We met with the big five year old's kindergarten teacher this week for our first parent teacher conference. We dropped the tiny toddler off at day care so we would have as few distractions as possible. We loaded the big five year old up with healthy on the go breakfast choices since we had to leave the house an hour earlier than we usually do. We tried every door to the school before we found one that was unlocked at the horribly early hour of 7am. After finally finding an open door, on the other side of the school, we made a mad dash through dark hallways and a empty gymnasium only to arrive at the conference 3 minutes late. (score!) His teacher showed up 5 minutes later...
We sat on tiny blue chairs with our knees tucked up to our chins. Out of the corner of my eye I could see my big five year old wandering around his classroom, trying on a hat, touching a book, looking out the window. While we talked to his teacher he found a seat and ate his breakfast before hopping back up and joining us at the "adult" table.
We learned that our big five year is very smart. We learned that his reading and comprehension are high for a child his age. We saw school work that was A+ quality and some that was definitely a fail. We nodded our heads and agreed that he was a smart kid who needed to work on his behavior and impulse control. His teacher called him a "blessing" and said that he "marches to his own drummer".
I walked out of the large, colorful classroom proud. We have things to celebrate and things to work on. We were not surprised by what we heard.
What has surprised me these first 6 weeks of school has been my emotions. Our days are ruled by the color my big five year old achieves on his daily behavior chart, yes. If he brings home a yellow, orange, or, (gasp!) red day our evenings are filled with reminders, (which sometimes turn into lectures), no TV or screen time, and early bed times. It is not easy on anyone. How one small child can bring home news that can totally change the family dynamics, every single day, was a surprise to me.
The daily school bus ride from school to his after school program has also been a landmine my big five year old has had to navigate, alone. So far he has had nose bleeds and lost his thermos. He had an assigned seat for a while, most likely brought on by his desire to sit with the other kids and his indecision of where to sit when they say "no". And it breaks my heart. Who are these kids to say "no" to my sweet little boy? Why won't they let him sit with them on the bus?
I tell him that they need to get to know him. That the older kids have friends already from last year. That he needs to let the other little boy from his class, who also rides the bus, pick the seat. That he needs to relax and let it happen. That making friends is not easy and takes time. I tell him all of this with a smile. But inside I am seething at these children who won't let my boy share their seat. I hold back tears and want to fold him into my arms and never let him go.
Some days my big five year old comes home full of smiles and stories about his day. Some times he comes home full of sadness because "no one wants to play with" him. Now my boy is smart and outgoing and energetic and I suspect that he might be a tad too controlling when his friends don't want to play with him. He is imaginative and likes to create elaborate stories as he plays. I tell him to ask his friends what they would like to play, to join in with them. He tells me that his friends make his "eyes water", which is what he says when he feels as though he is going to cry. And I smile and offer encouraging words. Again, I want to take these children by the hand and force them to play with my sweet boy. I want to be there, with him. I want to remind him to sit in his seat and pay attention to his teacher. I want to sit with him on the bus. I want to play pirates with him at recess. I want to stop him from working so hard to please his friends. I want him to relax and let it happen. I want to stop my heart from breaking and his eyes from watering.
This is kindergarten. There will be many successes and challenges along my son's journey. Sometimes I will be there to pick him up. Sometimes he will have to figure it out on his own. Sometimes we will cry together at the unfairness that is life. Sometimes we will celebrate together the amazing things happening in his life. I won't always have the right answers, and sometimes I might not have any answers at all. What I do know is this; it is easier and harder every day. Sure, he no longer requires diapers and total supervision. I can turn my back on him in the bath tub and let him play downstairs while I put his little brother to bed upstairs. I can let go of his hand in a parking lot and he can buckle himself into the car. He can help me make dinner and get his own snacks. But his days are no longer filled with naps and play time. And with age comes concern. Ever since his stint at Safety Town this past summer my big five year old has been more aware of the dangers this world holds. The smoke alarm going off in our home can now send him into a panic, now that he more fully understands it's implications. The TV news is unsettling to him now that he knows a little more about what's out there. The more we teach our children the more innocence slips away.
This is life. It breaks my heart to see my big five year old struggling. Letting go, letting him find his own path may just be hardest thing I have ever done. And to think that in a few years I get to send another little one out into the world, without me. I want to keep them close, protected from the things that make our eyes water. Mothers and sons. It's not any easy thing.