We recently received the “call.” My daughter’s new kindergarten teacher called to introduce herself and schedule a time to meet our family. The teacher could not have been lovelier. She could not be more nurturing, caring, or calming. With every raised concern, she assured me that I was already doing everything as a parent to prepare my daughter for her entrance into elementary school.
When we hung up the phone, however, my husband easily transitioned to checking emails, while I sat for over an hour questioning. Not questioning the teacher. Questioning myself and my daughter’s readiness for such an emotionally charged experience.
Will she be able to easily adapt to a new classroom? She knows just a few kids in the class. Will she make friends, socialize well, be left out at recess? Will her introverted nature outshine her natural intelligence? Will any teacher really get to know my baby for the creative, sassy, beautiful little girl that I have come to watch grow over time? And most of all, is she as nervous as I am?
It turns out…she isn’t. Or at least she isn’t apprehensive in the same way. Not at all. The conversation we had went as most do when I am hoping for a big, substantive talk. I asked, open-ended, about her feelings starting kindergarten. And she responded with mostly silence and a mumbled, “OK.”
Like a car on an empty 405 freeway or clear supermarket aisle, I revved my engines and raced through:
“Honey, are you worried about not knowing so many kids? You will see a lot of your friends at recess and lunch. Or are you worried about getting to know a new teacher? How do you feel? Do you want to talk? Are you scared?”
She looked at me with careful thought and deliberation. I could see her internalizing my questions, processing and really thinking.
And that is when I knew that I had made a terrible mistake.
Perhaps she wasn’t thinking about new friendships versus old. She truly makes friends wherever she goes.
Perhaps she wasn’t thinking about forging a new relationship with a teacher. Why should she worry? Every teacher she’s ever had has been wonderful, open, giving and loving.
Perhaps she really wasn’t that nervous about starting kindergarten at all. And perhaps I just told her as her mother and role model that there were huge things to worry about.
My daughter finally responded, “You know, everyone eats lunch together on the kindergarten yard. They all sit at the benches right outside the classroom.”
Touché, little girl. My wise child gently put me in my place. And my compassionate daughter, unintentionally said, guised within her response: “Mom, I’ve got this. Do you?”
I don’t know if I have this. But I need to try. I need to handle the fact that my anxieties are not and should not be my daughter’s. My job in this world is to serve as her rock. Be it nightmares when she is five or teenage turmoil at age thirteen, I must be ready to receive her.
She shouldn’t have to prepare herself to receive me. There is an interesting teaching in the Jewish faith that says, “Ewe follows ewe. What the mother does, the daughter does.”
Until now, that line never bothered me. In fact, the moment my daughter was born, I thought, “Here she is. My mini-me. I can’t wait to show her everything I know.”
But the teaching is profound. My daughter will follow me. She already does. She follows the good, bad, worry, mistakes, frustrations, wonderment and sometimes wisdom I put out into this world. She, along with my other two children, is always watching. I will fall and crumble and have my own meltdowns. She should know, that sometimes, she will too.
But, my daughter does not have to follow my footsteps by internalizing my worries as her own. It just isn’t fair. As the years go by, she’ll have enough of her own.
Let her biggest concern be which backpack we get, and getting to school on time.