Monday, January 31, 2011

Things I now know to be true

E can:
  • walk heel-to-toe on a line like in a sobriety test
  • hop 10 times on one foot
  • throw a ball high in the air twice and catch it
She can:
  • name three words that rhyme with "bat"
  • count in consecutive and sequential numbers
  • write her name
  • color a person with all her major body parts (including a belly button)
She can also:
  • look at four illustrations and order them into a story, and narrate it in detail
  • name all the members of her family (including Purple Rainbow Fireworks Sally)
  • watch a teacher build a stepped pyramid with blocks and replicate it
  • put a toy car into a box and turn the box over with her right hand
  • listen to a book as it is read and explain how the hippopotamus got under the bed
She cannot:
  • do what all the other kids did and walk away from her mommy for her kindergarten screening.
There were about 30 families in the library for our time slot. Each child was given a name tag with a different  color on it and when the kids all sat down together, they were divided into groups by their colors. Then color by color, the groups were led away with a teacher for their screenings. We talked last night about being brave; about how we know what to do with teachers, how we follow their instructions and they take care of us when parents aren't there; about how she'd be in the same kindergarten classrooms we visited before.

We talked about how I would wait for her, and how she'd return to me.

I think if E's color had been called first we might have made it through the moment of separation successfully. As luck had it, her color was the very last one called. She watched four rounds of children leave, some with no qualms, many with hesitation and backwards glances towards their parents and a few small squeaks and tears. The buildup was too much. As E's color was called she exploded with tears and panic and moaned for me and boa-constrictored around my leg.

The teachers and administrators didn't hesitate, and invited me to stay with E. I'm grateful for that. And so I became the only parent to witness the whole kindergarten screening. This is how I know that as far as the screening proper is concerned, my almost-kindergartener kicked some serious butt.

But she was too scared to go alone, and no other child in that room found the separation to be insurmountable, like she did. This is the part that's so hard.

These artificial time lines -- like being potty trained by age three, like being able to walk away at age five -- in a developmental sense, they're really just constructs, right? The girl in E's group who walked away from her mom with a skip and a wave couldn't count to ten (and I was there to see that). E can count past 100. Does it matter?

When I quiet myself and listen to my instincts and tell myself to trust them, I believe there is nothing wrong with E. She'll get through this at her own pace. But it is hard and getting harder to give her the freedom without pressure to work through it. I wish she could be carefree. I wish the scrutiny and careful eyes of other parents didn't bother me, or compound her nervousness (but they do, and they do).

I wish this wasn't so hard for her, and if we're soul-searching, I wish this wasn't so hard for me (but it is, and it is).

Is it wrong to take consolation in the probability that that other girl's mom probably feels frantic that her kid still can't count to 10?

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