I used to think kindergarten was all about learning to read.
It wasn't long after the school year began that my 5-year-old daughter set me straight. Sure, sounding out words and singing songs about the Alpha-friends is pretty fun.
But it's her real-life friends who rock. (Yes, she said "rock." Side effect of kindergarten: Children with older brothers and sisters teach your kid phrases up until now only heard on MTV, or whatever it is teenagers watch these days).
Seriously, kindergarten -- at least for Rosa -- doesn't have much to do with reading, writing or the arithmetic she is beginning to learn. No, the important stuff happens outside of class.
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We're talking play dates. And not the kind of play dates she had in preschool. Kindergarten play dates, apparently, do not require a mother to accompany the child. In fact, kindergartners frown upon mothers -- and especially little sisters -- tagging along.
At first, I couldn't believe it. This from the child who spent the first four years of her life attached to my calf?
"Let me understand, you want to go to Jamie's house without me?" I asked.
"Because nobody's mom goes with them when they go play at somebody's house," she said.
Could it be true? I suppose some kindergartners are mature enough to handle a play date on their own, but surely not mine. She needs a few years -- let's say at least 10 -- before we can consider taking such a step.
What if she waits too long before going to the bathroom? What if she declines a snack, telling the other mom she eats only bagels, breakfast, lunch and dinner? What if she jumps on the other mom's bed until the springs break? (This happened the other night at home, and although I doubt she would suggest the activity again, you never know).
The night before The Play Date, Rosa and I ran down my list of possible disasters. She assured me that, yes, she would be OK.
So, after kindergarten ended, I drove her to Jamie's house. She shook her head as I got out of the car and proceeded to actually walk into the home.
"Oh, Mom," she groaned.
I took a quick look around. No stray electrical wires, no butcher knives casually tossed on the counter, no flammable liquids lying around. Actually, the home was spotless, spacious and all-around beautiful. I resolved to go home and clean.
The next two hours were some of the most anxious I have experienced. But when the other mom dropped Rosa off (yes, I checked out her car seat beforehand), the look on Rosa's face said it all.
She was grinning and full of talk about her beloved Jamie. Mom, did you know Jamie has crayons that erase? Mom, did you know Jamie has fuzzy sheets with snowflakes on them? Mom, did you know we had doughnuts and I like them?
Rosa, did you know you rock?
Bee staff writer Kerry McCray's column looks at the first year of school from a mom's point of view. She can be reached at 578-2358 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.