We’ve all said it before…..being a parent is exhausting.
I’m not talking about physically I-haven’t-slept-a-full-night-in-years exhausting. I’m not even talking about psychologically I-have-no-idea-how-to-handle-this-parenting-situation exhausting.
I’m talking about emotionally being-a-good-parent-means-constantly-staring-at-my-own-weaknesses exhausting.
Case in point: I am learning how to be a parent of a Kindergartner. And it’s a steep learning curve. For some reason, I really thought that Peanut going to school would be a happy, easy transition.
Oh boy was I wrong.
Let me start by saying LOUD AND CLEAR…. I love Peanut’s school. I love her teacher. She is in exactly the right place.
But it hasn’t been easy watching Peanut get assessed. It’s been heart-wrenching to see her struggle academically. There have been “concerns” and “extra support” and “remediation.” I’ve been nearly crippled with worry, desperately trying to keep her self-esteem intact as she started feeling unsuccessful at school.
The breaking point was when I saw Peanut throw her pencil down in frustration, start crying, and say, “I’m not good at writing, Mama. I can’t do this by myself. Just show me how to do it right.”
Who told her she was doing it wrong?
This was the first time I’d ever heard Peanut speak about herself this way. It was really tempting to assume that there is something bad happening at school. It’s so easy to villainize the teacher or the assessment or the whole educational system for making my child feel less than after just 8 weeks of Kindergarten.
I want to yell. And hold grown ups accountable. And CHANGE them so that I can FIX Peanut. This is my weakness of wanting to control everything to protect the ones I love. It comes from good intentions but it actually does a disservice to Peanut. This overprotection actually robs her of the opportunity to weather her own storms and fight (and win!) her own battles.
I’ve learned the hard way (again and again and again) that whenever I want to point fingers, I need to instead be talking things through with several different people to get some perspective. More importantly, I need to take NO action while I’m angry.
So I reached out to my people – the ones who know and love me, no matter what. I vented and purged and worried. And these amazing, eclectic, wise friends helped me uncover the following wisdom nuggets:
1. Those struggles at school are really NOT a big deal.
So Peanut needs some help with handwriting. Or phonemic awareness. Or memorizing the pledge of allegiance (seriously…that is a Kindergarten assessment. I digress). In the scheme of things, these are not really problems, just things she needs to brush up on.
2. It’s the teacher’s job to assess my kid.
I don’t have to like the results or the way they are delivered. But it’s the teacher’s responsibility to assess Peanut and it’s Peanut’s job to grow and learn.
3. The real problem here is my fear.
I’m afraid that I have failed Peanut by not pushing her to learn faster, better, more. I’m afraid that her struggles at school are MY failure. MY fault. This is faulty logic.
4. I am not capable of controlling, protecting, or improving my child’s self-esteem.
I can do my best to build her up but she is going to interact with the wide world and I can’t (and shouldn’t) control all of those interactions.
5. Most importantly, Peanut’s self-esteem isn’t nearly as fragile as I think it is.
Perhaps it’s best not to teach her that she’s fragile and instead show her that she’s totally up to the task. After all, a moment of homework frustration does not a self-image break.
Thank goodness I talked this all through BEFORE the parent-teacher conference today. (Can you imagine if I’d walked in there all guns a-blazin’ and fingers a-pointin’?)
The news we got was far better than expected….she is making significant progress. She is learning.
And so am I.
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