Why First Grade Means Growing Up … for Both Me and My Daughter

Welcome to the December 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: The More Things Change . . .

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about life changes.

—> The only thing I remember about starting first grade is being too scared of my teacher to ask to use the bathroom. Thirty-five years later, my daughter has entered first grade, and everything about it has felt monumental to me.

She started a new school, which in itself is a big thing. We love the school, its philosophy and its community. Sofie was the only new girl entering a class of seven, most of who had been together for a couple of years. Sofie fit in like she was a missing family member. She is adaptable in ways I have never been.

She has adjusted to a new environment, wearing a uniform, having scheduled classes, choosing her own food in the cafeteria…. She loves her friends and her teachers and comes home excited to share about what she’s learning. I’m relieved that hurdle seemed to go smoothly.

Yet, I’m also sad and anxious about this change because, to me, it represents the beginning of Sofie moving into her own world. It is the start of when her father and I are the most influential people in her life to when her friends become the most influential in her life.

And that is damn scary.


During the first six years of Sofie’s life, we pretty much set the tone. We introduced her to the world, chose which experiences to expose her to and instilled in her our points of view (both consciously ad not). We selected the toys she played with, the books we read, the movies we watched. We knew exactly where she was at almost every moment whether with us or at the early childhood learning center she attended from age two through kindergarten.

Sofie did have a say in choose her friends; the kids she gravitated toward came with awesome parents who we’ve bonded with over several years. For the most part, we shared similar values and ideals. We developed a strong community of friends. Life was good.

Then kindergarten ended, and everyone split up. As parents, we find ourselves starting over in a new community of adults. Sofie, at the bottom of the totem pole in a new school, seems to be having an easier time of it. She’s befriended everyone in her class and is already chatting up second, third, even fifth grade girls, who greet her by name at drop-off.

And while I am glad my daughter has seemingly adjusted so well to the big change, there are other changes I’ve noticed. They are not bad — a normal part of individualization — but I view them as warning signs of bigger things to come. (And a note to self to start working on my ability to let go.)

Here’s what I’ve noticed:

She wants me to walk her into school, but often drops my hand during the walk there. Our family musical selection in the car is now peppered with her preferences for One Direction or Katy Perry… and she knows all the words to “Roar.” She has adopted certain phrases and gestures that I wasn’t expecting for a few more years (“Whatever!” “Seriously?” and the eye roll). She has begun an awareness of her body as something other than a shell to exist in (“Is my [insert body part] too fat or too skinny?”) She chooses her own foods for lunch, and I have to trust that she’s telling the truth about eating enough vegetables and not too many sweets.

And I do trust her. For now. She is seven. She still wants to please me. Yet I know one day soon she would rather please her friends or somebody else she idealizes. I just hope that she doesn’t slide too far into peer pressure. That she knows to please herself first. That the bumps and potholes of growing up don’t knock her down for too long… and, mostly, that she comes through on the other side an even more amazing version of the person I already know she is.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Mature StudentAmber Strocel is embarking on a new adventure in 2014, by returning to a space in her life she thought she’d left behind – that of being a university student.
  • And then there were four — Jillian at Mommyhood learned how quickly love can grow when welcoming a second child to the family.
  • Handling Change As A Mother (And Why That Takes Things To A Different Level) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she helps her young daughter navigate change and why it is so important, as a mother, to gauge her own reactions to change.
  • Without Dad-One Year Later — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how her life has changed one year after losing her husband suddenly.
  • Family Ties — Lori at TEACH through Love realized that her most significant, most painful wound paved the way for her to share her greatest gift.
  • Rootless — After Dionna @ Code Name: Mama‘s parents packed up their home and moved to Florida this fall, she is feeling rootless and restless.
  • A Letter to My Mama Self in the Swirl of Change — Sheila Pai of A Living Family shares a letter she wrote to herself to capture and remember the incredible changes from the year, and invites you to do the same and share!
  • Junctionssustainablemum explains how her family has dealt with a complete change of direction this year.
  • Planning, Parenting, and Perfection — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook explains how most of the plans she made for her adult life have worked out differently than she planned, but she’s ended up getting a lot of what she really wanted.
  • Why First Grade Means Growing Up… for Both Me and My Daughter — Donna at Eco-Mothering discovers that her daughter’s transition into first grade is harder as a parent.
  • First Year of Mothering — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot reflects on the quiet change that took her by surprise this year.
  • Building the Community YOu Desire — A recent move has Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children working toward setting up a new support network.
  • Slowing down in 2013 — A car fire and a surprise diagnosis of Down syndrome made 2013 a very different year than the one Crunchy Con Mommy and family were expecting!
  • The Seven Year Cycle — After 7 intense years of baking, birthing and breastfeeding 6 kids, Zoie at TouchstoneZ wonders, “Will I be enough for what comes next?”
  • Rebirth — Kellie of Our Mindful Life has found that each of her births leaves her a different person.
  • When a Hobby Becomes a Business — This year, new doors opened for That Mama Gretchen‘s hobby of writing and blogging – it has turned into a side business. She’s sharing a bit about her journey and some helpful tips in case you’re interested in following the same path.
  • 5 Tips for Embracing a Big Change in Your Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about a big change in her family and shares tips that have always helped her family embrace changes.
  • Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes — Ana at Panda & Ananaso ruminates on how having a child changed her priorities.
  • Homeostasis — Lauren at Hobo Mama is finding that even as elements shift in her life — in cosleeping, homeschooling, breastfeeding, & more — they mostly remain very familiar.
  • Sally go round the sun — A new baby brings joy and unexpected sadness for Douglas at Friendly Encounters, as she is diagnosed with a rare genetic condition.
  • Embrace it — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen muses about the changes in her family this year and how she can embrace them . . . as best she can anyway.
  • Big Change; Seamless but Big — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how one of the biggest changes of her life was also a seamless transition.
  • Celebrating Change — Change feeds Jaye Anne at Wide Awake, Half Asleep‘s soul.  And all the work that seemed like monotonous nothingness finally pays off in a clear way.
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10 Responses to Why First Grade Means Growing Up … for Both Me and My Daughter

