I didn't think I would cry, she's been in school after all. Two half-days of Preschool and Pre-K. Two years of dropping her off at our beloved school with teachers that I trust with my whole heart. Out of her small class of 15, I already knew that 13 of them were all friends from Pre-K. And of course I live about 90 seconds from the entrance to the school...
So why would I cry? These crazy emotional moms I hear stories about, crying as they watch their kid walk away from them. I knew I wouldn't cry. Until Harper's teacher handed me a flower and a little poem she had printed out, reminding me that this was a whole new ball game.
School. Every day until she becomes an adult. School. A place where she will start to learn more from others, teachers and peers, than she will from her parents. School. A place where she has to just be who she is becoming, because mom's leg isn't right there to hide behind, and dad's strong arms aren't there to hold her when she's having a hard day.
Oh the tears that rolled down my cheeks on the way to the car, betraying my nonchalant mask of bravery! I was one of those crazy, emotional moms and there was no way to hide it.
It didn't help that when she ran onto the playground, (the BIG kid playground) she ran straight over to the bench right beside the Pre-K playground, (where her sister would still play) and sat...just looking at all the big kids. The one big fear I had leading up to her first day was the big kid playground. It seemed so intimidating and new, and I worried that an older kid would pick on her or be mean to her. I was afraid she would feel small and alone. So it definitely didn't help to see her run straight to the bench and sit quietly by herself...
Every morning for the next week, that is exactly what she did. On the two days that Kinley went to preschool, she would have someone to talk to at the fence. On the other three days, she would just sit, sometimes staring at the kids playing, sometimes kicking the dirt and looking down. IT KILLED ME!!! I wanted to tell her to go talk to someone, go make a friend, go play on the slide or something. Something!!
And one day it hit me.
She was perfectly happy and content. Every day after we did her morning sign-in routine and walked to the gate of that big playground, she would give me a kiss, wave and yell "bye mom!!" with a huge smile on her face, and RUN to that bench. Not walk with her head down, not cling to my leg in fear... And when it hit me, I was so relieved that I had come to this realization before I put my own fears into her.
As hard as it was inside, on the outside I would smile and wave back and look perfectly happy about the fact that she was sitting alone. I chose not to mention the playground or making friends, and I stopped asking prying questions to discreetly figure out if she ever got off the bench that morning. Because she was happy, and she had no idea that sitting on that bench by herself was a bad thing. (In my mind that is...)
Another week went by of her happily sitting on the bench.
Then one day it was different, and I'll never forget it. We did her sign-in routine, I walked her to the big playground, I gave her a kiss and we smiled and waved bye to each other, and she ran to the bench...and just as she got to the spot where she usually sat, she turned to the left and ran, all the way down to the end of the playground, to where all the other kindergarteners played. She looked so confident, so excited and happy to be there still. And I was SO happy to see it!
It's so crazy and scary to me, that in wanting the best for our kids, sometimes we put our own fears or insecurities onto them. I know I've done it in the past, and I was probably about one more day away from doing it this time before my epiphany hit. Had I 'encouraged' her (pushed her rather) to make friends and get off the bench before she was ready, would she have started to feel wrong and bad? Would she begin to doubt herself and become afraid of the big playground?
She loves kindergarten, she loves school, and she loves that playground!!
Kindergarten is awesome! She's reading like a champ, she can already count by 5's and 10's, she has so many great friends, and she is Harper. She is not me, nor does she have my fears and doubts. And I really hope I remember this important truth, because I know this is only the beginning.