Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Child is NOT Me

Parenting is hard once you get past the pull your hair out because you are covered in baby barf and haven't slept in what you are positive is four years or months but what is the difference anymore? You don't think it could possibly be any harder but it is, actually I have resigned myself to just accepting that it will be nothing but harder all along the way. Add to that when the kiddo was born I had one perspective on the world and parenting, now I have one that is a bit different and a bit more researched or alternative or something, I don't like labels so you pick one that works for you, I would say, "Not quite granola but pretty close."

Really right now I am just trying to make a healthy choice, writing about my feelings instead of eating them. An entire tray of brownies with fudge like frosting and milk is what they might taste like. Since I only have milk and I want to live to see said kid make something of her life, you are getting my rant, my emotional explosion, the what ever the heck this is coming out of me right now. I a having the feelings and I don't like it, at all!

Can I tell you how amazing my child is? I know everyone thinks this of their own kid but really she is awesome. She is thoughtful, compassionate, learning to be a leader, I could go on and on and on. She is also stubborn and head strong and might have a penchant for perfectionism that has manifested itself in ways mine never did. I would say let's cut to the chase but that would just be a pleasantry, this blog post is going to be long and meandering and leave you wondering if you should stage an intervention.

First, she isn't me. No really she isn't, she is her own person. I want her to be her own person yet I rejoice when I see our similarities. She is five and knows how to plan and throw a party, she can walk you through step by step... yep that's me. She has "my" eyes and nose. She has sass that outshines mine on the best day and I can be pretty darn sassy. She is strong willed... certainly from me... I just keep telling myself she will persevere when she is older... while I pray I survive her childhood. Don't you worry I see my siblings, parents, and of course her dad in her too. All of that and she still isn't me (or anyone else in the fam), she is her own person and I want her to be.

She is way more free spirited than I was. She is extremely extroverted; thriving in social situations that terrified me still until I was 25. She is not focused on being an over achiever, some might say that is where I have thrived, maybe. Do you know what this does to her highly introverted, over achieving, order loving mother? It drives her crazy because I can't understand it. I can understand that we have different needs and really that is a start right? I just have a hard time trying to meet her needs especially at the end of a loooooong day when she needs to process using no less 150 billion words and I need some quiet time so my head doesn't actually explode from over exposure to people and ideas.

She started Kindergarten for the 2 or 3 time last week depending on how you count and after today there is going to be a 4th time. She spent six weeks at her Montessori school back in the Fall before I started homeschooling her and now public school. She is doing socially fantastic but academically in just four short days she is doomed, I don't agree with this assessment, I believe she is very capable of catching up, she just doesn't want to. I cannot understand this because in my world when some one said I was behind, even in Kindergarten and I can remember it thank you very much, I didn't like feeling behind or not the best etc. I also started Kindergarten on the young side, academically I was able to stay afloat of course that is before we expected five year olds to read Shakespeare and do research projects online, and word problems. I was golden if I cold tie my shoes and pick up the right milk carton from the milk tray. One day I didn't, I picked up the blue one which was skim milk that my teacher wanted and she yelled at us. I didn't admit to doing it per say but I did pee my pants on the way out the carnival, which was probably a confession enough for a Kindergarten teacher. Emotionally and socially I wasn't there, I cried every single day before school until third grade. I think I only stopped then because my world fell apart with a sick dad and a brother we all thought for a solid time was dying (he didn't). Then school got me out of my own version of kid hell, having to deal with all those grown up feelings wasn't fun and at school I could be 8.

My kid though she's a Montessori kid, you know what that means, it means she hasn't been taught competition because competition isn't used as a means to get students to learn in a Montessori school. You know what else? I kind of like that. It took me until Grad school when I had a two year old to figure that one out because I wanted quality time with her and that was way more important than getting an "A" on a paper or in a class. You know what for the first time in my life I lowered my expectations of my self from beyond perfect to slightly less than perfect. This was healthy and good and I wish I figured it out sooner. Do you know what happened? I graduated with a GPA just above the goal I set for myself which was not a 4.0! I can remember my daughter's toddler and preschool years to boot.

So there are a few things at play here, as you can tell I need to remind myself that she is not me, and that the me I wish I saw in her today was not a healthy child, she was a child coping with trauma because of family circumstance, something my girl doesn't know yet. She understands school in the context of Montessori, she is frustrated that she doesn't get to help teach, and that the work is all "academic". I didn't know much about Montessori at first but I learned and she was on to something, educating the whole child and embracing the child's curiosity! There is something about that, it feels right. Or the Waldorf method or Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. When you put these all together they can work in harmony that educates a whole person not just literacy and math for crying out loud!

Today we had another impromptu meeting with her teacher of four days. She again said that L was not on par with her class and needed to be in the Pre K program instead. Honestly I don't think four days is a fair assessment period for a five year old who has been living in transitional hell for the past six months! The work she is down right refusing to do I know she can do but doesn't like to. So rather than fighting with her everyday to catch up after school and sending her into a classroom where her teacher is essentially stressed out by her under achieving presence, today we opted to try the PreK program for the rest of this year. In the long run I think it could be for the best. Perhaps next year she will be more mature and want to do the work. Or get over her perfectionism shut down. She won't do something she can't do perfect the first time around... oh how that makes me cringe! Let's review, I know she can do the work, she doesn't want to do the work, we have lived in a confusing time for six months, she is not me. Maybe it's all been too much for her? It is like I have a new kid since moving, she goes to bed, she listens, she's happy, and the fits have been minimal. She was stressed out!

Can I also tell you for six long torturous months I home schooled that head strong girl? We were both ready for her to go back to school. Also let's be honest, it is really hard to be an effective teacher when your whole entire life is up in the air, your kid is a hot mess because life is hard, and you are looking for a full time job that requires you to travel at the drop of a hat. There were lots of parts of our little home school that just didn't work. But there were parts that were like victories.  I had no one to answer to but my self, she wasn't too into reading just yet but I wasn't worried because I was a late reader and here I am two Master's Degrees later. We spent days being creative, something she thrives on. She planned an entire new year's eve party with a little guidance. She learned how to rest when tired. She learned how to tell time, break geodes, mine for minerals, wrap gifts, count pennies, read short "bob books", make kittens out of pumpkins, viscosity, density, mass, about community, baking, cooking, budgeting, 30 days of giving, she learned to take people in when they fall on hard times. And you know what? It means jack squat when you put it next to the common core standards for Kindergarten. Can I tell you I don't care about those standards, I don't care that she can't read on level, I don't care that she isn't interested in explaining how she sorted buttons, I celebrate that she isn't like the rest of the zombies kids.

Her whole person needs to be educated and the common core and standardized testing factories public education has become isn't going to do that. I long for a Montessori program but there aren't any. So it looks like I will be having to teach her all that stuff slyly after school until forever.

But all that being said... all that talk of accepting I can't be perfect, all the talk of child directed learning, of education being about the whole person... it means nothing when that still small voice in my head says to me loud and clear you failed as her teacher. I know I only failed at teaching her common core standards but there is that part of me, the perfectionist, the over achiever, that is heart broken and disappointed because my kid can't do stuff I don't care about anyway.

I feel defeated and scared of what her education is going to look like in the future, our options for alternatives are slim in our new city.

Somewhere in the mess there is some good, there has to be.

Until I find it, I am grateful for our two and a half years of Montessori and the ability to read and learn and explore educational theories.

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