The inevitable happened this morning and I should have been more prepared.
Deep down I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before the big issue of ‘school readiness’ was going to be addressed, but now that it has the reality of it hit harder than I expected.
Zoey began four year old kinder like a true professional. Her exuberance was like no other; there was no time to waste and she knew no limits. Presented in front of her was an endless world of opportunity to shine artistically and academically, with no question how she would cope and measure up alongside her like-minded kinder associates.
Kinder sessions have ended with bags full of paintings, cut and pastings, box building, stencilling, hanging monkeys and lions; pirate hats and eye patches, wet clothes and sand filled shoes, paint stained clothes and even a cut piggy tail (all in the name of hairdressing). They have had visits from pirates, clowns, reptile keepers, musicians and the list goes on.
So now that my four year old daughter has experienced all these wonderful lessons in life, and has longed to join the big kids of the school world at the completion of the year, I feel a sense of heaviness weigh upon my heart while trying hard not to allow the tears well in my eyes. I face the dilemma in finding a way of explaining her kinder days are limited and she will now enter kinder holidays when for all the other kids there is not. I search my soul for an answer as to how am I ever going to measure up at home in keeping her busy and fulfilled as kinder has.
Who would have thought ‘maturity’ would play such a major role in a four year old’s life? My daughter’s self-obsession and self-indulgence has been her undoing; her overzealous need to be ‘in your face’ and the centre of everyone’s attention has finally led to her demise. Her constant interruptions and self-importance has come as an expense for her lack of knowing when to stop and listen, to acknowledge others, their involvement and their right to be heard.
While I consider whether the past six months of our daughter’s life experiences have evaluated to nothing, I know deep down this feeling is nothing more than raw emotion; I know she has learned many things, made many friends, touched many hearts and made many laugh. I also know she has pushed many of us to our very limits of tolerance. I see an over-excited child full of life looking for everyone’s acceptance, approval and want for being a part of everything that is going on around her, but not necessarily for her. And now that the realism of it all has come out and answered our undecided question, ‘Is she ready for school next year?’ I can’t feel anything but sorrow.
I try to contemplate the coming weeks and wonder how I am going to manage to get her over the idea of not attending her much looked forward to kinder days. I tell myself what I need right now is a magic wand to make everything alright, to find the right answers when I’m going to need them, but amongst all these mixed feelings I also know that this decision is right for the future well being of our little girl, and hope that I can look back in another year of kinder and know all this heart ache and anguish will have been for the better.
So as I stand amongst the more fortunate parents who have little idea our presence will cease as of today, my struggle to fight back the tears fail. On the mat my daughter is dancing happily at the back of the pack of the more settled and well adjusted children – the school-ready children. With her tracksuit pants folded to her knees, her hair straggly and unruly from the haste removal of hair ties, my daughter’s behaviour is acknowledged by the joyful laughs from the other parents.
A sudden glance from her kinder teacher towards where I am standing says it all. As we walk through the gates of her kinder, I know it won’t be the last time, but that thought is of little solace. My daughter’s excited chatter comes from the back seat as we make the journey home, all while I contemplate – where to now?
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem