Kindergarten Social Skills
If you are thinking about challenging yourself to be more involved in your kids’ life and improve your social skills, I would completely recommend volunteering in your child’s Kindergarten class. Seriously, nothing will make you question your ability to interact with other humans more than helping 5 and 6 year old children write the alphabet. What I learned about myself, and my lost Kindergarten social skills, through volunteering in my child’s class has been an irreplaceable lesson.
For those of you who are “middle age” or even older, like myself, memories of Kindergarten likely include snack time, recess, and the yearly play. I know when I first entered the school years, my main focus was on whether I could run fast in my dress at recess or if my best friend from yesterday was still going to be my best friend tomorrow. I do not recall in any way needing to know how to read BEFORE I entered Kindergarten. I did not need to know how to correctly write my full name or memorize my address. When I stepped through the doors of my Kindergarten class, I was primed and ready to learn how to cut paper and whittle my naps down to once a day.
Kindergarten has now become 1st grade.
Kindergarten now includes writing compound sentences, of which I am not even certain I understand to be honest. It centers around sitting still for long periods all day, without any naps mind you, interspersed with 2 or 3 15 minute recesses. Don’t even get me started on lunch. If I want my child to learn how to shovel down 1,000 calories in the span of 10 minutes to get him prepped for that doctor job in the future, then Kindergarten is the place to be. On top of all of these expectations, we also hold our Kindergarteners to social and task conduct standards that most adults I work with are incapable of following.
What was the last work meeting you attended in which no one interrupted anyone else, everyone raised their hand to speak, and no one was distracted by their phones? I am pretty sure I have never been part of a work meeting that looked like this. What about completing work assignments? How many of you sit silently at your desk, racing to finish your work task on time, refusing to look around or fidget in any way? I am convinced if my boss watched me during every task, tallying each time I sighed or bounced in my seat, I wouldn’t be at my job for long. I also cannot remember the last time during a break at work that I “had” to make friends with all of my co-workers, even the one that tells stupid jokes and laughs at inappropriate times.
Reality check: we do not all have to be friends all of the time. It is ok for me, as an adult, to avoid you in the lunch line, sit as far from you as possible during weekly staff meetings, and never attend your office birthday parties. Somehow we both still manage to get our jobs done and lead our separate lives.
Lost Social Skills
I had an awakening while I sat, as an adult, surrounded by a gaggle of children in Kindergarten reading time. It became crystal clear to me that I no longer have the social skills necessary to be successful in elementary school. I’m not sure when these were lost. It could have potentially been somewhere between my first internship and that co-worker who calls off 2 times a week with no coverage. Suffice it to say, my Kindergarten skills are now incognito. I cannot possibly, as an adult, be expected to model to child A that it is ok if he picks his nose and eats it or interrupts the reading game sobbing because he can’t handle losing, all while staying focused and achieving our group objective of learning the “ee” sound.
The even greater revelation I experienced during my volunteer time in Kindergarten was how on earth do I expect my own child to handle his first year of elementary school AND use these social skills all day, 5 days a week? No wonder he only wants to play chase or hide and seek when he gets home. As soon as I finished volunteering in his class, it took about 5 seconds for me to regress to an exhausted pile of irritated in my recliner.
Why are Our Expectations for Kids Different than for Adults?
I am not suggesting that Kindergarten needs to be a free for all with no learning objectives. I appreciate the skills my child is exponentially honing and the growth I see occurring in his first year of school. I just question the expectations we have for kids, when no one holds the same expectations for adults. If we rated adults’ behavior in the workplace in the same way we rate kids’ behavior in school, Labor Standards would have to triple their workforce to handle all of the lawsuits that would occur. As much as I would like to hang up a communal chart that shows all of my co-workers who earned stickers for the week by making good choices, I can also appreciate how my own behavioral choices on a daily basis may destroy MY sticker chances.
I’m not sure if our functioning decline is related to the way life tends to wear on us until every last drop of magic is squeezed out, or if aging just decreases our inhibitions. I am certain that I daily breathe a sigh of relief that I can lower my standards to adult “good” behavior instead of holding myself accountable at the Kindergarten level.