Leaving the Nest


This fall, my five-year-old will enter kindergarten. He is my first baby to officially leave the nest. He’s smart and confident and so excited to be a big boy.


But, am I ready?


As an educator, part of me feels like, “I got this.” For years, I have been the one waiting at the school entrance greeting and consoling children as they adjust at the onset of the school year.


I have the tools, I know the system, the lingo and the possible hiccups. Also, logically, I know how unhealthy it can be if I let my fears interfere with my son’s enthusiasm and excitement for the next big step in his life.


I have seen those parents who enable their children. I have seen several parents physically carry their children into school. In one extreme case of over-parenting, I had a parent take their children out of school during lunch and spoon feed them in the parking lot because they were not eating their lunch in school.


I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want the school staff to think that I am crazy. But… then on the other hand I don’t want them to think that I am passive either. I want to know what is going on.


It’s a fine line you know…to find the right level of involvement.


Then there are the decisions that I am wrestling with like…  


Do I let him ride the bus?


Ooh this is a big one. Our district includes children from kindergarten through 8th grade on the same buses. This idea scares me because I wonder what my son will be exposed to. Foul language? Poor role models? This list goes on…


As a school counselor, I have spoken to kids who “mooned” the entire bus because they were dared, or kids who bullied or have been bullied by others on the bus. I don’t want that to be my kid.


On the other hand, I think back to my own elementary school experience. I was also on a bus with children grades K-8. I have fond memories of the experience. I remember one specific 8th grader. I feared him, but just because of his size not because he did anything to bother me.


Interestingly, The Huffington Post says “Students who ride the school bus in the critical first year of formal education—kindergarten—are absent less often and have lower odds of being chronically absent, a key indicator of future academic success, according to a new study.”


Intriguing information. Right now, I am thinking of some sort of compromise like having my son ride the bus home from school, but dropping him off in the morning. (The jury is still out on this one.)


What activities do I get my child involved with?


I am excited to expose my son to new sports and programs. I want him to discover his strengths and interests, but I also don’t want to overwhelm him either. When I was a kid, we participated in typically one or maybe two activities at a time. For me that was a seasonal township sport and girl scouts in elementary school. I am feeling like this will be enough for my son, but there is always the pressure to do more. There are so many more programs out there for kids than when I was growing up.


What do I pack for lunch?


I know this sounds trivial, but since my son has never done full day school, he hasn’t had to pack a lunch. He typically has a hot lunch at home. I know school lunch is always an option, but I know the ins and outs of a school cafeteria. The kids who buy lunch wait in line for half the lunch period and get into trouble. Especially the little guys. Then they end up with very little time to eat, in some cases less than 10 minutes.


But if I send lunch there is the risk that he will be so busy socializing that he forgets to eat. I am leaning toward packing lunch, but I need to start trying out some new recipes and quick no-prep meals when we are in a rush. There is the gear to think about. Bento boxes, Thermoses. etc. What happened to the brown bagged peanut butter jelly, apple and a Tastykake we had when I was a kid?


And finally, there are the flat-out worries.


Specifically, safety concerns… I would be remiss if I neglected to mention my fears about physical harm happening to my child while attending school. Never in my life would I have imagined that I would be praying daily about my children’s safety while attending school. While I know the likelihood of something happening is very slim, the concern is still there in the back of my mind.


Now that all of the heavy stuff is off my chest, let me share some of my hopes for my son as he starts kindergarten. 


I hope that he is kind to others. I hope that he develops a passion for learning. I hope that he learns how to be a friend. I hope that at least one special adult connects with him. I hope that he learns to stand up for what is right. Finally, I hope that he begins to understand himself a little more each day.    


I know my son is ready. On that first day… I will have to be. I choose to believe that he will have an incredible year of growth and as a result, I will too. What fears do you have about your children leaving the nest? How do you manage those parenting anxieties? Let’s start a conversation!



Christine Sullivan is a school counselor, blogger, teachers-pay-teachers author and a Juice Plus+ sales representative. Her mission is to nurture young hearts and grow a kinder world by providing resources to support parents and educators. She is also passionate about the connection between diet and mental health. Follow her on her website www.teachkidsemapthy.com on Instagram (teachkidsempathy) and on Facebook. Christine lives in New Jersey with her two young boys, her husband and her dog Bingo.