on school and learning

Read this. I know it is long, but go ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got coffee. I can wait.

. . .

. . .

Are you crying? Well, I am.

I see The Kidling in this frustrated, insecure face, and it breaks my heart. Even something far less dramatic than the testing described here–the everyday work of kindergarten–has affected my dear girl. She has a phenomenal teacher, but she feels so much pressure from somewhere. Her peers? Herself? I don’t know, but I do know that she meant it when she asked if she could retire from kindergarten a few weeks ago. Being six is, it seems, just too hard these days.

Perhaps this is revisionist history, but I don’t recall feeling this way as a child. And no, it is not because I am so damn old. You see, I do recall walking to afternoon kindergarten with my childhood best friend. I recall social angst and trying to figure out how to navigate friendships. I recall being asked to stop talking by my ever-so-patient teacher. I recall forgetting that I didn’t have to raise my hand to use the restroom and waiting, wiggly and anxious, to be called on rather than just tiptoeing away.

But I do not recall requesting early retirement.

Perhaps the pressure is due, in part, to the fact that it never seems to end. The fact that she is in school all day. The fact that we have to wake her every morning and she doesn’t get quite enough sleep. The fact that, as a dual-income family, we get home, eat dinner, bathe, read a story, and head straight to bed (see above re: sleep). She has a great after school  program that allows her to play and discover organically, but this has been a rough winter, and an outdoorsy kidling needs to get her skinny little bum outside to be happy.

So where does this leave parents?

I want The Kidling to succeed, but what does that even mean? It’s not like she isn’t going to learn to read eventually. Why is it such a big deal that it happen at a particular time or in a particular way? I do know that, when presented with constructive learning activities, she relishes the discovery process. Her face lights up with joy when she comes to a conclusion independently. She listens intently as we talk about engineers and dinosaurs. She labors with quiet joy on elaborate drawings that detail a fantasy world beyond any adult’s imagination.

But my book lover shies away from stories when I ask her to read with me. And it breaks my heart just a little.

I don’t have an answer, dear readers. I won’t even pretend to. But let’s think about this, okay? There has to be a better way.

woe

“I feel like it’s too hard, me being in kindergarten. I want to be four.  …  I just get bossed around. We have to work all the time. We don’t get to play except at recess and centers.  …  I just really want to retire.”

-The Kidling
December 4, 2013

election day

Happy Election Day!

Here in Our Town, we decided a City Council race and one attempt to repeal a city ordinance. The Parents are quite fortunate: we drop The Kidling off at the before school program which happens to be held in our polling place. One stop shopping here, ladies and gentlemen.

Though I jest, this is oddly important to me. You see, I have always voted on election day with the rare exception when I am actually traveling on the day. Absentee ballots just don’t stir the same emotions in The Mama as does the march toward my cramped voting booth to exercise the franchise.

Excuse me while I wipe away the tears.

In addition to my melodramatic emotions, I vote on election day at my polling place for another reason. That’s right, The Kidling accompanies me to vote. We talk with her about voting, representative democracy, and the issues that are important to us while she interjects the occasional “Why” and “But I thought—”. I want her to understand that voting is her civic responsibility and it is not to be taken lightly.

So, this morning, she wiggled her little kidling self up next to me as I filled in my bubbles. I explained to her which candidates I was voting for when she gasped in dismay, “Why aren’t you voting for Barack Obama!?!”

Obama for Council. Quite the demotion from last year when she deemed you Boss of the World, eh Mr. President?

cue barbra streisand

Memories…

Most of you, Dear Readers, do not know this factoid about The Kidling. She is a prolific artist. Yes, all five year-old children draw. Yes, they are all irrationally attached to their work products. But… The Kidling is different.

I know. Shut up.

After a scarring event involving one of her masterpieces and the recycling bin, she has become uncompromising. We keep every. single. thing. she brings home.

Did you catch that? Every. Single. Thing.

The caveat is that The Kidling is responsible for finding a location in her bedroom to store the piles and piles of paper. My hope is that she will eventually lose the ability to navigate the room, get fed up, and beg me to ditch a few gems.

I’m not holding my breath.

Misty water-colored memories…

This evening, The Kidling found a recent work from her sizeable oeuvre that I missed when emptying her backpack after school. This particular work–Opus 9,215–consisted of a sheath of five sheets of 8.5 by 11 inch printer paper . The stack was folded in half width-wise to make a small book and each page contained a series of squiggly lines.

You guessed it: her memories.

The Kidling gasped when she saw me with the journal in my hands, “My old memories!” Then, wistfully, “Old memories are important.”

Her eyes glazed over in contemplation. “Old memories are important,” she repeated. “It makes me think of when we were young and things were harder. When we were young and (pauses) We didn’t get to play on the playground.”

Confused, I asked for clarification. “Who didn’t get to play?”

“At pre-school,” she replied.

