Commencement ceremonies are often perceived as the end of a major accomplishment. This was the case when my daughter graduated from pre-school in June. But, like all commencements, this one actually signified the beginning toward a new life.
With the advent of kindergarten a month ago, Ari and I embraced that new life. We enjoyed the parent and child orientation, as well as meet-the-teacher night. After orientation, she played on the always-popular playground and felt she belonged at this school.
In many ways, Ari is thriving. After school, if there is time, I sit on the bench at the school’s park with so many other doting mothers. I watch my girl. She gleefully goes down the slide with a look of pride. She makes sure I’m always watching her. A year ago, she was afraid of slides of this caliber, yet she slides down them now as if she’s a pro.
She is also making friends at school and likes ALL her classmates. I see the look of joy on her face as her new girlfriends tumble out of school and run to her. And I see the look of complete, untainted, unruly happiness – perhaps a look reserved only for children’s faces – as the gaggle embrace and jump around in a group hug. Ari’s face sparks confidence.
It’s quite a different story at home. There’s work waiting for her there – to be more specific, homework. And there’s work waiting for her in the classroom. The teacher told us at meet-the-teacher night that there would be ample homework, so I was expecting that.
But no orientation could ever prepare me for the searing pain of watching my anguished child during her first month at kindergarten.
Ari is not lazy, but homework has been such an albatross for her. I tell her how proud I am of her and that she just needs to always do her best. She works so hard and tells me regularly, “Mom, I’m trying my best.” The problem: she is comparing herself to other students in her class who are more advanced than she is.
Ah, the comparison game. We learn it early, don’t we? Earlier than kindergarten, in fact, but for Ari, it’s ballooned in this time and place and space. I tell her she needs to forget what the other students are doing, that the only person she needs to be concerned about is herself. Her positive, wonderful teacher has told me that Ari, like some other kids in class, needs extra tutoring and one-on-one time with the teacher.
I could sugarcoat it, but I’ll say it straight: Ari is behind.
So behind that at least once each week she has a meltdown of the nuclear variety at school. So behind that her meltdowns include intense sobbing at school, as well as hiding in bathrooms and behind school furniture. So behind that when she got to school yesterday, she clung to me weeping bitterly. And when she let go and I tried to reason with her, she ran and accidentally smacked her head right into a cubby. The impact flattened her to the ground in one fell swoop. I bent to comfort my daughter, who was writhing in physical and emotional pain.
I scooped her crumpled spirit into my arms. Luckily, she was alright physically.
But not emotionally.
At that time, I wanted to just take my daughter home and cuddle her. I wanted to baby her. I wanted to give her everything she desired, which, in her words, was to “stay with me forever at our home.” Rather than painfully watch my daughter’s self-esteem derail, I wanted to do anything to make her happy.
Instead, I gently handed my crying child over to the teacher and tearfully left.
Outside the school, sitting for 15 minutes in my parked car, I caught my elusive breath. Then I thought about The Rolling Stones’ song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” That is the grand lesson of life, I thought with a smile, grateful Ari can’t get everything she wants.
As painful as it is to watch, kindergarten is teaching character building and strength in the face of adversity. And I’m not just referring to Ari’s character, but mine as well. We all tend to struggle when our comfort zone is challenged, but with persistence, we often achieve success and incredibly great things. All we have to do is hang on.
Hang on, Ari.
Each day she doesn’t give up propels her to progress from where she’s been. Just as she mastered the playground slides, she will eventually master the material. And she is already progressing. Ari today is more academically advanced than Ari a month ago. That should be all that counts. It should be enough.
It is enough.
I’m proud of her.
I must be a patient parent who remembers the successes, not just the hardships.
Success such as her first progress report that said she was kind and respectful to others and had a natural curiosity. Success such as just one week ago, when I offered to accompany her to her classroom, and she said with an air of confidence, “No, mom, I can do this myself.” And she walked down the hall to her classroom with her head held high.
Though she is sure of where her classroom is, Ari is still finding her way. And, for that matter, so am I.
Do you have any kindergarten stories?
Is there a time or times you encountered adversity? How did you cope?
Please feel free to share your stories.
Tags: academics, adjusting to school, homework, kindergarten, success