It has been awhile since I read the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. It was in my pre-parenthood days. It was so insightful, so refreshing, so inspiring when I read it.
Then I had children, and now I have an entirely different perspective as I’m living this out day by day through them.
If you’ve never read the book, here are the basics:
Pretty sage advice, isn’t it? And I pretty much agree with everything on the list.
And then you make it to second grade.
Life gets more complex. Harder. This is, of course, according to my daughter. We’re a little over half-way through the school year and there have been some pretty tough lessons learned. For both of us. The rose-colored glasses of my daughter’s childhood are coming off and she is beginning to see people and life a bit differently.
In some ways that makes me sad. But mostly, she makes me proud. CurlyQ has a huge heart that is paired nicely with her very curious and thoughtful nature.
And she wants to know everything about everything.
This leads me finally to the point of this post.
There is a time in each life when one is struck with the realization that life isn’t always exactly like the pretty little picture that our parents have carefully tried to paint for us. Each person has their own point of view, and it is based largely on their own experiences. Their own life.
My little girl sees things as right or wrong. Black or white. Yes or no.
It is hard for her to see the grey area. Hard to understand the word maybe.
She has a very strong sensitive sense of morality. It pains her to see anyone do anything that they shouldn’t do.
Especially her parents.
When I lose my temper. When I say the occasional bad word. When I’ve had a bad day and don’t feel like doing that art project that she wants to do. When I tell my son that we don’t have any chocolate when we really do. When I don’t have the energy to fix a healthy meal and we go through the drive-thru instead (all while telling her that she needs to eat her veggies and drink her milk and not eat so much junk).
When my human nature comes glaring through.
She is also very hard on herself.
When she can’t excel at something immediately, she gets so frustrated.
This week it was climbing the rope in gym class. She was devastated when she heard a group of boys snickering at her. She didn’t understand why they didn’t laugh at the boy who only went as high as she did.
Not long ago it was dribbling the basketball. She was in tears when her first game came around because she wasn’t as good as everyone else on her team. I was so proud that she kept on trying.
Physical things are hard for her. She is taller and therefore heavier than anyone in her class. She really has to work at things that some people are quite naturally good at.
When you get to the brainier things, the complex critical thinking things, she soars.
But in all things, she takes her time. She is thorough. She is focused. She is a noticer. She is a sponge.
So I am finding myself constantly needing to tell her that nobody is perfect.
But she thinks that I expect her to be perfect. Not because of what I say but because of what I do. Or how I tell her what to do.
When I say things like, “Try your best,” she doesn’t always understand that I don’t expect her to do it exactly right every time.
When I tell her to go pick out a different shirt because that one doesn’t really go with the skirt she is wearing, she feels defeated.
When she doesn’t clean up her mess the way I would have liked, she thinks that she can’t do anything right.
When she takes too long to get ready. When I correct her grammar.
I think I am doing her a favor. But what she is hearing is that I think she is less-than.
So I try to back things up with a reason. I try to help her see the other side of why.
And when I mess up, I bring attention to that, too.
Because nobody is perfect. And we all need to hear that it is ok not to be.
She knows that she is loved.
And I hope that when she is feeling less-than, defeated, let down, that the love is what she clings to.
So here is my list of what we have learned so far in second grade:
I’m trying to help my children see past being perfect.
I’m trying to remember to do the same. To stop comparing my abilities, skills, physical appearance, and intelligence to those around me.
To stop beating myself up.
Because when we feel less-than, our kids see our defeat, too.
Not every moment is a shining moment. Sometimes it is a learning moment, an opportunity to grow.
I’m so thankful life doesn’t stop at second grade.
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