Starting Kindergarten: A Mother's Fear
"Have I been a good parent?"
In one week my daughter will start Kindergarten. I feel like I've been planning for this day for almost ten years; from purchasing a home in a good school district to purchasing a new backpack for her homework. The house still looks the same, but the amazing life that began within these walls has become more precious with each new day.
Five years ago I was blessed with the greatest responsibility; a tiny girl who needed me in a way I had never been needed before. People expected me to be a good parent because of my experience as an early educator, but secretly I dreaded the high expectations. Quite honestly, I didn't know what to do. Any teacher will tell you the incredible difference between teaching a classroom of children versus raising a child through adulthood. I bought every book on parenting, I read every blog on the internet, but I still felt unworthy of such a precious gift. Deep down inside I knew parenting books could only carry me so far because no two parents share exactly the same experiences. Still, even with all the paralyzing fear, I realized my best intentions were more important than my worst mistakes. I could only strive to be the best parent to such an amazing little girl.
Time went by and I did get better. I think all parents eventually get into some type of rhythm, a steady beat of various instruments all suited to bring out the best in each other. Sometimes I couldn't wait for time to speed up; for the endless diapers and long nights to be over. Other times I could only pray for time to slow down; for the silly toddler talks and endless hugs to not be over. Then, at some point, I stood back and congratulated myself. I realized, without any doubt, that all my good intentions helped shape a loving, thoughtful, curious, smart, funny and happy 5-year-old girl. Then, on a recent trip to the museum, I began to doubt myself again.
You see, my daughter has always been academically advanced. When she enters Kindergarten next week she'll be able to write her full name, write the numbers 0-100, read short sentences, write short sentences and complete simple addition problems. Her innate sense of curiosity made learning fun and helped her blossom academically. Although I'm proud of her achievements, I always will be, my true fear lies in her social/emotional confidence. At home and with the immediate family, my daughter is confident and free. However, when surrounded by new people or immersed in a new environment, my daughter becomes quiet and unsure of her voice. She's been to the best preschools, the best summer camps and the best play-groups. My daughter is surrounded by a loving family, the kind of family that focuses on the beauty found within. Still, when faced with certain situations, my daughter forgets how to use her powerful voice and she makes the choice to follow instead of lead. Although I have seen an enormous improvement during the last year, there are times when I wonder, quite frankly, is my daughter too nice?
On a recent trip to the museum my daughter was busy playing inside a tunnel with various toys. I enjoyed watching her explore the museum from a short distance away; not too close but not too faraway. A boy walked over, about the same age as my daughter, and sat down next to her. He immediately pushed her body and grabbed one of the toys out of her hand. I stood completely still and watched to see what would happen. If she had been 2 years-old I would have stepped in and modeled the appropriate response, but at 5 years-old, and after years of practice, my daughter knows what to do and has excellent problem-solving skills. I had to let her work this one out. I watched and observed my daughter's usual response; she lowered her head and moved away.
My daughter is the type of girl who refuses to play with sand-toys that are left at public parks for everyone to play with. Once, when I pulled out a shovel buried deep within the sand and handed it to her she said, "Mommy, put it back." I explained how many sand-toys are left for everyone to share and she replied, "How do you know that one is? It wouldn't be nice if we use it without asking. Put it back, please." Another time, after my daughter told me a boy kept hitting her in Gymboree class, I explained that it is okay to use an angry voice when someone is hurting your body. My daughter replied, "It's okay. It wasn't that hard. I don't want to be mean. He's just learning." My daughter's thoughtfulness and understanding fills my heart with pride and makes me want to run down the block screaming with fear. It's gotten to the point where I have seen other children target my daughter because they understand, on some fundamental level, that they can act a certain way and she won't say a thing. Like she always says, "It's okay, I don't want to be mean."
My five-year-old has a strong moral compass. She understands right from wrong and makes positive choices when no adult is present. My daughter makes positive choices,not because someone tells her to do it, but because she understands the reasons why. Sometimes, when I worry late at night, I wish her strong moral compass would break...sometimes. Then I wouldn't have to worry so much about bullies targeting my daughter because they sense her vulnerability. I can only hope and pray she continues to be so open with me, that she continues to share her feelings about the day. I can only hope and pray she finds kindred souls in her Kindergarten class with the same strong moral compass. I can only hope and pray that my very best intentions are still good enough.