This year, we purchased a new advent calendar to count down the days to Christmas. The one we had been using in the past few years was a total flop. This could be related to the fact that we forgot to fill it with treasures. Ahem. Maybe. But this one is foolproof because it already comes with all of the treasures waiting to be discovered. And M is in love with it. Each morning she comes down the stairs, the first place she goes is to the advent calendar to open the day’s door and reveal the animal inside. Perhaps not surprisingly, it turns out she has been assembling a little school of animals on the front porch.
Tonight, M decided to write a book. Actually, she started it in school today and finished it at home. She told me she wanted to write a book for her Kindergarten teacher “because no one else has yet”. She wrote it without any help. Although she doesn’t use so many words, I think it’s clear just how she feels about this important person in her life. One might even call it a love story. And sometimes, you just nail it on the first draft.
August 31, 2007. That was the day you were supposed to be born, at least according to the white-coated “experts” and their charts. In my typical Type A fashion, I planned my last day of work before my maternity leave to be August 28, so I could work right up until the end. I’d have two days off to get organized and pack “the bag”, and then you’d be born. There was a plan. Perfect.
But nope. August 31st came and went. You just weren’t ready.
So I waited. And waited. And waited.
Truth? I was already a little miffed that I could have been working instead. It seemed so important at the time to not take any “extraneous” time off from clients and the courtroom just to sit around the house. The heat wave smothering Boston at the time certainly did not help. As I stepped into my mother shoes, I was already feeling the outer edges of a life that would no longer be entirely mine. I was being introduced into the art of “letting go”. I was not a quick study.
Then, after a week that felt like an eternity, you arrived on September 6th.
You came when you were ready.
At the time you were born, I didn’t realize that your “delay” would mean an extra year until you could enter Kindergarten in our city. Once I did figure this out, probably when you were around three years old or so, I did not exactly embrace that extra year. A lot of “if only” thoughts cluttered my mind. If only you had been born “on time” instead of when you were ready. This was still my kind of thinking back then.
But then something shifted in me. I began to listen to the pure tones within myself and of my loved ones, and blocked out the white noise of external expectations. I realized that I was not entirely happy with my chosen profession, at least not in the way that I was then working. I began to accept, if not appreciate, the kind of sensitivity you innately possess. A sensitivity that, at its meridian, was so entirely contrary to the path of life we had first chosen for you: nine hours a day in loud and busy daycare classrooms. A sensitivity that still quite often means you are not ready to do things at the speed or volume that others might. A sensitivity much like mine.
If both of us were going to survive, something had to change. So, a few months before you turned four, I let go and left what I knew to start something entirely different that would nourish my soul and my heart, and also bring you closer to me more often. I sensed that it was where we both needed to be. I was ready.
It has not always been easy. There have been many false starts over the past two years. Even though I was ready to embark on a fresh new journey, you were not. You sent up several red hot flares to signal you were in distress. I put aside many of the things that I wanted to accomplish for myself during that time so that I could be the kind of mother you needed for a while, but more importantly so that you could be the kind of kid that you are. I do not say this as a martyr or a saint—you know perhaps better than anyone else that patience was in short supply for much of this past winter and spring as we untangled the biggest knots, and I am now well aware of how much I benefited from it all even though almost none of it was part of my plan.
It’s also precisely when I realized that the extra year that I had once considered a detriment was actually a gift. That extra year allowed me to really get to know you and myself. It allowed all of us to make all of the necessary adjustments before we sent you off to school.
That time is what allowed you to be ready today, September 9, 2013, your first day of Kindergarten.
You are ready to widen your circle. You are ready to weather the storms of friendships and steep learning curves. You are ready to take risks. You are ready to speak up when you do not want to be rushed. You are ready to take in all that life has to offer. You are ready to chart your own course even when it might be the one less traveled. You are ready to try new things. You are ready to discover who you are going to be.
I am ready to follow your lead.
Readers: I’m taking a blogging sabbatical for the remainder of September. After three years of doing this, I need the time and space to think about the direction I want to go with this blog, and weigh M’s privacy as a factor going forward now that she’s more “out there”. I’ll be back in October, though maybe in a slightly different way.
