Kindergarten stole my child!


Henry kindergarten

Kindergarten stole my sweet child. He left on a sunny, late-summer morning and another kid returned  in his place. He is cranky, moody, grumpy, and downright This new child has been staying with us every day. He eats goldfish, cheese sticks, and raisins by the handful, much like my former child. His clothes are the same and he still has an occasional smile that makes an appearance for a few minutes in the mornings.  I walk on eggshells most afternoons wondering what sort of attitude I will get in return for telling him “no he can’t watch tv” or “sorry, you are coming to NYC to watch mommy run the marathon in a few weeks.”

Let me cut to the chase here, and enough with the lyrical writing bulls**t.  My son has been a terror for the past few weeks. Ok, he’s not lighting kittens on fire, and he’s not beating up his sister…although he did rip off a few branches from the lilac tree the other day because I told him he couldn’t go play with his friends. Last night it happened…he told me I couldn’t be his mother anymore. And then tonight he told my husband he hated him.  For god’s sake, I want to give him donuts for dinner and let him fart openly in public just to avoid a temper tantrum.  On the other hand, I’d like to have some rules in this household.

I realize this is all very normal in terms of childhood development. Instead of drowning my sorrows and worry in copious glasses of wine and pints of Ben and Jerry’s I should probably be hi-fiving my husband because my son’s behavior is relatively on track for his age. “Yeah hubs…we’re doing awesome…raising up this here boy…he just said he hates us. We are doing a fiiine job.” But words hurt. Even if he is five and I’m thirty six.

All the books, blogs, articles, experts give great advice on how to handle this stage in a child’s life. They give very practical and useful tools for what to say and how to react when situations like this occur. But they don’t make it better. They don’t tell you it will be over soon, and they certainly don’t give you ETA for when your sweet child will return. Will he return? Because I really miss him.

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Heather Polifka-Rivas
Heather is originally from upstate New York but her family returned to Vermont 4 years ago. They have lived in NYC and Chicago the past 10+ years and are happy to be back in Vermont. Heather's previous jobs as a starving actor in NYC, package design guru at Estee Lauder, and advisor to fortune 500 companies at Chicago’s top business school have not prepared her for her current job today: stay at home mom to Henry (7) and Ruby (3). A self proclaimed foodie, Heather spends her "many" hours of free time preparing elaborate meals, eating out, tending to her garden, canning it's bounty and willing her one tapped maple tree to weep more sap. She is also a mother runner.


  1. You ask the ETA for this period of time to end, it does not end, it is part of his development and becoming an individual. this will lead to another stage and then another. My wife and I asked the same questions over and over again for our two sons. Yes we miss and reminisce about the boys they were. But truthfully, we love and are proud of the men they have become, as they are now in their 20’s. Enjoy this time of his life and yours.

  2. Wow, the marathon, I’m so impressed! Good luck!

    Our issue here is that L is so busy chatting at lunch that he doesn’t eat. And then… comes the empty-belly rage. I don’t know what to do about it! He spends the rest of school and the bus ride home in nearly full-blown hysteria, and then I sit him down the second he gets home and cram food into his mouth until he calms down.

    I have to hope this all evens out. It’s still the first month…


  3. I have been forming this same post in my head for three weeks! My son comes home from kindergarten after not drinking his water all day, not using the bathroom (???) and is starving… he eats like a teenager! He rolls his eyes at me, snaps sarcastic responses, and uses me like a punching bag 🙁 I want to spend our afternoons doing extra fun things, but he is just not up for it.

    Flip side… I know know he is giving 110% for his teachers, and that matters SO much to me!


    • hbb–oh my gosh–henry comes home every day and boasts that he didn’t go to the bathroom all day. he also doesn’t drink his water. i started sending him with smoothies in hopes that he drinks those with his lunch. and friday’s i let him buy chocolate milk at the cafeteria so i know he’s at least drinking once a week while at school! hang in there. and you’re right–i know he is being a great kiddo in the classroom, which is at least a small consolation for the moody behavior at home.

  4. Hey Heather! I just found this website through franchesca (above commenter 🙂 Its Tess from …ya know, baby yoga and momma yoga! Nice to see ya on here. I know nothing about kindergarden but woah nelly sounds like some crazy times. But I DID read that you are running the NYC marathon! Congrats! That is awesome. I run too, if you ever want to run together let me know! Have you done other marathons? I cheered at NYC once but havnt ran it yet. I am impressed that you are marathon training right now. Good Luck!

    • hey tess! great to hear from you, hope you’re doing well and had a great summer. indeed, i am running the nyc marathon. it will be my third marathon (x2 in chicago), and my first in nyc. can’t wait! used to live in nyc so it will be great to get back. happy to run with you! i’m running 18 miles tomorrow…wanna join?! kidding. it is going to be a long morning. once i get back down to a reasonable mileage maybe we could meet up!

  5. This made my morning. My regularly sweet little guy has gotten off the bus twice this week to announce, “I hate coming home!” Gulp, breath, internal voice: “Be grateful he enjoys school.” Repeat. K, once more…
    Kindergarten has been a huge transition for our whole gang- figuring out a morning routine, one-on-one time with my youngest, balancing letting go with the urge to know/figure out every detail of his school days, and the MOODS.
    I try to sit for a couple moments (criss cross applesauce) and hold faith that everything is always a phase and that I will love him through anything.
    Sending sisterhood strength to you!

    • Update: Hays got off the bus today, ran over for a big hug, and announced he was a “1” on the scale (yesterday we created a ‘tude scale: 1 is awesome, 2 is pretty good, 3 is neutral, and a 4 or 5 means spending time in his room until he can choose a better one- oh, and he insisted on flipping the scale so that 1 was the best and 5 was the worst).
      I attribute it partially to our special lunch date today (pizza Friday!), but I know it might not be the new normal. I’m still grateful, though, and I’m also a 1 on the scale!

      • thanks for your comment francesca. glad today was better! we had a better day today as well! but you’re right, learning to breathe before reacting is super helpful. 🙂 good luck to you.


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