These last few weeks starting kindergarten have been hard! I remember this from my older daughter too; the adjustment is painful for my kids. Every morning I cheerfully walk my daughter into her classroom, trying to dispel her tears and anxiety with light banter, and she grips my clothes to keep me next to her just a little while longer.
She and I have talked about why it is so hard (as far as you can rationalize these things with a five-year-old). Full-day kindergarten in a large public institution is dramatically different from her small, gentle preschool. A lot of her worries stem from the heavy-handed rules that a large classroom has to keep everyone in line, and she worries that she will get lost or do the wrong thing. The loud, chaotic lunchroom and the playground, where the rules are less clear, are traumatic.
So each day, my husband or I stay through the warm-up exercise and the pledge of allegiance. Now in our fourth week of school there are still tears, but after 20 minutes and a promise to return in time to go to lunch with her, she is not quite as despairing when I slip out. I can feel her easing into it little by little; it just takes time to get used to such a large, different place and a long day on her own.
I’ve seen many kids having trouble adapting to school (in fact, I was one). Several years ago I admired an assistant professor acquaintance as she helped her son through a similar situation when he started preschool. Somehow, she kept her research lab running and worked around her teaching schedule as she and her husband did what they had to, taking turns as permanent fixtures in the preschool classroom for half a year while their son adjusted. I’m not sure how they balanced it, perhaps it is one endorsement of the relative flexibility of schedule academia provides (combined with the energy of a young mom on the tenure-track). She is up for tenure review this year, and even if it cost her, I’m sure she’d do it the same way again. There is no way around it: your kids will need you.