Kindergarten is the New Sixth Grade

I wasn’t prepared for the first broken heart. Admittedly, I haven’t been prepared for any single milestone of parenting. It seems parenting moments aren’t like board meetings – scheduled, prepped and executed; they’re more like TV car accidents – no one ever sees them coming.

But, kindergarten? Kindergarten?!

Kindergarten!

So, here we are. I’m told he spent lunch in tears. Because of her. Because she wouldn’t play with him. Because she wanted to play with someone else.

He thought he’d snagged the attention of his favorite kindergirl yesterday with an after-school play-date. When she spent today’s recess playing with another friend, my little guy concluded “She loves [this other friend] more.” 

Quite an assumption for a relationship built on graham crackers, Paw Patrol and broken crayons.

He moped around all night. Declared it “the worst day ever.”  It was the only thing on his mind. Every meltdown came back to the “incident” (which, remember, was a 5-year-old running off to play with another 5-year-old). Every whine mentioned her name.

Maybe the early onset heartbreak is a good thing.

Maybe he’ll get it out of his system. The preoccupation. The assumptions. The misunderstandings. The exclusions. The am I enoughs?

Maybe we can go through the awkwardness of middle school in early el where no one is even paying attention to each other – where everyone is too busy stumbling on their untied laces to even notice who talks, walks or thinks differently. Wouldn’t it be amazing to get that over with before the last tooth falls out?

In ways, yes. Yes, it would be. If, I could guarantee to get those little sweetnesses back after three years of drama. To go back to when I was the only girl whose opinion mattered. Or even to settle into a healthy adolescence, filled with security, confidence, identity and connection.

Pie in the sky. Ain’t gonna happen.

My first son hit two-years-old right on the dot. Second birthday. My second son snuck in three months early. I called my mom and complained the dude was already two! Whattheheck? Then came my daughter – the chica had the gall to turn two-years-old six months early. That’s 25% of her life donated to the terribles.

She won’t skip out of two early. Two will just last longer.

Similarly, middle school will not be shifting. If the broken hearts are seriously starting now, buckle in, it’s going to be a long ride.

Let’s be clear – the kindergarten broken heart is not made of middle school substance.

He sees her as a bro. Thinks she likes Pokemon and Star Wars and Ninjago. He subconsciously appreciates how she doesn’t yell at him or wrestle him. And I’m just gonna go out on a limb and guess she smells nicer than his boy buddies. Just sayin’.

This isn’t a didn’t-get-asked-to-the-dance or her-bestie-told-me-she-doesn’t-like-me scenario.

But, for my little five, it’s a real sadness. A real reading-between-the-lines. A real jumping to conclusion. A real fear. A real moment.

Sure, tomorrow, he’ll sit in a tiny chair, in his tiny shoes, with his tiny classmates. He’ll learn more sight words, count to 100 and train his hand to print lines and curves to resemble the alphabet.

He’ll build a foundation for reading and math that will carry him through the rest of his education and life.

But, he’s building an emotional foundation, too. One that’s not all unicorns and rainbows.

This is new territory for him. Different than being shoved by another y-chromosome.

I’m trying to not make much of it. Well, aside from writing about it publicly. But, I am aware that something inside him is laying groundwork. Groundwork for those awful middle school moments to come. For the tears that may rip deeper gashes in his heart. But, this is a layer of paint on a freshly-built fence. It’s part of the process.

It’s his first big questioning of “am I enough?” A question that will follow him not just through early el and middle school, not just through adolescence, but through life.

It’ll take years and fears and tears to answer that question without the opinion of a girl, a bro or a hero. To knead in the truth of his enough and where it comes from.

I’m hoping I’ve empathized with his reaction to this day-shattering event while shaping his method of answering the enough question.

Tomorrow, he’ll be tempted to answer the question by if he gets in a game of tag around the playground with his girl-pal. Someday, he’ll be tempted to answer it by nearly the same criteria, but with true adolescence in his attitude, his outlook and his wardrobe.

Can I possibly take the edge off by navigating him through these pre-pre-pre-pre-adolescent heartbreaks? If you have any sort of answer, I’ll be over here curled up on a carpet square.

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