Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Baby’s in Kindergarten

How did this happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was changing her diapers and teaching her how to hold a spoon? I remember watching “Baby Einstein” with her in my lap, babbling at the shapes, sounds and colors. Didn’t we just bring her home from the hospital a couple of days ago? She can write her name, read most anything put in front of her and carry on a meaningful conversation about a wide variety of mature topics. What has happened? She’s impetuously inquisitive, steadfastly insistent, definitely independent and growing more defiantly stubborn by the day… and she’s also growing up.

This week, on Monday, she started Kindergarten, something she’s been looking forward to for the past few weeks, as we’ve built it up to be an exciting change in her life, a step up to the big leagues, real school where there are rules, orders, work, and social structures.

On her first day, she left the house with Kara and Matthew and I followed about a half-hour later. When we went over to the Kindergarten area, Kara had to leave to attend to her class, so that left the three of us to face the hordes of parents and unwitting children alone. Natalie immediately scampered off towards the playground as soon as we went in the gate, but I could see the hesitation in her actions. She’d skip out a few feet, then stop, look back at me to make sure I was still there, and then continue.

During orientation, she had meet another little girl, Molly, who helped her with her hat (it was crooked, and Molly straightened it), which is all it takes to garner Natalie’s allegiance. So when she saw Molly, she ran over to her to reacquaint herself. I don’t know if Molly didn’t remember, or if she was caught up in the excitement of the moment, but she soon trotted away, leaving Natalie standing in the middle of the playground by herself.

I wish I could have read her mind. She didn’t seem to care, or she didn’t understand what it means to make friends or how to do it, because she soon caught up with Molly, who was then standing with another girl. Natalie completed the triangle and the three girls stood and talked for a moment or two. The third girl pointed to Natalie’s dress and by her expression, made a compliment, but then the triangle soon broke up, each girl going their separate way.

Natalie spent much of the 15 minutes by herself, flitting from one area of the playground to the other, but she had on her face always a look of complacence, as if she was there to make friends and was trying to look as friendly as possible, as appealing to as many of the kids as she could. Then again, I don’t think she knows what that means, nor does she know how, exactly, to be a friend. Sure, she’s had friends before at other places, KinderCare, her preschool and defiantly, outside of school (I think she might marry Nathan or Grant!)… but this is the big time. Friends you make here might just last the rest of your life.

The bell rang and I had to leave her. She lined up with her class (actually, she got in the wrong line and I had to set her straight) and filed into the classroom.

Now, I’ve left her before, and before it was much more heart-wrenching than this, but this is the first big step toward the rest of her life. Last year, it was just preschool—come and go as you please—take the day off, don’t go. We paid to for her to be there… now we pay for Natalie to be in school, but it’s out taxes that are finally being put to good use. Plus, it’s the law. Kids have to be in school.

I think the big fret I’m dealing with is two-fold. One, I want her to be glad to go to school, because if she is soured on the experience this early, it will be more difficult for her to adjust to the next 18 years of her life in academia. The second one is that I want her to be socially stalwart, to be able to stand up against the trials and tribulations that swirl around a typical school yard. She’s only four, nearly five, but on the young side for her year. While most kids will be driving their sophomore year, she won’t until that following summer.

My big worry right now is that she’ll make a friend, and I’m sure she will. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Kindergarten.

I just want her to be well adjusted and happy, and based on some stories that she has shared about some of the other kids she has met, she’s doing just fine.

1 comment:

Tris Mast said...

You write that it is the law for kids to be in school, but that is not true for kindergarten. It isn't mandatory in California, although some legislators have introduced bills which could make it so. Such a law would take away the parents' right to choose what's best for their child. Now there is even talk of mandatory preschool! Egad!
(There's always one freak such as I in the crowd who can turn something sweet into something political. Of course, none of my comments has anything to do with Natalie. I'll sit down now.)


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