Monday, January 31, 2011

Things I now know to be true

E can:
  • walk heel-to-toe on a line like in a sobriety test
  • hop 10 times on one foot
  • throw a ball high in the air twice and catch it
She can:
  • name three words that rhyme with "bat"
  • count in consecutive and sequential numbers
  • write her name
  • color a person with all her major body parts (including a belly button)
She can also:
  • look at four illustrations and order them into a story, and narrate it in detail
  • name all the members of her family (including Purple Rainbow Fireworks Sally)
  • watch a teacher build a stepped pyramid with blocks and replicate it
  • put a toy car into a box and turn the box over with her right hand
  • listen to a book as it is read and explain how the hippopotamus got under the bed
She cannot:
  • do what all the other kids did and walk away from her mommy for her kindergarten screening.
There were about 30 families in the library for our time slot. Each child was given a name tag with a different  color on it and when the kids all sat down together, they were divided into groups by their colors. Then color by color, the groups were led away with a teacher for their screenings. We talked last night about being brave; about how we know what to do with teachers, how we follow their instructions and they take care of us when parents aren't there; about how she'd be in the same kindergarten classrooms we visited before.

We talked about how I would wait for her, and how she'd return to me.

I think if E's color had been called first we might have made it through the moment of separation successfully. As luck had it, her color was the very last one called. She watched four rounds of children leave, some with no qualms, many with hesitation and backwards glances towards their parents and a few small squeaks and tears. The buildup was too much. As E's color was called she exploded with tears and panic and moaned for me and boa-constrictored around my leg.

The teachers and administrators didn't hesitate, and invited me to stay with E. I'm grateful for that. And so I became the only parent to witness the whole kindergarten screening. This is how I know that as far as the screening proper is concerned, my almost-kindergartener kicked some serious butt.

But she was too scared to go alone, and no other child in that room found the separation to be insurmountable, like she did. This is the part that's so hard.

These artificial time lines -- like being potty trained by age three, like being able to walk away at age five -- in a developmental sense, they're really just constructs, right? The girl in E's group who walked away from her mom with a skip and a wave couldn't count to ten (and I was there to see that). E can count past 100. Does it matter?

When I quiet myself and listen to my instincts and tell myself to trust them, I believe there is nothing wrong with E. She'll get through this at her own pace. But it is hard and getting harder to give her the freedom without pressure to work through it. I wish she could be carefree. I wish the scrutiny and careful eyes of other parents didn't bother me, or compound her nervousness (but they do, and they do).

I wish this wasn't so hard for her, and if we're soul-searching, I wish this wasn't so hard for me (but it is, and it is).

Is it wrong to take consolation in the probability that that other girl's mom probably feels frantic that her kid still can't count to 10?

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Sammy K said...

I used to be the same way when I was a kid. I can still remember screaming for my mother as she left me with the babysitter or at school. It's hard to grow out of it for some of us kids.

Emily said...

Is it wrong that this post gave me a moment of panic, a small, anxious frenzy as I mentally compared E to Katherine? I think all this worry starts from a place of love and integrity. We're cross-checking our kids, trying to find the problem if there IS a problem, so our little ones won't fall through the cracks, so we can help them.

I think, though, that somewhere along the line those feelings can shift and turn into something less honest. We start judging each other and pushing our kids and trying to one-up each other and (even though it doesn't seem like *you're* doing any of that) I hate to think E's sensing those twisted grown-up feelings behind the other parents' glances. I hate to think they're making your mothering job more complicated.

E will be fine as soon as kindergarten becomes familiar. (She's going to be fine. She's going to be fine.) She's going to grow up and away from you; and, even though you'll aways be a safe place for her to retreat to when she needs you, she won't always need you. Until then, you'll take these situations one at a time. You'll find out where E's line is and where her abilities lie and you'll back off when you need to and step forward when you need to and you'll protect her, on a case by case basis, and you and M will make all the wise decisions she needs you to make in order to help her because you're her parents and you're GOOD parents and that's what good parents do.

I'm sorry I'm so long-winded. Just remember, she's only five and five might *seem* big in a lot of ways, but it's okay if your five- (or six- or seven-) year-old still feels really small. She's perfect. She's incredible. And, as for the rest of it, she'll get there.

De in D.C. said...

She can leave you at daycare, so it's not like she never lets you out of her sight. She just takes some time to get used to new situations. Once you find out who her kindergarten teacher is, you might want to find out if you could sit in the classroom for the first day or two while she transitions, but she'll get there eventually.

SmartBear said...

There is nothing wrong with E and you are an amazing mom for supporting her. All kids have different little blue prints. I would even venture to say that most folks are too quick to push their kids away from them at too young an age. I agree with other folks here...she is only 5. 5 is still a toddler. 5 is still an age where magical thinking rules and what is unknown feels like the edge of a cliff. She is smart and clever and she has a big heart, that much is obvious. Did I mention you are an amazing mom? Chat soon?

Hermia Commutes said...

She'll be 5 and a half by the time kindergarten starts. That's a huge difference. And you can practice going to school and meet the teacher ahead of time and all those other things you would normally do to get her used to a new daily destination. But as others have pointed out, right now she's far closer to 4 than to 6.

I went to half day kindergarten, with an afternoon program three days a week. I could take the school bus in b/c my friend across the street (in 1st grade!) was with me. And I could take the bus home on those days with the afternoon program. But the first actual half day revealed that I could not take the bus home by myself. I bawled the entire way home. Thereafter the babysitter got me at school on the half days.

I turned out ok. You're doing what you can, and she'll be just fine.

Visty said...

My girl just turned 4. She is bright, knows her letters, can sing songs, get shots without crying, help feed kitties, but she can NOT sleep without her mama right there.

She just can't.

I've known it from the day she was born. I swaddled her, laid her down, and she panicked. We tried lots of things, but this girl, she needs me in a way my other two older kids did not need me.

I could listen to family members, friends, experts, and think that she is backward, or that I am stunting her, keeping her from learning how to be independent. Or I can, with the wisdom of her being my third child and knowing all children are different and okay, be there for her when she needs me, and step back when she tells me she doesn't.

a li'l bit squishy said...

My two middle girls suffered from night terrors which have faded into `bad dreams`. I never put them back in their own beds, alone. I don`t because even if it reduces the quality of my own sleep I know that it makes them feel safe. Feeling safe is the key to self confidence and I am their mother, it is my privilege to protect them.
You are an amazing mother and E is an amazing girl and she will find her own way when she is ready.