8/27/09

Kinder Jitters

It was last December when I met with Shelby's preschool teacher to discuss her kindergartren readiness.


"She's so young, I protested. John and I are undecided about sending her off to Kindergarten this fall before she turns 5. In your opinion, is she prepared?" I asked her wide-eyed teacher.
This conversation was a poignant one in my mind because, aside from the details, the result was this: preschool, or at least the preschool Shelby was attending, is for social development first, and academic development second. And thus, if John and I were confident in her social progress and concerned about her academics, then we should send her to kindergarten, becasue she wasn't going to get the academics in rpeschool.


And so, last December, we dove off the fence and into the kindergarten yard, and never looked back. Until today, the day we arrived for Kindergarten round-up. Until this day, I had fended off everyone, including my own mother about our decision, arguing that "she'll be fine. She's tall, she's bright, she knows almost all her letters and sounds, and yes, she's a little young but she's a diligent student, and she'll be just fine."

On kindergarten round-up day, I made a point to arrive early (a BIG stretch for me), and John even left work so he could attend this 2 hour ordeal of familiarizing ourselves with Shelby's soon-to-be new classroom, other students and their parents, and her soon-to-be daily routine.

Giddy and excited, we met her teacher, donned name tags, and wandered the classroom checking off our "homework tasks" for the afternoon. It was like being in munchkin land with a swarm of bees, you couldn't hear yourself think nor could you find a chair that fit both butt cheeks. I became nervous about how much time her teacher spent with her during their introduction, in comparison to some of the other new students. Would she remember Shelby? Did she recognize that my child was extra special? Would this be a precursor to the slip beneath the cracks of her future? Twenty one students, would Shelby be as important as the next one?

When we stepped outside to explore the "Kinder-Yard" I ran into an acquaintance, another mom who's son shares the same birthday as Shelby. The look on her face gave her away, "I'm not so sure about all this" it grimaced as she approached.

"So, how's it going?" I beamed, as John followed Shelby to the play structure.

"Ohh, I don't know," she sighed from between clenched teeth, "he seems okay right now....we met with the principal last week and agreed that this year would just be a "trial start" in case things don't go well for Justin here."

A 'trial start'? A complete non-commitment to the start of her son's education? How could she instill confidence in him if she was already wavering?

And before I could open my mouth and insert my opinionated foot, John walked over to say hi, leaving Shelby on the structure.

"Well," he said, "I think it'll definitely be a challenge for her."

"Really?" I asked, as though 'a challenge' wasn't allowed at her age, she's too young for that.

"She's definitely not as capable as some of those other kids on the play structure. That's for sure. Those monkey bars are going to be a big hurdle for her."

Shelby has always been a cautious child. Never one to throw herself into the face of danger, leap from tall buildings, hang from a bar intended for a monkey. She's not a super hero after all, she's FOUR! And besides, she was raised to be civilized, right? I mean, well, she'll be okay with all these kids, won't she?
And just like that, my rock of confidence splintered. She can't do everything the rest of the five year olds can. And then, that look on my friend's face, that "not so sure about all this" expression, became my own. Maybe I'm "not so sure about all this" either. After all, I've never been one for commitment. And while I turned over the words, "trial start" in my mind, Shelby dragged us back into the classroom to do more exploring.

A giant blond adolescent looking child approached, her name tag read, "Anna". She sidled up beside my little daughter, who turned to stare blankly at the girl's chest. This Anna was a giant in munchkin land.

"What would happen if this guinea pig got really big? So big it was the size of this room? And then we started poking it with sticks?" Anna laughed.
Not only was this kid big, she was aggressive. And then, as I watched this giant stare down my little Shelby, I felt the onset of a small avalanche, my rock began to crumble.
Later, I heard myself reminding her teacher that Shelby won't turn 5 until September, "She's a little young," I said. I could feel the words "trial start" crawling up the back of my throat but I slammed my mouth shut.
When all the children had left, and John was staring at his watch, I found my feet had suddenly grown roots. I didn't want to leave this classroom. This was the last moment of kindergarten round-up with my little girl. I blinked and it was over. And in that brief two hour period, not only had I grown roots, but that rock of confidence I rode in on was now a scattered mass of sand at my truncated feet. Am I....I mean, is she really ready for this?

8/26/09

A Big Jump

Tomorrow marks the beginning of my little girl's public education, and the loosening of my grasp on her little life. Tomorrow, she will be a public school student, a malleable product of a professional teacher, an impressionable playground attendee. Tomorrow, she will be immersed in the culture of America. Tomorrow, she will become number 20 on her class list, another Shelby on the red rug, a B. on her name tag in case there are duplicates. She will learn to hang up her backpack, turn in her homework and flip her attendance card, in case her teacher's too busy to notice her.
Tomorrow, my daughter's presence in her kindergarten classroom will be a testament to what we have painstakingly taught her in these short almost five years at home. She will offer her manners, her understanding of friendship, her happiness, her frustration, her willingness to try new things, her laughter, and her heart to a community of her peers. She will stand out. She will be great.
She will be younger. She may struggle. She might cry. But she will succeed.
Tomorrow marks yet another "first" in our world. The first day I will kiss my daughter goodbye on the playground-not the preschool playroom, and trust she will line up at the right door. And much like that first day of preschool, tomorrow I will return home to wonder what she's doing every second of the day. If she's met a new friend, if she's feeling sad, if she had someone to sit with at snack time. I will miss her. I will miss her.

8/25/09

Kindergarten Countdown

I'm counting down the last two days before I walk my little four year old down the halls of a public school and launch her into the next 14 years of conforming American education.
Mixed emotions on this one-lots of 'em.
The last week has been a whirlwind of busy-ness, drinking down the last rays of summer vacation, entertaining more house guests, collecting and organizing wardrobe and school supplies, and of course, my favorite practice, "Kinder-Cramming".
I'm sure every parent does this(right?!). It's the last week before she starts school and I'm testing her on her letters and sounds, practicing writing her last name, singing and repeating my cel phone number, our address, her hometown, counting backwards. It's like I have a burning desire to impart every bit of Kinder knowledge on her before she gets there. Or maybe it's just the fact that I know what will be expected of her.
As we drove to Target for her backpack I injected her with tidbits of information, "Shelby, you're going to kindergarten to listen and learn lots of important things. You won't know everything, and you will get frustrated, but all the kids in your class will feel the same way." Minutes would pass as she silently chewed on my mommy advice. And then, "Oh, we'll have to pack your lunch every night before we go to school!" Or, "You're going to meet so many new friends! And you'll know Abbi, she'll be there in the classroom next door, and you'll see her on the playground!"
This afternoon we passed the hours away clearing her closet of stained and worn out clothing to make room for the "Fall Collection" I had packed away for this very purpose. The New School Wardrobe-shoes, coats, underwear, socks. I began collecting kid clothes for this purpose in early May. So we pulled it all out to hang on hangers and fold in her drawers, and apparently, if you hide clothes in a dark space, they multiply. In fact, it seems we have eliminated all but three old items in her closet. Yeah, we can say OVERKILL.
I'm even more embarrassed to admit that the little fashionista has a birthday coming up which just screams "Closet Remodel".
"Hey Daddy, can I have a 'walk-in' for my 5th birthday, please?"
Oh yeah,