Monday, August 15, 2011

Why Chloe needs kindergarten in her life...

I wrote this a few months ago and wanted to get it posted before Chloe started kindergarten.  Too late for that seeing that August 10th was five days ago.  I know, what kind of mother am I that I haven't even posted a picture from her first day?!  (Or wished my mother-in-law, who turned fifty-five on the 13th a happy birthday?)  In some ways, however, I think it's appropriate that I'm posting this now because of the added perspective I've gained from these short four days she's been in kindergarten.  This summer and especially the few weeks leading up to that bittersweet first day, I've frequently pondered Chloe's tendencies and habits.  And as I've done so, it has struck me numerous times that she, and children in general, each reach a point in their lives where dad and mom aren't enough anymore, and when school is simply crucial to their growth and well being.  Structure, routine, responsibility, challenges, consequences, independence, teachers and other sources of authority, and friends.  They just need it.  Yes, they still need their parents too.  But without school (whether it be in a public setting or at home), it is difficult for children to grasp some important concepts about surviving in this world.  The following is a {somewhat comical} account of recent challenges I've faced with Chloe.  Reflecting back on the four short days she's been in kindergarten I can honestly say I am already seeing positive changes in her, which reinforces my previous claim that school is crucial. 

These events took place in April, and I wrote this post in May.  It may seem a bit silly and lacking in direction or purpose.  And perhaps I'm just setting myself up for others to judge me as a mom.  But I think it's good to document not just the pleasant but sometimes the unpleasant, particularly when there are lessons to be learned.  And hey, if nothing else, if I'd had the nerve and strong will at age five that my daughter has now, I'd really enjoy reading about it twenty-five years later.


Preschool mornings, which are thankfully of the past, were rarely joyful in our house. Inevitably Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings were the mornings Chloe did not want to get out of bed, and would whimper and whine until we dragged her up.  Then she'd usually whimper and whine some more.  I will have to say she did improve as the end of the school year approached, but generally those mornings meant a grumpy little miss.

One morning in particular (in April), after laying out Chloe's clothes and awakening her, I raced downstairs to make sure Ryan wasn't up to any trouble. Naturally, he had already found it (sigh) in the pantry.  Yep, there he sat, on the floor, enjoying the bag of M&Ms Chloe had earned at preschool the day prior, which he had retrieved from the top shelf of the pantry. If you don’t believe me when I say “top shelf”, take a look at this.  Or this.  It's a good thing Chloe didn't see him, although I don't know that it would have made much difference with the foul mood she was already in (and about to inflict upon us).

First, the shirt I picked out for her was "wrong". It had a three quarter length sleeve and she doesn't like those for whatever reason. Or maybe I should say she didn't like them on this particular day, either because I chose it or because she tends to like things one day and dislike them the next. There's usually no explanation, but she does it a lot. "I don't like broccoli anymore. I used to like it but I don't anymore." Or, "Yes, I'll have butter on my toast. I don't really like butter, except in cookies, but I'll eat it today."

After a minor squabble over the three quarter length sleeved shirt, she reluctantly put it on and came downstairs. This is when I offered her breakfast. Among a handful of options, she chose a granola bar and proceeded to tear off the plastic packaging and bite into it. Now I'm convinced it was broken in two to begin with, but she didn't notice it until she'd taken that first bite. That’s when the world stopped and Chloe proceeded to chuck the imperfect granola bar onto the floor, cross her arms and let out a pitiful groan. I immediately told her to pick it up to which she replied, "No! I'm not going to eat that! It's broken!" We went back and forth for twenty or so seconds before I simply concluded, "If you don't pick up that granola bar and eat it, you don't eat at all!" Chloe didn't believe that I'd actually send her to school hungry, but quickly realized I wasn't messing around.  Either eat it, or be hungry.  Those were her two options.

Not two days later we had a similar incident, again, before preschool and during breakfast time. What joy fills my soul when the first thing I hear upon awakening in the morning is the shrilling scream of my child. I don't often catch Chloe in the act of bullying her brother, but on this particular morning I happened to walk into the kitchen just in time to witness her shoving Ryan. Without a second thought I sent her straight to timeout, reiterating for the 17,857th time that it is never okay to contact someone in such a manner! As she stood there, I took it upon myself to prepare her cereal. We were running low on time and I was trying to make every minute count. So after placing a bowl of Apple Jacks at her place and telling her she could come out, she walked to the table, took one glance at it, and burst into tears.

"I didn't want Apple Jacks! I wanted Cocoa Krispies!"

Really, Chloe? After earning a first class ticket to timeout, you're going to have the nerve, not a second after being released, to throw a fit over the cereal I poured into your bowl? I tried to explain to her that, 1) she asks for Apple Jacks 90% of the time, so why wouldn't I assume she'd go for Apple Jacks on this morning too?, and 2) given the circumstances, does she really think it's acceptable to throw a tantrum right now over something so trivial?

But wait, it gets better. As Chloe was now stomping, screaming, and borderline hyperventilating (no exaggeration - I wish I'd captured it on video), she paused to say, "I'm not your daughter anymore!", to which I matter-of-factly replied, "You're not!? Well, maybe you should find a new mom then!"

Chloe, who by this point was on fire and ready to accept my challenge, then raced to the front door, attempting to escape with no success due to the locked top latch. For the sake of our neighbors, it's probably best that she didn't make it outside.  No one needed to catch a glimpse of our morning glory.

So why in heaven's name would I share these stories? Certainly they don't paint a very good picture of my dramatic five-year-old, or her mother for that matter!  I'd like to think that in years to come when I've [hopefully] found a way to channel Chloe's stubborn and headstrong nature into something healthy and productive, she and I will laugh together at the arguments we once had. But aside from that, I find that these experiences have taught both Chloe and me something. First, let me just say this. Chloe did wear the three quarter length sleeved shirt that day. And, believe it or not, she did end up eating the broken and now-off-the-floor granola bar. And would you believe it if I told you that she even ate the entire bowl of Apple Jacks about which she so strongly disapproved?

Parenting is miserable at times. There's no other way to put it. But in sticking to my guns and not giving into Chloe's pity parties, it would appear that I got through to her. Sure, it would have been much easier to say, "Fine, go choose a shirt!", "Okay then, here's a fresh, new, fully intact granola bar!", and finally, "Oh, you didn't want Apple Jacks? Well, sweetheart, let me just throw that cereal right down the drain since there aren't any starving children in Africa who wouldn't love to eat it for you! And what was it that you wanted instead of Apple Jacks? Cocoa Krispies? Can I sprinkle some sugar on it for you too?!" I did not do any of those things. Now, weeks later, does she still throw tantrums? Yes, she does. But to the same magnitude that she threw these? Generally, no.  Of course she still has her days (don't we all?), but I am seeing huge improvements in her.

She certainly isn't going to grow up overnight, but little by little, we are making progress.

1 comment:

The Andersens said...

Not giving into her means you're a good mom. What would she learn if you just handed everything to her sugar-coated?

Thanks for posting the not-so-pleasant moments of your life!