Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The meltdown

When the alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. and I walked into Alice's room, I could immediately tell that it was going to be a bad morning. Alice opened her eyes, sneered at me, and pulled the covers over her head.

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy," I sang cheerfully.

"Be quiet mommy!"

"Sweetheart, you need to get up or else you're going to be late for school," I said in my nicest tone.

"I don't want to go to school!"

I tried to cuddle with her but she pushed me away.

"You need to get up if you want to get to school on time," I said in a less nice tone.

She burst into tears, and said, "Why do you have to talk in such a mean voice?" And then she let me hold her as she sobbed.

I (not to mention Alice) was paying big time for the night before. We went to dinner with my parents and Alice got to bed too late. I quickly realized that the key to happiness at kindergarten is a consistent 7:30 p.m. bedtime.

Alice was fragile and teary throughout her morning routine--and nothing was going right. Her pleated uniform skirt was wrinkled; her toast tasted yucky; and her wavy hair was uncooperative when she went to put it in a ponytail. I don't think her teeth ever got brushed.

At 7:30 a.m., I walked her down to the car since my husband, Ryan, was driving her to school, and I gave her a big hug. She broke down again and for the very first time since her last day of preschool at the end of June she said, "I want to go back to Sweet Peas!"

I asked, "Why? Don't you like kindergarten?"

And then she told me that one of the girls in her class can do the rings on the playground. "All she wants to do is play on the rings," she said. "She doesn't play with me anymore and I can't do the rings." I told her that I'd pick her up after school and we'd work on the rings--she looked relived. And then Alice hopped in the car with Ryan, and I began to worry that she would meltdown when he dropped her off.

Ryan called as soon as he got back in the car.

"How do it go? Was she OK?"

Ryan told me that he walked Alice up to the playground, where the entire school meets every morning. A group of the kindergarten girls were standing in a circle holding hands and playing "Ring Around The Rosie." Ryan worried that the girls might not let Paris into their circle. She's going to break down again, he was thinking. But then one of the girls let go of the hand next to her and she said, "Let's make room for Alice."


  1. Sadly, I have learned that scheduling any event on a school night can throw off the next day, and my kids are in middle and high school!

  2. What a great ending to your story, Kate. Also, I'm strongly with 11:08--I have kids in middle and elementary, and I have learned the hard way to have strong boundaries about scheduling anything on school nights. It has to be a big event (election night or whatnot) to get in the way of the evening routine.

  3. We have found that schedules and regular bedtimes are critical for nurturing acceptable behavior, but sometimes a special occasion is worth the risk of a meltdown. We're going out to our neighborhood pub to watch Obama's speech tonight (we don't get TV). We would not miss it for the world and our son does not want to miss it either. We got a talking greeting card from Obama and our son plays it over and over. "Barack's my man," he says. (Can you tell I'm proud of him for this?) Education comes in many places, this is an historic event in my mind, and kids always surprise me in their resilience.

    I am so glad to hear about the way the girls on the playground welcomed Alice/Paris into their circle.

  4. Let them go tardy the next day after a special occasion.

  5. We're dealing with meltdowns every night when our DD comes home from school....and she is having a blast there. I think it's getting up earlier that's been very hard for her.

    What a sweet story about how the others opened up the circle to let Alice/Paris in. I think it's a nice ending-or should I say beginning.

  6. I'm getting first grade meltdowns too, although he's happy to be back at school. I think there's always an adjustment period during back to school time -- long days and lots of new experiences. It's exciting, but exhausting too.

  7. It is so reassuring to know that after the idyllic first couple of days, the reality of Kindergarten is setting in. Our daughter definitely loves school, but I can tell she is worn out and with the early start time, I have to leave her in aftercare most days, knowing she'd rather be home resting. So much guilt associated with that. Please, she's waking in the middle of the night from bad dreams, which has never happened before. Hopefully the jitters will wear off soon. And hopefully, I can relearn a 6:30 rise-time for myself - so far, I could use an earlier bedtime too!

    Marlowe's Mom, I always appreciate your wisdom. Special occasions definitely warrant straying from the schedule - and tonight was certainly one of them.