By Sammi Johnson
If my daughter reads this one day, I want her to understand that it comes from a place of deep-seated love. The struggle is real, even as I type this. Her transition into kindergarten is nearing epic proportions. Code red. We’re not doing it right. Anything and everything is coming into question. Do we even have a clue what we’re doing?
No, we don’t. Never have.
This behavior isn’t new.
Ski lessons? Bailed and failed.
Swim lessons? After five attempts, we made it through a four-week cycle!
School? Currently still failing. My husband and I lovingly joked between us this summer that the only thing missing for a perfect transition from preschool into kindergarten was to simply invite the teacher to live with us for a month prior, so our daughter would get nice and comfy with the new face and pace.
Our dialogue generally follows this arc:
Fine, sweetie, you don’t have to ski. That’s a luxury, not a life lesson that you need to survive. Your parents just really, really like it.
But we have hard lines. Swimming and school? You gotta do both. You have to learn how to swim, and school is a must. I’m not home-school material; you’re going to school.
The common denominator? These aren’t her own ideas, so they are met with stubborn resistance.
We know that school isn’t physically, psychologically or emotionally hurting her at all!
In fact, it’s the opposite. Our school is small, but loving and perfect in our opinions. Her reasons for the school cringe change daily and span a great distance of logic: I’m scared of the lunchroom. I’m scared of the drop-off. I’m scared of the pick-up. I don’t like recess.
On and on, and every day it changes. And with the wildly varying reasons why school is the worst thing we’ve ever done to her, we know that the threat isn’t real. She is reaching and grabbing at anything to sway us into agreeing with her.
She wakes up crying with anxiety only to have that ramp up to a level of near hysteria as we pull into the school parking lot. Then we pry her out of the car and carry her inside through all the other kids to hand her off to the teacher, who has to hold her back from running after us. Day after day.
We pick her up after school to learn that she calmed down a few minutes later and had a really, really good day. We can hardly believe it. She is laughing, loving it and not wanting to leave.
On other mornings, she decides everything is fine — goodbye! We’re shocked and excited. The playground attendant is also surprised. I’m getting the thumbs-up sign from fellow moms I don’t know, getting the knowing head nod of a “job well done,” and
I scurry out of there thinking I’m am a total badass mom who is just crushing the parenting thing. I can do no wrong.
That is, until the next day, when I attempt to replicate the exact moments of the previous perfect morning leading up to the angelic drop-off, only to find that those tactics, conversations and clothes (I’ve tried everything!) are way off and we’re back to tears.
We’ve talked to the school counselor, the teacher, fellow friends and Google about what to do. And we know the answer. It’ll just take time, and when it’s up to her, we’ll be good.
We’re fine with her being shy and introverted, and honestly, we have nothing to do with that. That is who she is. I just start to question our parenting ability when she becomes apoplectic and we’re all frustrated and concluding that, in fact, “Wowza, we are really sucking.”
A goal of ours is to equip our shy gal to trust in her quiet confidence to navigate this world, accept and roll with transition, change, strangers, friends, teachers, and parents.
One month later: Okay, so we apparently did it! School is cool and has been for a solid month. Just like we always knew — right when we think we have it figured out, or don’t, it changes. The only constant.
We love you, Savannah!
Sammi is a mother, wife, business owner and marketing director at the Flathead Beacon in Kalispell. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.