Sunday, April 19, 2009

For parents, little chairs mean big responsibilities

Dear Ittybit,

You slipped into the shower with me this morning, wanting your first kindergarten experience to be clean of preschool dirt, no doubt.

You dug through your dresser looking for the shirt a friend had given you because you'd decided to wear it to the big interview: kindergarten registration day.

You were sure the bright yellow hand-me-down was a "Kind-y-garten" shirt, since it was bequeathed to you by a kindergartener. But when you pointed to a word and I read it as "Preschool," you put it back and selected an alternate."I want to wear jeans, mama," you said to my surprise. "Big girls wear jeans," you explained.

But you didn't have any jeans; I'd long ago stopped buying them since you prefer soft, stretchy pants. You settled for a pair of purple corduroys with riveted pockets that were wadded up in the back of a lower drawer, one of last children's apparel purchases I made without your approval.

We were just about ready.

Your father had left the paperwork up to me. I'd collected the information - immunization records, birth certificate, registration forms, proof of residence - the previous night.

We were all excited.

You were going to be great. We all knew it. As I checked off the boxes on the assessment, I was kind of stunned that I needed a check list to remind me what a great kid you really are:

Manage bathroom needs without assistance? Yes.
Can follow two step directions? Yes.
Can count to 10? Yes.
Recognizes own name in print? Yes.
Can write her name using uppercase and lower case letters? Yes.
Can stand/hop on one foot? Yes.
Can cut curves with scissors? Yes.
Classifies objects by shape, color, and size? Yes.

Then the questions get more difficult to answer.
In stead of yes and no answers, they offer graduated check boxes ranging from “almost always” through “almost never.”

Is she easily upset? Not usually, although there was that time last week when her brother threw her new toy in the commode. … That doesn’t really fit into the easy category, right? That seems like an appropriate response. Where’s my eraser?
Does she respond to basic requests? Sometimes … although it greatly depends on whether or not the television is on.
Does she grab, hit, kick or whine? No, No, No, and Yes, sometimes, but I blame Caillou for teaching her that.

Why was I worried? When we arrived in the office and met the principal's assistant you were charming and all “Hello and how-do-you-do. ... Will I meet my teacher today?"

When a woman came to get you and bring you to the place where you’d be asked to play some games so that a panel of clipboard-toting administrators could decide your future class placement, you never looked back. You are not so much brave, I thought, as you are confident.

As you were reciting numbers and letters (and getting gold stars for showing the nice ladies with the clipboards how you could cut with scissors and catch a ball) we were getting sent to remedial parenting school in our minds, and likely the minds of the school's administrators.

I'd missed half of the forms that needed to be turned in, and had to quickly scribble them out as your dad tried to cover by cracking jokes and asking questions.

We look on sheepishly as the mother behind us received praise for getting all the forms filled out properly. Our shoulders slumped forward just a little bit more.

When we are brought together again, the three of us, to meet the principal we became THOSE parents; the one's who are afraid you won't be seen for who you are; the ones who are afraid you will be molded into student who repeats information by rote. We have no idea what we don't know.

I admitted to the smiling woman behind the desk that we have no doubt that you are ready for school and that you will do well. We are not worried about your abilities at all. I tell her we are the ones who are scared. We are the one's who will have trouble fitting in.

She nods her head with something in her face that says she knows us better than we know ourselves.

With love, and promises to work on getting more gold stars,


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