And then I remembered: the first week of pre-school. Bliss. Fun and learning and good old-fashioned gross motor skill development. Then one fateful day someone marched into the classroom and told the teacher that the playground equipment was only safety rated for kidlings aged five or older.

So it ended. After that, recess involved balls and an open field while the gleaming play structures taunted them from thirty yards away.

What’s too painful to remember…

If only The Kidling had come with a “forget” button. Alas, she will carry this indignity to her grave. Or to junior high.

 
 
 

on the road… again

Another week, another work trip.

Fine, I’m being dramatic. I really don’t travel often at all, but I happen to have been away for quite a few days this month. That, however, doesn’t make for a pithy opening line.

When I am away, The Kidling misses me. Well, she usually misses me. Sometimes she has fun activities to keep her occupied. Then she only misses me a wee bit. And sometimes she has Nana to hang out with. Then she doesn’t miss me at all. You can be damn sure I miss her (and The Dada, but this blog isn’t called Dadaville and he doesn’t ask cute questions and say silly things when I’m away).

This week while I was in DC, I chatted with The Kidling on the phone. She told me about her day and about the exciting evening she had at school. In her pajamas.

Confidential to my readers who are responsible for a small child: are daycare, preschool, and school way the hell more fun than when we were kids? Because The Kidling does new and exciting things all the time. Water parks, apple orchards, picnics, library trips… I do not remember my life being quite so charmed when I was a kidling.

The Kidling and her classmates went home, changed into their pajamas, and returned to school for spooky story hour in the media center.

There’s another one of those fun kid things. “Media Center.” What the hell is a Media Center? When I was a kidling, it was called a library. Also? I am old and crotchety.

She was super excited to tell me about it, and gave me what I am certain is an accurate count of the attendance (800. Or 1000!). What chatted for a while longer before The Kidling said mournfully into the phone, “I wish you could come through there.” 

Cue Mama guilt.

This, of course, reminded me of other funny little things The Kidling has said or asked about in the course of my travels. On one recent trip to New York, The Kidling was interested in the details of my accommodations: something about which I had given little thought.  Apparently she wanted to ensure the rooms were suitable for The Mama, because she grilled me:

“Do you have a kitchen?” she began.

“No.” I replied. Then, a logical follow-up. “Oh, then you have to go to restaurants?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have a potty room?” she asked. I replied with a giggle, “Yes.”

Then, another one (seriously, no one has ever cared so much about my hotel room), “Do you have a stove?”

“No.”

Eventually, she got to the important question: the one that had been bothering her for entire seconds “Can you roast marshmallows?”

“Nope.” I told her.

Clearly disappointed, she abandoned her questioning and allowed me to ask about her day. I honestly don’t remember much more of our conversation, but I do know one thing:

The next time I book a room, I’m going to make damn sure I can roast a marshmallow in it.

psssssssst

Hey.

You.

Yeah, you. It’s me, The Mama. Yeah, I know I look different in this get up. I didn’t think the horizontal stripes were flattering any more.

And yeah, I’ve got a new name. This isn’t a “the artist formerly known as” sort of thing. It felt right. Pretty sure it is right. I would definitely entertain an intervention, but mostly I just want you to stick around.

The Kidling is here.

The Mama is here.

Welcome to Kidlingville.

frenemy #1

We had a play date with the neighbors at the pool a few weeks ago. As we were getting ready to leave, The Kidling spotted a girl she knew from her summer program. Her face lit up in recognition and delight at seeing an unexpected playmate at the pool. She enthusiastically shouted the girl’s name and ran over to the fence to chat with her: “Ellllllla! Ellllllllllllllllllllla! Hi, Ella! Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Hi, Ella!”

Ella* is, of course, the very same girl who is the topic of this conversation I had with The Kidling mid-summer:

*********

The Kidling was telling me about her friends at camp, and as a nosy good mother, I want to know more about her life than she offers. I ask about her activities, her teachers, her friends… in particular, about one friend with whom she had not been getting along. I’m not dumb enough to think she needs to be everyone’s bestie, but because she is an only child, I feel a need to ensure she is handling her strong emotions with her peers appropriately. So I asked how she was handling this particular monster child. How does she handle the situations? What does she do? So she told me.

“I approximately don’t do just anything. We’re kind of mean to each other. We don’t get along too well. I don’t know how to explain it.”

I decided to change the subject, and asked The Kidling who her favorite friend in her summer program was. She told me instead that, “Ella is my last favorite because we argue.”

*********

Remember how excited she was to see her “last favorite” friend at the beginning of this story? That’s right. The Kidling has her first frenemy.

Lord help me.

_________

* Not her real name. But you probably knew that.

The Name

I clearly hover on the edge of obnoxious when it comes to telling stories about my kid. And okay, I occasionally cross over into the ultra-obnoxious. I admit it. Who am I kidding, I embrace it. In fact, I tell anyone who will listen that I worship at the Church of Alice.

Thus, the book of alice. It feels wise and a bit holy, no?