Copyright (c) 2013 Kristen M. Ploetz
Tomorrow we begin the process of Kindergarten registration for M. This first part just involves filling out 16 (!) pages of information. Here are my observations from that hour and half long experience.
1. One form still has a date field that reads “19___”. Time to get into the 21st century, no?
2. The form is inherently skewed to having parents/guardians of opposite sex. If a child has two moms or two dads, they will have to do a lot of crossing out. This in a state where same sex marriage is (thankfully) legal. Time to get into the 21st century, no?
3. The entire form is in English. Yet there are multiple questions getting at what language predominates the home and child’s life. Strikes me as odd that if there’s a question asking whether you will need a translator at parent-teacher meetings and trying to figure out whether there is going to be a language issue for the child in the classroom, shouldn’t there be an initial page with multiple languages explaining what to do with this form and to get some assistance in filling it out if you need it? In a city with many non-English speakers, this almost seems like it would be standard procedure by now with the other languages widely spoken around here. No, instead let’s just make it that much harder for them … insane.
4. The school website simply tells me that registration (filing your forms) is March 5. But no time is given for this milestone occasion. Also there’s no indication where I should proceed once I am at the school, assuming I figure out what time to show up. So that’s helpful . . . and hopefully not a sign of what’s to come in the world of public school information. (Incidentally, I called this morning to find out. The person answering the phone “thought” it was 8:30-2:00, but wasn’t entirely sure. Obviously I have a ton of confidence now. *eyeroll*)
5. These forms want to know more about what’s “wrong” with my child (physically, emotionally, developmentally)—and who can pick her up when something goes wrong—than about what’s great about her. I get the reasoning, but makes me a bit sad that kids are framed that way from the get go.
6. One page printed out in complete gibberish. No idea what it says because the words are literally all over the page in random order (obviously a technical issue). Hope homework assignments are not this difficult to figure out. Seriously…does anyone even look at this stuff on the school end? The whole point of having these things online is to avoid having to fill them out at the school tomorrow, yet I now see I will already have to fill at least one sheet out there. Moreover, this is my first introduction to public school, a place where I’m going to be sending my child in a few months. I’m not asking for a personal in-home visit from the principal complete with a stuffed animal school mascot, but just some notion that they’ve got their shit together on that end. I’m just hoping this kind of stuff happens because they are focusing so much on what happens in the classrooms.
7. A three-page Internet use/policy form. Seriously? This is Kindergarten. They even have a student signature line (which I will have her “sign” . . . just to be snarky of course). I hope this is not an indication of how much technology is used at this tender age. I’d rather know about the playground rules, quite frankly, because that’s how I would rather her and her future friends spend their time.
Of course, on some level I’m being snarky because I’m feeling slightly ambivalent about having reached this milestone. That my sweet bug is soon going to be a little less tethered to me. That she has now become a data point for the MA Department of Education about whether she speaks English and for the MA Department of Public Health about whether she’s been vaccinated for chicken pox. But on some level I’m being completely serious by reading too much into mere forms. To the extent that first impressions count, that we want families and children to embrace the school environment and become active participants in it and toward making it the best possible place for our children to learn, these kinds of forms have not left me with an overly enthusiastic feeling. It makes me question how tolerant schools are if the forms for accessing them are not fully inclusive. It makes me question what kind of barriers and opportunities exist for each of our children to learn collectively and excitedly, particularly as we are entering a tenuous economic situation that may create more hardships for students and teachers alike. It makes me wonder why there is not as much pomp and circumstance about enrolling in Kindergarten as there is for college. I mean, yes, I know why. This is free public education and that is secondary education that wants your money so more schmoozing required. But isn’t this where it all starts? Isn’t the next thirteen years of school a big long transition from Point A to Point B? Shouldn’t this be where a little more conscious effort is expended in bringing parents and their children into the fold, thereby paving the way for a bright path to the future?
Copyright (c) 2013 Kristen M. Ploetz
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