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Raising girls: When kindergarten and 3rd grade collide

At school together for the first time

This school year, we've reached a new milestone in our family. For the first time in their lives, my daughters Janie and Meg are attending the same school — as a 3rd grader and a kindergartener, respectively.
First day of school

While I'm thrilled to finally have one morning drop-off location and to consolidate things such as back-to-school nights and volunteer time, I can't help but wonder what being under the same school roof will be like for the girls.

And then there were two...

Can you hear me jumping for joy through your screen? I am. By the time you read this, both girls — Janie (age 8) and Meg (age 5) — will have started school and this year, with Meg entering kindergarten, they will be at the same place! For the last couple of years, Meg has been wrapping up preschool at a school that we loved, but was in a different neighborhood — making for insane, perfectly-timed mornings through the city traffic, the drop-off line and back again. Whew!

This year, all of the two-school craziness will pay off, as we will have one morning drop-off routine at our local neighborhood school (and our son, Everett, will be at the preschool in the same building!) that is mere blocks from where we live. Can you hear the angels singing? I can.

But, this isn't about me. It's about my girls. Janie, who will turn 9 just a couple of weeks into the school year, is starting 3rd grade this year — a grade that I hear is when things get real. Real homework. Real projects. Real friendships. Real drama. And Meg, who is on the brink of turning 6, is jumping feet first into kindergarten. Since she has a fall birthday, she is on the older side of incoming kindergartners, and so incredibly ready to start her school journey.

While you can find me doing the happy dance about the ease of our new morning routine, exploring how the girls feel about being at school together for the first time has sparked some interesting — and unexpected — conversations in our home. We've talked here about how these girls, at times, hate each other with as much fierceness and passion as they love each other the rest of the time.

Over the summer, I've seen their relationship grow in so many ways — they are learning to respect each other and respond to each other more maturely. And, thanks to the amount of time that they've spent together in recent months, they've learned to find balance with giving each other the space they need... as well as digging deeper into their time together to bond and play as only sisters can.

The question is, how will they be at school together? Will they continue to grow and bond, or will experiencing each other in this new environment push them apart?

What Meg has to say

To say that Meg is ready for kindergarten could be the biggest understatement of the century. This girl is ready and although I had this same thought when she wrapped up pre-K in May, by the end of the summer, Meg had matured even more — and in so many new ways — that she was practically climbing the walls in anticipation of the first day of school.

Getting on the school bus

Naturally, when I ask Meg what she thinks about being at school with Janie, she's thrilled. As in, jumping up and down with excitement. I suppose that my concern, on Meg's end of this situation, is that she has a vision in her sweet little mind about what it will be like to be at school with Janie — something she's been waiting a very long time for.

We're trying our best to prepare her for what it will really be like. The girls' lunch period only overlaps by a few minutes, so they won't get the chance to sit next to each other and the kindergartners often have recess on their own, meaning Janie can't help Meg learn to go across the monkey bars, like Meg was envisioning. Hopefully, the excitement alone of being in kindergarten will help carry Meg through any disappointment she might have about not actually seeing Janie much during the school day.

What Janie is thinking

As Janie and I were chatting before bedtime tonight, I asked her what she thought of Meg being at the same school. She gave a little non-committal shrug, which I know to mean that she has something to say, but doesn't want to share. Eventually, I pulled a few bits and pieces out of her and for Janie, our constant mothering child, she was feeling concerned that she needed to take care of Meg while she was at school.

She was worried that Meg wouldn't be able to close her locker or that she'd get hit by a ball at recess. To my pleasant surprise, Janie didn't feel like Meg would cramp her style, so to speak, at school and she was actually really looking forward to possibly having her as a reading buddy and seeing her at all-school assemblies.

As Janie drifted off to sleep, we talked about how Meg would have a teacher who would make sure that her locker was closed each morning and that the girls probably wouldn't even have recess together, since they were in different grades, so Janie didn't need to try to protect her from rogue soccer balls. I smiled to myself as she started to doze, reflecting that Meg could not possibly have a better big sister than the one she has in Janie — and feeling confident that they would do just fine in school together.

Image credit: Katie Kavulla

More on raising girls

Raising girls: Teaching them to be good sisters
Raising girls: Take a backseat to daddy
Raising girls: Nobody told me they'd be so different

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