For me five-years-old is kindergarten. Today she is five tomorrow she starts kindergarten. She will be in school all day. For the first time I will drop her off at the curb instead of holding her hand and guiding her to her class. She will be in a room with 26 five-year-olds. For all the new moms out there, this milestone is hard. It seems like it will never happen, but then it happens, and it happens fast.
My shining star, beating heart, quiet, sweet, and innocent baby is going to kindergarten.
Yesterday she spent twenty minutes being assessed by her teacher and maybe said three words – painful, gut-wrenching, grab my heart with your bare hands and rip it from my chest – all words to describe being a mother of a painfully shy child starting a new school year.
“I spelled one word perfectly,” she told me as we left her school assessment.
“Which word?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “N-O-A.”
In other words, (1) her teacher did not learn much in the assessment, (2) I maybe should have spent more time practicing letters with her this summer, and (3) I wanted to grab her (teacher) and shake her and tell her how sensitive, brilliant, and special my baby is. My heart literally breaks sending her into a giant classroom. I feel as if I am releasing her into a pack of Wild Dogs.
I fear that since she is quiet her teachers and classmates might miss her sparkle.
I want everyone to see her SPARKLE. She is spectacular.
She is my first visit to the Southern Hemisphere, a dark night with no electricity for hundreds of miles. I tilt my head back and look up into the night sky. There is a magnificent carpet of stars and as my eyes skim the horizon, I see the Southern Cross.
She is the cold sand between my toes, quiet, and peaceful with a glowing moon overhead. I tentatively stick my foot into the saltwater and – POW – glowing phosphorescence swirl around my feet. I swipe my toes across the water and a glowing trail follows it.
This is my daughter.
She walks on her toes – a quirk – some say a problem. When she was three-years-old, I asked her P.E. teacher about it. Her reply, “Some of the fastest runners in elementary school are the kids who walked on their toes.”
My five-year-old is fast. She is confident about her speed. “I am the fastest,” she says, challenging anyone to a race. Long legs and endless endurance, she loves to run.
She is an observer. She learns visually. She may be the most observant person I have ever met. I too like to observe. She hasn’t yet learned it’s impolite to stare, but she is watching the way the world works, soaking it all in, and remembering the details.
My girl has been to three new schools in three years. We had bad luck with preschools. She is nervous, introducing herself into each new situation. It is scary going to new schools. She gets anxious. Each year on the first day she does not cry. She walks right in. She says goodbye and lets me leave. She tells me to leave. My daughter is the essence of BRAVE.
She is learning to make friends, learning to ask others to play, and to join a crowd of her peers. She watches. She learns. At the beginning of her pre-kindergarten year, I asked her what she did during free play at school.
“I play puzzles.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I can do it on my own.” At first I considered this a sad response, but then realized this is a SMART response. She knows how to handle new situations on her own. She knows what games she can play by herself and be happy.
First she circled the girls she wanted to play with like a humming bird she gracefully hovered nearby. She circled them until they asked her to play. She was with a group of kids many of whom had been at the same school for three years and she gradually learned to play with them.
She is generosity. Her heart is gold.
“Wow,” her teacher whispered. My daughter received a chocolate covered strawberry at her end of the year party. When her sister and I picked her up it was untouched. She smiled and offered her sister the first taste. “Most kids don’t do that,” her teacher confided.
She is kindness.
This summer I told the girls they would receive a treat if they participated in their swim class. Her little sister screamed by the pool, refusing to participate. She stayed dry loudly. My oldest swam. She kicked and suddenly her freestyle looked like freestyle. “You get a treat,” I told my big girl proudly as her sister screamed in the car seat beside her.
I gave my oldest a gummy peach. As I put the car in reverse, I peered into the rear view mirror. My daughter bit the gummy in half and handed half to her sister.
She is patience
“She sings like a bird,” a schoolmate whispered to his mother.
First day of school and her pre-k teacher asked her name. I gently elbowed her, pushing her to respond. Silence. Sometimes she hides within herself like a rollie pollie bug, folding into itself at the slightest touch. This year she feared asking for a pencil. She feared asking to go to the bathroom. She had an accident. We (her teachers and parents) were concerned.
But then …
At preschool graduation my daughter stood in front of her entire class and ALL their parents and sang. She sang beautifully. She sang loudly.
“Are you nervous,” I asked.
“No mom,” she rolled her eyes as if I was crazy.
My four-year-old sang. “Peace like a river, I know peace like a river, I know peace like a river in my soul.” The words poured from her mouth and tears spilled from my eyes. She is meant to sing.
Since she was two-years-old she sang in tune.
She is a performer.
The night before preschool graduation, she danced in a recital in front of literally hundreds of people. I was nervous. “Are you nervous?” I asked, dropping her off with over a hundred dancers from classes across the city hours before the show.
“No Mom.” Again, huge eye roll, (I’ve been getting a lot of those lately).
She performed beautifully. Grace personified. She moved across the stage. I underestimated her ability.
“She is a ballerina,” my ex-ballerina sister gushed over the phone after watching the video. “I tease you guys about your dancing, but Justine, she is good.” I let the words sink in.
Acting camp. She knew no one. At the end of the week performance her words rang loud and clear.
My daughter is a star.
Her Elsa rendition – out of this world.
The Hans and Anna duet with her dad – show stopping.
Annie songs – impeccable.
Daring, this summer my daughter jumped on a horse bareback, grabbed its mane, and eagerly kicked it to trot.
A photographic memory, she beats me at memory cards. (I am sleep deprived but her mind is mystifying).
She draws hyenas, foxes, elephants, and portraits of her family in amazing detail.
She is still passionate about hyenas. Foxes are a close second.
This year we read books by Roald Dahl, E.B. White, and Judy Blume. Fudge is our favorite.
She is not scared of spiders or snakes.
She is gorgeous with big brown eyes, curly hair, eyelashes that will never need mascara, dark skin, and long legs. Her looks are a beautiful mixture of her Dad and me.
She is strong. She repeatedly swings herself across the monkey bars.
She will be the youngest in her class. As her mother, I worry whether we made the right decision or whether we should have kept her in preschool for one more year.
But then …
“It’s my turn,” she snapped loudly, pushing herself in front of a group of girls at a birthday party. Her newly found confidence is music to my ears.
We go to the park and she gets on the swing. All of a sudden, her legs stretch out and her body leans slightly back. Her knees bend and she leans forward the slightest bit. The swing gets higher and higher. My daughter soars. Her legs stretch into the trees. A sign.
“Look at me,” she shouts. She’s got it. The monkey bars, the swings, the rock wall, my five-year-old dominates the playground. Back and forth she goes, higher and higher, my baby bird soars free. She is brilliant. She is beauty. She is strength.
Five years ago, she pulled the heart from my chest and this girl holds it there.
“What do you want for your birthday?” I ask.
“Stuffed hyenas, balls to play all different sports, and a bike without training wheels.”
The best answer ever. After this birthday, she will own every hyena ever manufactured.
Wow, she is the coolest.
Please work hard to discover that my daughter is so much more than her assessment. You will love what you see. Please help her make a friend.
A mother who loves her daughter fiercely and completely.
I know this may be a little helicoptery, but the toilet flush in the girls bathroom at school is really confusing. I hope you explain it to the kids. (It’s one of those big 1970s circular flushes you kick with your feet). I am kicking myself that I didn’t take her into the bathroom and show her how it works. I know I am already borderline being labeled “Crazy Mom”, so I am refraining from emailing you about this before the first day of school.
(Instead I am posting a pretend email on my blog – CRAZY).