we're getting ready for school around here. this means i sit on amazon more than normal and order big boxes full of reams of copier paper and colored pencils. yes, school supplies are fresh, organized and color coordinated, but also extremely dull. i feel a thrill of excitement when i see them all lined up, promising all kinds of efficiency. a new leaf will turned this year, i vow. this year will be the year. i mean it this time. but i also feel a very familiar feeling of exhaustion. this? again? weren't we just here? and wasn't i exhausted because of it?
last year seth turned five only two days before his first year of school started. he was the youngest in his class. scholastically, he did well. he loves school. he loves fresh paper and rules and learning. school suits a big part of his personality. but he also didn't do really well. he was self conscious. he was overwhelmed by the classroom experience. at recess, when the time was free he tried to stay in the classroom, oftentimes connecting with a yard duty and spending the time with her. when everyone was doing jumping jacks in PE, or learning a dance for a program, seth felt self conscious and refused to participate. if he felt he had disappointed his teacher, he hid under a table and cried.
"he's a little too young," his teachers said, "we think he should probably repeat kindergarten again."
i knew this was an option going in, and i was open to it, but when those words were said to me, i have to admit that my first reaction was a critical one...in the direction of the teacher, not the child.
no, i thought. he'll mature.a lot can happen in six months. they don't know seth the way i do. they don't know what he's like at home. he's doing just fine with the schoolwork! is there a hidden agenda here?
there wasn't. and those teachers were right. everyday i dropped seth off with his teachers for five hours. and for five hours they taught him. he came home with songs about numbers, activities revolving around letters, timelines, art projects and homework. he learned things. he loved it. and he missed a lot of it. he worked slowly, he was easily distracted. he wasn't confident.
when i sat down with his teachers again in april, i resisted what they were saying. i wanted to tell myself everything was going to be okay, that it would all even out. that these teachers didn't know who they were talking about--i did. i was his mother. i knew him better than anyone else. he was smart, he was funny, he was capable.
there was a moment when i had to stop myself and ask, am i worried about seth? or am i worried about me?
and then the truth hit me full force, right in my gut: it was me. when they said seth wasn't quite ready for school, i heard them telling me that i should have known that. that a good mother would have held on to him for another year. that a good mother wouldn't have forced him into a situation he wasn't ready for. and instead of admitting to anything i wanted to tell them they were wrong.
i left that day feeling awful. i went home and hugged seth long and hard (he didn't like it and wiggled out of my arms). i felt like i had failed him. i hadn't sent him where he was prepared to go and wasn't that my job? wasn't i supposed to provide this child with the tools to make a successful human being and my first test of functionality- the kindergarten classroom, had failed. i wanted to beg for forgiveness, i wanted desperately to receive it.
really, there was nothing to do but this: say a prayer and realize that this whole parenting thing is not a one-man band. you know that saying "it takes a village"? well, seth needed a village. and seth's village was trying to weigh in and help me out and i was refusing to listen to them because i didn't want to feel like i had done anything wrong. but guess what? IT WASN'T ABOUT ME. no one was sitting around criticizing my parenting because NO ONE WAS THINKING ABOUT ME. they were thinking about seth. what was he like? what were his strengths? what were his weaknesses? what did he need?
i am seth's mother. it is my job to raise him. that means i need to feed him, and i need to clothe him. i should provide some shelter and i should teach him how to be kind, how to do the right thing. but what seth ends up doing, what seth is capable of doing, is out of my control. if seth is too young for school then he is too young for school. if seth needs to be six years old for kindergarten it's not because i didn't hold him enough as a baby or make him eat enough broccoli as a toddler. it's because seth is seth. and he will benefit from a year's worth of maturity before conquering kindergarten. and those teachers? they weren't hiding an agenda or writing seth off as a child or me off as a parent. they were trying to help seth. and if i didn't chill out seth was going to miss out on someone else in his village giving him a hand.
being a mother is really hard. mostly because it messes with your head. most of the time i feel like it messes with my head while also depriving me of sleep. i cry, and most of the time the tears i'm shedding are related to my motherhood. sometimes i laugh because my only two options are to laugh or cry and i scare the children when i cry. so i laugh. and it ends up being frightening anyway and that is SO motherhood: to do something thinking it'll be better and only to find out it's a total mess anyway and you just have to live with it.
so this year, three days after turning six, seth will give this whole kindergarten thing a whirl, one more time. and i will try to remember that my children are humans, separate from myself. i can not base my success on their success. not everything is capable of the same thing.
and also, it's going to be okay. i have a village.