Great (& UnGreat) Expectations
I noticed recently on Facebook that many of my friends and friends of friends are registering their children for Kindergarten. And, sigh, the memories came flooding back. I walked this same path a couple of years ago… unbelievably, my daughter will enter, gulp, second grade next year. (I’m not really sure how that exactly happened. I’m pretty sure I just had her like a year ago.)
I remember proudly leaving work early because I had to register the little dear for Kindergarten. She was dressed appropriately — smocked dress and a bow, it IS the South after all. She was so excited to finally be entering the hallowed doors of the “big school”. I envisioned her sitting politely and answering all of her evaluators’ questions and pointing to her shapes and letters as directed with such precision they’d quickly recognize her exceptional talent and knowledge — and therefore recognize my exceptional parenting skills. I’m not sure how or why my brain thinks in this way, because rarely do these events happen as I plan, and this day didn’t either.
First of all, we arrived just as her best friend did. The two of them excitedly ran around the room from station to station loudly chattering about their excitement and the awesome toys there were in the room. All of this going on while I fill out paperwork and politely converse with the other mothers and say things like, “she’s not usually so rambunctious, she’s just excited.” I try to give her my best “mom” look, but evidently we miscommunicated because the excitement continued.
Thankfully, she and I are finally called to the table where we meet one of three Kindergarten teachers. As she explains to me the school supplies required for Kindergartners, little dear is supposed to be writing her name. But instead, she’s reaching into the little basket in the center of the table trying to find just the right pencil to write with and interrupting continuously to show me how “cool” each one is. Obviously, things aren’t going as planned, but this part is over quickly. I reassure myself with the fact that the teacher we just spoke to wasn’t one of the evaluators, so we still have time to redeem our first impression.
Little dear and her friend go to meet with the evaluators at two tables located in the back of the room. I continue working on my papers, because evidently it takes an act of Congress to get your child registered for Kindergarten. Suddenly I hear little dear loudly informing the evaluator in the back that her friend is actually her boyfriend and they’re going to get married. They will have a dog, not a cat, because no one wants cats on their countertops, she says. She hops down to give him a big hug. I start sweating… surely by now they’re marking her folder with notes like “boy crazy”, “interrupts”, “can’t sit still”. That’s it, we’re going to get a label before we even start! I can feel the silent judgments. And, none of my irrational fears are calmed by my friend who is a Pre-K teacher, who tells me that they do in fact make those notes in their folders, or at least mentally! Needless to say, this day was not at all what I had expected or hoped for.
Just a few short months after this crazy scene at registration, the morning had come for us to actually begin Kindergarten. I get the little dear all dressed for Kindergarten in her pink collared dress, put her hair up in bows and put her book bag on her back, lunch box in her hand. Wow. She’s all grown up, and it all of a sudden hits me that I’m not dropping her off at pre-school this time. This is for real. We walk into class hand-in-hand. Her sweet teacher shows us where all of her school items go, along with where to hang up her book bag and lunch box. We search the room for her name tag, and she sits down at her table. I take pictures, we hug… I start to cry. My baby isn’t a baby any more. I go to hug her again, and she looks me in the eyes and smiles, and I wait for the most precious things to come out of her mouth. Instead I get this: “Are you CRYING?!” she asks me completely embarrassed. I said, “Yes, baby. Mommy is crying because you’re growing up.” She starts to color and says, “Mom, you don’t even have to cry because I know I’m going to have fun here.”
I laugh as I walk out of the classroom because THIS should be my expectation… my loud, unfiltered, unpredictable, precious little girl. As mom’s we do this all the time don’t we? Set these grand expectations that set us up for disappointment and even feelings of utter failure. Despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to stop doing it. But maybe that’s because as a mom, I know the secret: that for all of the those times that don’t meet my expectations, there will also be those times that exceed them.
By: Cara Singleton