  1. Mercedes says:

    Somewhere we know that it’s going to happen, but it’s hard to believe when it does, isn’t it? Thinking about the days when my little ones will be this age makes me nostalgic already! As my mother in law says, (in Spanish) “Your children do not belong to you. They belong to Life.” (Ok, not an exact translation, but you get the idea!)

  2. This is fascinating to me, since I have an almost 6yo son. I can also see the beginnings of him becoming a completely separate creature – and it is scary! I’ll be taking notes from all of the moms who are going through this right ahead of me. It sounds, though, like you’ve prepared her well 🙂

  3. I know just how you feel! My son is in third grade now. We love his school, but it’s a funny feeling knowing that he is having all these experiences that we never see. Especially in his first year there (kindergarten) he often told us very little about what went on during the day. That year he still insisted that I come into his classroom every morning, stay a few minutes, and do a particular goodbye ritual. In first grade he wanted me just to walk him to his classroom. In second grade he started going into the building by himself. Now he says goodbye at the bottom of the outdoor steps! It’s a natural transition, and I’m pleased that he isn’t so clingy anymore, but I miss getting to see his classroom every day and having that feeling of knowing exactly where he is and who and what are around him.

    • Donna DeForbes says:

      Oh it is hard to go from knowing all their experiences to only knowing what they’re willing to share. It sounds like you’re handling the transition well!

  4. Laura says:

    We put our son in the preschool that is affiliated with the high school I graduated from. It’s been a difficult adjustment because I’m learning earlier than I had anticipated that my son is going to grow up and become a part of the world without me.

  5. I have never gone through this as we home educate, but if they do decide to go to school when they are older I know that all the things you have written about here will be in my mind too. I hope you can both find a way to navigate this part of your journey together and don’t end up in separate paths 🙂

  6. Momma Jorje says:

    Perhaps I don’t let go well at all. We [plan to] homeschool (we’ve already begun, really, though she isn’t “school age”). I just don’t feel like I could send her away every day into learning that eye roll and asking if she is skinny.

    That said, I had a decent school career and was one to adjust quickly and easily. I changed schools at least once per year!

  7. Sheila Pai says:

    Wow, a lot of changes indeed! Seems like changes are harder for us as parents sometimes, doesn’t it? Like we see the road stretching out ahead, nostalgic and almost already grieving future losses. Yes, her peers will become important in a way they were not. She will still need you, and you can still show her how steadfast your love is, just like when she was a toddler and crying. I wish for you both deep trust and connection. Thank you for sharing this transition,

  8. If it makes you feel any better, we homeschool and my 6-year-old and even my 2-year-old both know better than I do all the popular songs and insist on the radio in the car, and my 6-year-old in particular seems a lot like an almost-16-year-old with the attitude and the sassy phrases. Maybe it’s just this age? We can hope…

    I can see how sending her off to first grade is a huge milestone, though, and having her time there be somewhat opaque and out of your control. That must be a huge change. I’m glad to hear Sofie loves her school and hope things continue to go smoothly!

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