Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our own State of The Way Things Are Today, sort of...

This is officially my 100th post.  Wow, for some reason that seems like a milestone that I should recognize.  :)  Looking back at this time last year, things are so different in so many ways.  All the changes are for the better, especially my own well being.  One of the biggest changes for us was Ethel starting Kindergarten.  We've enjoyed watching her throughout the school year as we all learn new things and adjust to a life tied to a public school calendar.

Ethel's report card came last Friday. I finally got to looking at it Sunday, oops. The "grading" system is basically 1-3, 3 being the highest. She got about 85% 3's, and the rest 2's. Her strengths are in execution, her not so strong area, like her Mommy growing up, is in confidence and voluntary participation. She's eager to learn, loves to read, is good with math (unlike her Mommy), and knows her stuff but isn't the one jumping out in class to do, say, or answer. That's fine, she's just shy in that environment, so it's not like she's lacking or behind or anything. Her teacher left a glowing note at the end of it, and even mentioned that it's evident that Ethel gets lots of support at home. The principal added a hand written note at the end, as well, giving her another pat on the back for a job well done, and encouraging her to keep up the good work. {insert warm fuzzy feeling here}

This made me feel really good. Good for Ethel and good for me, knowing that something we're doing at home is working for her. She's not an "at risk" kid, she's not lacking any capacities, she's a total sponge. The prescribed program at school is not something that is over her head or way beneath her skill set. She's on the right track, and I couldn't be more proud.

Then she surprised me the other night when she asked me if she could read more. She has caught wind of the number of minutes on the reading logs of her classmates, and wants to get more minutes on hers. That night, after months of "I'm too tired", "I can't read that much", and "It's too many words", she read to me like she'd never read before. Henny Penny has never sounded as cute as it did that night when she read it to me. She read for over 30 minutes, determined to read every word, really wanting to read as much as she could. It was so cool to watch. She wanted to read more, but I knew that she was spent after all that she'd just done, and the frustration and fatigue would catch up with her after just a few words of any other book. So she agreed to lights out, and went to bed, satisfied that she'd done a great job.  Last night, she powered through the first half of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Wow. The influence of others.

I am still adjusting, as I did six years ago when I first left her in the care of others when I returned to work, to the fact that this little creature has a life outside the comfort of our home. She experiences things that are way beyond anything we've done or talked about at home. She is exposed to people, things, and concepts that are helping her grow and flourish, and I have little to do with her day.
I've always rather put it out of my mind that my children are doing things, seeing people, and learning when I'm not with them during the day. These tiny people have lives and relationships outside that of their small family unit. It's crazy to think that my kids had friends, people knew them, and others cared about them even before they could sit up on their own. I have only once or twice ever called their care givers to check on them during the day, even on their first days without me. I simply don't think about it. I focus on what's before me, and I guess that's kind of strange. How could a mom not cry when she goes back to work, when she sends her kids off to day care or a sitter, or even go on without worrying all the time about what her children are eating, if they're sleeping, if they're sharing and using their manners.....?

Ethel and Fred are mine. It's scary to think that they are becoming moreso of others, if that makes sense. They are part of the world, not just the inside of my house. I distinctly remember the first time I went to the basement with Ethel in my arms and it dawned on me, she'd never been in the basement. She'd been all over the house just about, but not the basement. It was like a revelation, as odd as that sounds. That's the kind of feeling I get when I think about her at school.
I haven't yet tried to picture her (until right now) out on the playground at recess, in the cafeteria at lunch, or walking in the hall at school. I can't bring myself to think about those things, or wonder what it's like for her. My obsessive tendencies will just take over.

Another reason this report card was so enlightening to me is the lack of feedback from Ethel about her day, her class, etc. I get snippets occaisionally, and they come at odd times. Like at bed time she'll talk about how a kid stepped on a book, or two kids got yellow the other day, or something that happened that stuck out in her mind. I know it's natural for kids to not want to talk all about their day when they get home, so I don't push it, but, without the daily report like you get from day care, there are huge chunks of time when I don't know what she's up to. It's interesting to see the overall impact of all that time that we're not together.

All this because I was witness to someone else's assessment of my child's life in school. An outsider's view of how my daughter interacts, how she measures up to predetermined standards of public education, and how pleasant a child she is to be around. All the fights at home, the whining and yelling and crying takes new shape when she and I hug and kiss goodbye. It's almost as if that hug and kiss wipe away all the bad habits, the defiance, the questioning Mommy's Word. Somehow, the rough road paved at home makes for smooth terrain for her when she journeys outside. She somehow exemplifies everything we work so hard to reveal at home, which we only see smatterings of in a given day. The comfort of home is a training ground, sometimes a battle ground, and everything outside that home is the proving ground. Enlightening is the moment when you see the words on the page describing a child who is polite, kind, vibrant, helpful, and caring, and one who reserves her inner excitement and vigor. Exciting is the moment when it dawns on you - - that child is mine. Shocking is the moment when you realize - OMG, I HAVE A KINDERGARTENER!! But I digress.....
The filter we wish for our children to have and use seems to appear in the presence of others, and sometimes I often wonder if we should ask a professional to confirm that we're not dealing with a case of dual personality. I realize that's not the case, because I realize that all our hard work, at home and at work and at school, is worth it. It's worth it when I see her smile, when I hear her voice, when she reads to me, and when she shows me a picture she drew at school and I know exactly what it is. It's worth it because people can tell me she is polite, she is funny, she is bright. There is an excitement about her that resonates whenever she's in the room. OK, sometimes that excitement manifests in tears, kicks, and screams, but there's no doubt that she gives it her all whether happy or sad or mad.

It was just one kindergarten report card. A simple report on how she's doing at the halfway point in the school year. It was just a piece of paper with someone else's benchmarking and someone else's judgement. Still, it really made me realize that this kid is amazing. And I'm a mom. Of a six year old. Holy crap.