Kindergarten Reflections: The Bailey Year, Birthdays and Bedtimes

(Originally Posted April 7, 2011)

Everyone lived to see the second week of Kindergarten. Even Bailey Elizabeth Norsstrum. Nearing the dawning of the 5th birthday, I began to have wistful remembrances of a kindergartner many years past. My first year teaching Kindergarten, at Heritage Elementary in Keller, Texas, there was one dear little girl who began the school year much like Bailey, a few weeks short of her fifth birthday. Amy, a sweet, shy little girl sobbed and boo-hooed the entire time she was at school. Amy’s little brother, who I believe was not much past his third birthday, would have gladly traded places with his sister. Amy’s poor Mom was caught with dragging the three year old brother out of the room each morning, and pushing wailing Amy, the 4 year old into the classroom!

For days this sobbing ensued. Amy went through multiple boxes of Kleenex as the days turned into weeks. As a first year teacher, I was thinking this entire school year would be replayed back in my head with the mournful wailing of Amy as the soundtrack.

Then, a new day dawned…Amy’s 5th birthday!! When Amy walked into Kindergarten on the morning of her 5th birthday, her eyes were completely dry. No more tears! NONE!! From that day forward, Amy was one of the most confident children in my morning Kindergarten class. She OWNED that new number chronologically attached to her identity! Four year olds cried when they went to school, five year olds did not. Who was I to argue with that?!? Hey, after those first weeks of red eyes, dripping noses and sobs worthy of a mistaken amputee post-op, I would not take this smiling child for granted! Amy’s Kindergarten year was nothing but success and growing self-confidence from the birthday onward.

I wonder if this could possibly hold true for Bailey so many years later? Maybe? Possibly? Pretty please?!?!?

The birthday morning for Bailey was greeted by all with smiles as wide as Texas! Hopes of this bedraggled Kindergarten teacher for a Texas sized Epiphany for Bailey’s rapid progression toward a well-adjusted, mature Kindergartner was tightly pinned to the coattails of a little girl named Amy. Bailey was bouncing higher and faster than usual on this anniversary of her earthly arrival. Early warning signs of a Bailey birthday breakfast: Birthday cake topped with a triple scoop of cotton candy ice cream. The Queen of Kindergarten thought she had arrived at her own personal kingdom for the day. Every child and adult crossing her path that day was informed that it was THE day of days. BAILEY ELIZABETH NORSSTRUM was having a birthday folks, and you better not forget it!! Four no more…the number of note had been kicked up a notch to the all important FIVE!!

In my Kindergarten class, when a child would celebrate turning another year older, we would certainly acknowledge the momentous occasion. The morning message would open with the child’s name, the new age and how elated we were to be joining the celebrant in commemorating this day of birthday bliss. Later, classmates would make a Birthday Book with each child drawing a picture of the birthday girl and dictating to me a reason they liked the birthday girl.

Only two weeks into the school year, multiple reasons for “I like Bailey because…” were indeed limited. One child sheepishly whispered to me, “I can’t think of anything….she’s not very nice.” Indeed, offering suggestions for completing the “I like…” sentence were difficult for me as well. Somehow ‘excellent pouting,’ ‘forceful pusher of friends in line,’ ‘very loud screamer,’ though achingly accurate would not be appreciated when Bailey took her book home to share with family. In the end, the birthday book was filled with “She has a pretty smile,” and “she is in my Kindergarten class.” That was as good as it was going to get.

By afternoon’s going home bell, Bailey, had suffered multiple meltdowns. Usually centering around why the world in Kindergarten was not bowing and scraping, showering our newly crowned 5 year old with worshipful adoration from morning’s reciting of the pledge of allegiance to the hug goodbye at day’s end.

Nope, sorry Amy. Twice in one lifetime was not to be. At least not in the dawning of newfound maturity for Bailey as a 5 year old. It’s time to call home. Let’s get the lines of communication well connected between the Norsstrum home and Denton Creek Elementary room A-108.

“Hello Mrs. Norsstrum? This is Mr. Creel, Bailey’s teacher. ……Yes, we all survived the birthday! She was one happy little girl today, that is for sure! (I gave details of how we celebrated the day, yet not quite reaching Bailey’s lofty expectations of birthday’s when merged with Kindergarten.)

NOTE: Before those Kindergarten teachers out there reading this begin jumping to chastise, this was NOT the first phone conversation I had with Mrs. Norsstrum! Not by a longshot. Probably the twelfth…or twentieth…of that week.

Trying to get more info on home life routines for Bailey would hopefully help me figure out what I was actually dealing with in efforts to live until school year’s end (both Bailey AND myself). THAT was the driving force behind this parental inquisition.

Question: “What does Bailey have for breakfast each morning before leaving for school?”

Mrs. Norsstrum answers: “Sometimes it a bowl of Cocoa Puffs or a doughnut. Sometimes she refuses to eat if we are out of her favorite cereal, and I just can’t get her to eat anything else!” (My guess would have been Fruit Loops as the cereal of choice.)

We did find out that she enjoyed a special birthday cupcake this morning, chocolate with oodles of pink icing…and sprinkles. Uh-huh. CHECK!!

I must add here that when I received the answer to the next question, my mouth fell completely open, as in jaw-dropping. Finally, everything began to make sense…

Fishing for more information, I asked: “What time did Bailey get to bed last night? What is her usual bedtime?”

Mrs. Norsstrum answers: “Well, last night was a little later than normal. She got to bed a little after 11pm, but usually its never later than 10:00 or 10:30.”

I could not believe my ears!!!! USUALLY never later than 10:00 or 10:30??? P.M.????


My response: “Our day is a very busy one. To be at her best, Bailey could definitely benefit from an earlier bedtime. MUCH earlier. What about 7pm tonight??”

Mrs. Norsstrum responds: “Bailey just usually decides when she is sleepy enough, she will go and crawl into her bed.”

Bailey’s evening routine usually would be sitting in front of a Disney princess movie for the hundred thousandth time, deciding for herself when would be the optimal time to greet the Sand Man. Surely not!!! Surely YES!! It was true. How sad.

My response: “As her Mom, you certainly know what will best benefit Bailey and a good nights sleep is surely paramount. I think you will be amazed by what enforcing an early bedtime will make for Bailey’s mood in the morning, as well as the mood of your entire household! Also, a breakfast free of sugar will add to her school day’s success!”

Mom and Dad were not even remotely in charge at the Norsstrum home. The Norsstrum roost was ruled by a newly crowned five year old, and had been for quite some time. Possibly for the past four years….

Four no more. Five years old. It was still August. Lord, deliver me…

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