Listening to your child can be really, really hard. There aren’t many healthy examples of taking the time to hear what kids say, and then trusting what they say. And of course, it is entirely possible to go too far with this (i.e., my daughter doesn’t need chick pea cookies for every meal. Yes, I mean i.e.). That, in fact, is what most examples are about: kids want bad things, kids manipulate, kids need to be managed by their parents.
I’m trying to consider the other side. What if my daughter knows herself? What if trusting her and listening to her teaches her to trust herself and listen to herself? What if she and I and her dad can work in partnership to scaffold her growth? What if she is on track, on her own time and schedule, to become the HER that she is meant to be, and we just need to provide the listening and support to help make that happen?
We started preschool again this year. I tried to be optimistic. She’s a couple months older, she had a great summer, she loves her teacher. I also remembered last year: initial hopes followed by weeks of attending preschool with her (when she didn’t protest so much that we stayed home). And the year didn’t start so great: she was sick the first orientation day, and clung to me the second. And the second week, well, she didn’t want me to leave either.
We are blessed with the most understanding preschool educator ever. One who wants to partner with us to help our child grow. One who doesn’t try to make me leave, though she will let me leave if I’m ready. One who appreciates that we’re just trying to be there for our daughter until she’s ready. As a result, I feel safe trusting my daughter to her.
I didn’t have a clear plan as to when we would expect our daughter to attend preschool on her own, or how it would happen. Our basic plan was encouragement, talking through strategies with her (breathing, remember we love you, tell the teacher if you’re scared), and let her lead. After 2 weeks of attending with her, I was wondering if she would ever leave. I was considering losing hope. I was open to pulling her out. But at the same time, we saw movement. She ventured away to play instead of clinging to me. She comforted another child who was upset about something.
Still, we started this week without a plan again, and I fully expected to be there with her today.
But. Driving home from grocery shopping, she shared her “plan”: I would drive her to preschool, dada would pick her up.
“So … does that mean I’ll leave you at preschool?”
“… yes …”
“How do you feel about me leaving you at preschool?”
“Happy and sad.”
In brief, the sad is a fear that big monsters, dinosaurs or bears will show up and eat them. The happy is that “I get to practice being brave.” And if those monsters don’t show up today, apparently she will want me to leave her there every day after that.
We arrived. Another girl was crying. We changed into indoor shoes. We nursed. We went to play at the water table. We told the teacher our plan, together. And I kissed her and left.
The teacher texted a picture of her happily playing a little while later.
I feel so proud of my daughter for choosing to practice bravery.
I feel so honoured that I get to support her in her choices.