their teachers.”

“I have a degree in early childhood education. First, you can do hard things. Having an age-appropriate discussion about coping strategies can be super helpful for [parents] and for [children]. A lot of times, working through the process of making sure your kid is emotionally prepared will help do the same for you. Coping strategies could look like real-time walkthrough of the first day drop off, creating a morning routine prior to starting school so the big feelings don’t make those first few days overly stressful, or it could be as simple as keeping a picture of each other on hand. I love the books “The Kissing Hand” and “The Invisible String,” stories that are good reminders that even when we are far apart, our love holds us together.” 

“Don’t stress about being the best room mom or having the most creative snacks. Your child won’t remember that you couldn’t chaperone the school field trip because you were working. I was way too focused on being the perfect parent for my kid as a brand-new kindergarten mom. And all he cared about? When dinner was and if I could snuggle with him at bedtime.”

“Start a routine of doing something for your kid while they’re at school, so they’re excited about it when they get home (like having a favorite snack ready) and you’ll feel happy doing it thinking of them. Also, start a routine of doing something for yourself while they’re gone. You’ll feel less guilty about it if you do the first part first.”

“It is all hard. It isn’t all bad. They walk into the school and your heart feels like it’s going with them. Suddenly you think your purpose is over, or your time is up. Where did the time go? But just as they are becoming, so are you. You become again and again, and together you grow into new versions of yourselves, together. It’s hard but it’s going to be alright.”

“Try to make friends with a few other moms in the class. Having someone to text to explain something weird your kid talks about is very comforting. Or, if it’s the third dress-up day for the week and you can’t remember if it’s tie-dye or book character day, they will be a lifesaver and potentially a great friend over the years.”

Now that you’re equipped with all of our veteran-kindergarten-mom wisdom, go cash in on that pedicure, binge-watch ALL of the shows you can’t watch while your kid is around, blast that inappropriate music, and enjoy the peace and quiet you’ve been longing for!