The After School Meltdown

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 02-09-2010

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This was not the post I intended to write today.  I was going to write about parents who basically do their child’s homework projects for them and how much that gets under my skin.  But that will have to wait until next week.

After a morning jam packed with meetings and errand running I remembered that today was early pick up for all kids at our school.  My plans of writing while my kindergartner relaxed after school went out the window.  I collected all three children from school, came home, gave them a snack and immediately made them get to their homework.  Last year I would have let them unwind and play for as long as they liked before I took out their homework, but I’ve learned my lesson.  It’s best to give them a short break after school and then insist on finishing homework before play or other activities.  It’s just what works for us.

We got through our homework session just fine, but then the afternoon took a turn for the worse.  I told them all that I had some things to do on the computer.  They would have to play alone for a while and not come in repeatedly with requests for a pitcher of water, straws, pretzels, a towel, bowls, popsicles, a pencil, paper or a cookie — all requests that I fielded before sitting down.

Just as I sat down there was some bickering outside where the kids were playing.  I ignored it, but it escalated.  Quickly.  There was some pinching and some hitting involved and quite possible the word “freaking” but I can’t be sure.  I walked outside to investigate and ask the kids who they were and what they had done with my sweet, well behaved children who never ever repeat words they hear mommy using while driving.  The crying and the finger pointing got worse and I gave us all a time out.

And then I remembered.  Oh yes.  The first couple weeks of school and sometimes even longer kids come home from school not only physically drained, but emotionally drained.  And it’s the emotional exhaustion that is a killer.  My kindergartner literally does not have the ability to get along with his siblings after holding it together for five straight hours at school.  Just being aware of this has helped me be a kinder, gentler parent when all I want to do is dole out the punishments.  I remember when my girls started kindergarten it took almost until Christmas break until I felt like they were fully adjusted to their new schedule.  Each year since it’s gotten a little easier for them, but there is still a re-entry period.

So this is why I have zero after school activities planned for my kindergarten son.  It’s best for everyone if we just take these first few months of kindergarten one day at a time. It really is a big step.  I have to remember to brace myself for afterschool meltdowns and prepare for early bedtimes.