18 lines. That’s all they give me. How can I sum up everything her primary teacher needs to know about her with only 18 lines?
I’m staring at a sheet the school handed out during Primary Orientation for my daughter called “All About My Child” that invites me to “briefly write” some notes about her likes and dislikes, her challenges and strengths so the teachers can get to know her better. But they only provide 18 lines.
I want them to know that although she loves unicorns and rainbows, and butterflies and sparkles, that she also likes playing with cars with her brother, adding and subtracting, and building things. I want them to know that although she is scared to try many new things, that she is actually the bravest kid I know. She faces those huge, sometimes debilitating, fears, tiny step by tiny step by tiny step, until they are conquered. I want them to know that she’s got a wicked sense of humour and understands puns and tells jokes better than some adults I know (her latest favourite from one of her bestie’s mom: “How do you make a kleenex dance? Put a little boogie in it “- in which she does a little dance with a sly smile as she says boogie).
But there are only 18 lines. Not nearly enough to make sure they know everything they need to know; not nearly enough to impart almost five years of parental knowledge to the people who I am entrusting her to every weekday for the next ten months.
I’m a little lost, as a stay-at-home mom, about my new role in this transition and how to prepare for it. I’ve been so focused on preparing my child, I forgot to prepare myself.
Even when Miss M was in preschool it was only three mornings a week and I was friends with her teachers so I felt like I had a pretty good handle on what she did there (plus sometimes I’d peek in the window when she wasn’t looking and watch her – staaaalkkker). I knew all of her friends and their families and I was able to help her nurture friendships with her peers through my friendships with their parents.
But “big school” is different. Picking and choosing her friends would be impossible (and, yes, a little control freak-ish). I will be at the mercy of an almost 5 year old (who forgets what she had for breakfast by lunchtime) to remember what she did each day. And I’m pretty sure peeking in the windows of her school would get me arrested.
I’ve been preparing to let go the only way I know how. It’s the same way I prepared in those final weeks of pregnancy, through nesting. I’ve been baking and cooking every spare minute, but instead of making family size portions, I’ve been freezing them in single size portion for her lunches.
I’ve been organizing and sorting out drawers and supplies, but instead of folding onesies and teeny socks, I’ve been filling her backpack with freshly sharpened pencils and glue sticks, and helping her pick out just the right indoor sneakers (and, dear teacher, you can thank me later for saying no to the shoes that played fairy music when she tapped the toes together).
I’ve been calling out random reminders to her every day to not talk to strangers and to remember to wash her hands and making her do dry runs of opening various food packages “for practice” – I’m feel like I’m trying to squeeze in every parental teachable moment I can when she’s with me, sure I’ve forgotten something crucial (did I tell her not to show her days of the week underwear to her new friends on the playground??).
I know, logically, she will be fine and she will adjust and WE – who are left back at home – will adjust but that doesn’t stop me from baking and labelling and testing her on safety rules.
And I keep coming back to this sheet, this “All About My Child” sheet, and adding another thing that I feel her teacher needs to know about her – my baby, my girl, my heart – and, yes, it’s going to be more than just 18 lines.
*Note: this was written a year before I actually published it and Miss M has successfully made it through grade primary … and so did I (though, yes, that document did end up being MUCH MORE than 18 lines. Thank you primary teachers for your special way of understanding primary students’ parents.