Friday, August 23, 2013

Getting (Mommy) Ready for School

Ellie starts school on Monday.  Three days from now my oldest baby will start the next phase of her life.  It really is a new chapter for us.  Thankfully we had her in preschool last year and that, I think, will ease the transition.  I hope.

So far I've seen nothing but excitement from Ellie.  I'm really happy about that.  When I talked to Ellie this morning and had her try on her uniform (now that I've finished sewing her shirts) I asked her a few questions. She's very excited.  When I asked if she was nervous at all she told me she wasn't in a tone that told me she sees no reason to be nervous.  That makes me happy.  There were a few hours yesterday when I was a wreck thinking about Ellie starting school.

I have no worries about the school itself.  I spent so much time and effort choosing a school that I am confident it's where Ellie should be.  And, if what I hear is right, she has the teacher I really wanted.  I visit teach her and she's kind of my hero.  We'll find out for sure about her teacher tonight.  If she has the teacher I'm hoping for then I will feel even better.

My nerves all came from thinking about the friends (or lack thereof) that Ellie may have.  She knows four other incoming kindergartners at her school.  None of them are in her class.  Two are in the all day class and two are in the other half day class.  There was one other student Ellie knew who was assigned to her class, but they decided it wasn't the best thing for their family and will be at another school.  I was pretty devastated that Ellie's little friend wouldn't be in her class but I certainly can't fault her parents for doing what's right for their family.  Knowing her parents, I would expect no less from them.  I'm happy they're making the best choice.

Once I got final word of their decision everything became real and it happened all at once.  All the fears and insecurities I've spent years either overcoming or denying came out.  The difference is that this time I'm feeling them on behalf of my sweet little girl.  I cried.  I have to let her go to experience whatever comes, good or bad.  I can't shield her from the possible emotional growing pains.  Possible emotional growing pains.  I hope my fears don't come to pass, but they might.  Or they might not.

I remember starting kindergarten.  I remember feeling nervous and a little scared.  My mom remembers me waving over my shoulder without looking at her while my two best friends clung to their mothers' legs and wailed.  After we all came into the class I led my two friends around the circle until I chose a place to sit, then they sat down on either side of me.  They had not met before, as one was my friend from across the street and the other was my friend from church.  Now that we live in Utah my kids' friends are both in the neighborhood and at church.  That's something I never had growing up so the experience is different than what I'm used to.

Once I found out Ellie won't know a single student in her class I started to worry.  I started my worries.  I am so grateful that her worries are different from my own.  Part of me always believes that when I go into any new situation I will be rejected.  Brutally.  Or that, if I am accepted, it will be out of grudging obligation and I will still always be considered an outsider.  Over the years I've learned to squash that fear and go in confidently, whether or not I actually feel it.  Fake it 'til you make it.  It works for me.

But...what if my baby girl is rejected?  I can't protect her from that.  I've seen her approach a group of little girls only to have them turn their backs to her as if she never existed.  I wanted to go over and shake each of them by the collar and tell them it's wrong to treat someone that way, especially if the someone is MY little girl.  I stood there, heartbroken, and did nothing because I knew Ellie would need to learn to deal with that kind of disappointment and because I didn't want to make a big deal out of it for Ellie's sake.  I'm glad I didn't rush over to her.  She looked perplexed for a moment, then walked over to another little cluster of girls and joined them.  Part of me was still heartbroken, but I was so proud of Ellie in that moment.  I hope she keeps that ability all her life, the one that allows her to simply shrug off the mean people and find something better.  I hope it's one that I can more fully develop.

There are so any what ifs.  A few months ago I bought a book called Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster in preparation for Ellie entering kindergarten.  Turns out I needed it more than Ellie.  The Whatif monster asks the scary "what if" questions that can make anyone nervous about doing something new.  Jonathan James then asks the great "what if" questions that can make a new experience wonderful.  So while I'm worrying about "what if everyone rejects her", the better question is "what if she finds her very best friend".  What if Ellie finds her bosom friend, the Diana Barry to her Anne Shirley.  I am hopeful.  Monday will be scary for me but I hope it will be wonderful for my baby girl.

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