All I Really Need to Know I’m STILL Learning in Kindergarten

j-plantingEven though I graduated kindergarten more than 35 years ago, this school year I got many opportunities to squat down into a tiny chair and learn. My little man is on the cusp of kindy graduation, and the depth of knowledge we’ve each gained this year is remarkable. I thought it wise to share some of the wisdom gained in my third go-round with kindy: 1981, 2013 and 2016.

How to spell Kindergarten! So I’m a writer. And a good speller. But, still, every time I’d write out kindergarten, I’d have to stop, think and rethink. I know I’m not alone (admit it!). But this year that all changed. For the past two months, the kiddos have been studying plants. Future botanists are among them, for sure, but along with lots of facts on soil vs. dirt, mine brought home this gem: “Mommy, we’re planting a garden. A kin-der-gar-den, not like gar-ten. Get it?” Well, buddy, I do. And thanks to you, I always will.

Restraint. I love projects, and I love coloring. But I’m not learning how to do either of those things anymore, my kids are. My big girl wasn’t much of a colorer -- until kindergarten! When the calendar struck 5 years old, she wanted to color all the time – crayons, pencils, markers – they were like gremlins reproducing after dark in our house. She’d often invite me to coloring dates. I’d gladly oblige, only to be questioned incessantly about how I “color so well and inside the lines.” Well, love, I’d say: “I’ve been coloring for about 30 years longer than you have.” And I’d resist helping her.

It’s my nature to help my kids, but I’ve learned to let them figure things out – to some extent. Recently I had a talk with a friend who’s of the philosophy that if she lets her kids fail, they’ll learn. I’m going to have to save that lesson – or never use it – because it’s just not my nature. I want to guide them, and coach them, and help them succeed. For now, I’ll practice restraint because I’d love to build a diorama or write a story. But I’ve already had my run at these projects. So my homework is restraint.

You Don’t Always Need a Plan. Just this past weekend I spent hours running around town with a friend smooth-talking local vendors into providing donations of flowers and greenery for the kiddos to build the above-mentioned KinderGARDEN. I felt invested and excited for the kids. And super excited for the invitation from the teachers to help plant it.

And then I arrived an hour into the event to find Hastas in direct sun, plants 6 cm instead of 6 inches into the ground, and a few spots with flowers planted almost on top of each other. Immediately I got “dead-plant anxiety” and tried to come up with a plan.And then a few friends spoke up when I frantically let my anxiety bubble up and out: We could come back under the dark of night and replant. We could guide the next group a little more specifically and make an actual plan. Or we could shut the heck up and let the kids have a blast picking, planting, watering and stepping on their plants. So that’s what we did!

And it was perfect! The kids were so happy. The parents were muddy and a little sweaty – hand-held shovels with tough soil (dirt has no nutrients, or so I’m told). Ultimately we all had a very special afternoon filling the space around the school’s sign with flowers in red and white, our school colors.

Will the perennial plants really return? Who knows! Is there symmetry in the garden as the students had “planned”? No way! But there is dirt under everyone’s nails and a good storm headed our way to give the newbie plants a big drink and a shot at life.

What have you learned from your kids this year?

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