inner beauty

Oh, beauty.

I have written about the topic on these pages before. Beauty is more complicated than I would like for it to be, but it is something that we all have to handle. Parents in particular. I try (and try and try) to ensure The Kidling understands that beauty is, in fact, superfluous. That other things–that all other things–are more important. We praise her for important characteristics: kindness, hard work, ingenuity, generosity, strength, courage. I am so adamant about praising her for commendable behaviors and attributes that it occurred to me last week that I could not recall the last time I had shared glowing words about her appearance.

Well, other than growling, “I love your face!” at her. But we all know that “I love your face” is really a commentary on the fact of her face. I love that she has a face. I love that she is. Always.

Well, almost always.

Knowing that I have likely been remiss in completely excluding flattering words about her physical appearance, I complimented her. But I did it carefully.

“Kidling, I know this isn’t what’s important, but you are a beautiful girl,” I told her. She glowed, and I knew that she knew that beauty is more important to the outside world than I let on. I am going to pretend for a moment that this isn’t a result of my not-infrequent primping.

Or the fact that The Kidling said to me last week (in response to my delay getting ready one morning), “Yeah, Mom. It’s not like your hair has to be perfectly fancy.”

As such, when she began to carry on about what makes a person good tonight on the way home, I was delighted to hear her say, “It’s who you are that counts!”

“That’s right,” I gloated agreed. “You mean on the inside?”

“No,” she replied, “on the outside.”

Back to the drawing board.

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.

questions I am not even remotely a little bit sort of close to being kind of ready to answer

“How do I make sure I don’t have a baby?”