My daughter woke me at 3:45 a.m. to tell me she wasn't feeling well. In her dramatic (but not sick) voice, she told me that her head and her tummy hurt. A bathroom trip, a drink of water, and a promise to stay with her for a while got her right back to bed. To her, I diagnosed an impending cold. In my head, I diagnosed New School Jitters.
I dozed on her floor for an hour and a half, listening to her toss and turn. She never spoke to me or got out of bed, but she was fitful. My child who usually awakens bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6 a.m. slept until 8:30. The poor kid was wiped.
She claimed to be feeling much better in the morning, and in the light of day I suggested that maybe she was a little excited and nervous to attend orientation at her new school today. She looked at me with awe--as if I could read her mind--and said, "I am a little nervous."
You wouldn't know it. She excitedly put on her dress of choice and styled her hair. When we walked into the first grade classroom, she looked her new teacher in the eye and spoke about her summer. She walked away from me, connected with the couple kids she knew, and sat down to draw a picture. When I left to attend a parent meeting, my kid didn't bat an eye.
She's a brave kid. And confident. And kind.
My daughter's first grade teacher wanted to meet the parents before school started, so I met with her immediately following orientation. I learned that, when the parents left, the kids gathered for circle time and discussed how they were feeling about first grade. My daughter raised her hand and volunteered that she was nervous. Only a brave person would do that. Only a confident and secure child would be able to voice her weakness to a class of unknown kids.
At bedtime tonight, my daughter told me that there was one boy who was so shy that he didn't even join the circle. My kid doesn't have a shy bone in her body, but she delivered this news without judgment. She said, "Even though two of us said we were nervous, he still stayed in the corner with the LEGOs. He's new too."
I told her to be sure to smile at him tomorrow. I asked her if she'd make an effort to make him feel included, and she gave me a "well, obviously" sort of look. I explained to my daughter that the new boy probably was "even newer" than she is; this is her brother's fourth year at the school, so she already feels comfortable there and knows a few siblings. She seemed to appreciate that, while she was nervous, that would be downright scary. I believe she'll make an effort to talk to him tomorrow, and I think any remaining nervousness will go away when she does.
Five years ago, when I dropped my daughter off at school for the first time, she was twenty-two months old. She hugged me, said "Bye, Mommy," and walked into school. That self-assured toddler is now a brave little girl. She's old enough to appreciate that new situations can be scary, but she walked into that first grade classroom today with the same confidence she had as a toddler. She amazes me.
I'm excited to see what she can do next.
Thank you for the discipline suggestions in response to my last post. I plan to try some of them and will let you know if I find any success. At the Facebook page suggestion of a couple readers, I'm also reading The Whole Brain Child and am finding it illuminating. After yet another mother-daughter battle this weekend, it (finally) occurred to me that some of my daughter's recent irrational behavior was a result of New School Jitters. She is so confident that it never occurred to me. I've been taking a kinder, gentler approach ever since, and things are trending well.