This week is Bike or Walk to School Week at the elementary school. Which, great! awesome! but also, shit! mornings are HARD and walking makes me late to the office and wah wah wah. And of course Bike or Walk to School Week brings out both my competitive and my sensitive to the fact that I’m not as involved in my kids’ lives as some of the other mothers are natures. That means we WILL walk to school all week, and the other moms WILL see me do it and then they WILL know that just because I don’t help out with clay projects anymore and my kids don’t always show up with a lunch or completed homework it doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I mean, I had to read a handout to know to walk today. I’M INVOLOVED, okay. I’m also a little testy, apparently. Whatever.
Nathan has no patience for our chronic lateness (it doesn’t seem to phase the girls), so he often gets ready and leaves for school while I’m still torturing his sisters with a hairbrush. Which means that he already walks a few days a week, and so he wanted to step it up for this week’s initiative and ride his scooter. So it was that I walked just the girls the half mile to school in the fog. The cold, cold, horrible fog. Every few steps Sophie would stop and wail about being cold. It was probably 55 or 60 degrees, but that was too cold on the parts of her little legs that her pants didn’t cover. We finally made it the half mile to school, and Sophie insisted that I come to class with her and walk her in. So, I did. She wanted to show me a drawing she’d made the day before, and her teacher said that it was on her desk. While Soph was looking for it, the teacher said to me, She’s going to sit with the rest of the kids today, because she says she’s ready to not talk during class.
I didn’t realize this, but she’s been talking so much that she has to sit at a table alone, while all the other kids get to sit in groups. The teacher said that she doesn’t usually do that, make the kids sit alone, but that Soph said she didn’t care and that it was impossible to not talk so she’d just sit at the table by herself, thanks.
Then the teacher said, And, you know, I actually didn’t go with her to the principal’s office yesterday, but I think that all came out okay. Willow was tugging on my hand, really wanting to get to daycare. I mean, it’s not that big of a deal, really, but she spit on another child.
Oh? I said, looking over at Soph. Her head was bent over the desk, a few pieces of hair had slipped from her ponytail because she’d insisted on wearing the hood of her jacket up while we walked. She was concentrating on a stack of papers on the desk, slowly fanning through them looking for her picture. Actually that is a really huge deal to me, I said. I am so, so sorry.
I went and dropped Willow off at daycare, and then walked back to my house, carrying my keys and my empty coffee cup and sending text messages with my left thumb, starting to wonder if I need to worry about her, really.
It seems like every time the kids "act out" now, someone is telling me that it’s because of Well, you know, the move and all. It even gets whispered, like it’s some secret, which is kind of funny given how much of a not-secret it is. I mean, the kids actually did notice that he got his own apartment. But, really, I don’t think that the spitting (or cursing or hitting or backtalking or attitude) is really because of You Know The Move And All, I think that it predates all that stuff. I think she’s just a pistol, as my Poppa would say.
Obviously, she needs to realize that it’s never a good idea to spit on other kids (and I should point out that she knows better), but at the same time, I admire how ferocious she can be. I don’t want to break that part of her, because I believe she will need it to keep her afloat later on. I guess it’s a matter of figuring out how to harness that punk rock energy and save it for the soccer field and the occasional big brother smackdown. I’m not sure how to raise a strong girl to be a strong woman. I want her to stick up for herself, but not be a bully. I want her to hold that attitude, but only use it when she should. I want her to be confident and strong, but she also has to be kind.
I don’t have a particular, enlightening comment to make, but your writing is just so beautiful, and I just wanted to say I was here, reading and thinking it through with you.
And also, that I could never make walk to school week work for me, and I only have two. So go, mama!
fierce but kind… that is a delicate line to walk. most women spend their entire lives trying to achieve that balance.
strength and toughness are tough traits to teach to children. for me, it’s one of those you just have to let them feel around for their own spot and correct (like when they spit) as needed. i think you’re right to want her to keep some of that pistolaitudeness.
oh my gosh – don’t you just LOVE those little teacher ‘asides’ – it seems I always get the most devastating information in that way…
I appreciate your post. I too have a child who is a talker (who happens to also be a Nathan). He has always gotten in trouble for talking in class, and he is now a junior in High School. I have told his teachers that talking is a part of who he is and they may need to adjust there teaching to incorporate that need. One day the gift of gab will be a great asset!! I also have two strong daughters (20 & 14) and am grateful there is another mom out their wishing the same for their child(ren). Keep up the good work!!