“You become a worrier by practicing worry. You can become free of worry by practicing the opposite and stronger habit of faith. With all the strength and perseverance you can command, start practicing faith.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Is this Kindergarten or College Admissions?
Flashback to a year ago when my son was entering the T-K (transitional kindergarten) program at the local elementary school. The school required an assessment before class placement. I had no idea what to expect, but I did know that Parker would be on the younger side in his class.
As soon as we walked through the door for the assessment, a woman with a high-pitched voice instructed my son to color a picture of an apple, cut it out, paste it to a page, and write his name at the top.
“Do you know how to write your name?” she asked my son directly.
He unapologetically answered, “No.” A smile spread across the woman’s face and she responded, “Well you will by the end of T-K.”
I was immediately embarrassed and chimed in, “He knows how to write the first couple of letters, but is still working on his name.” She said, “No big deal,” and we sat at a table to start the activity.
We were surrounded by other parents with children and the pressure was palpable. Parker did a shoddy coloring job and grabbed the scissors. They were sharp, not the safety scissors I was expecting. He started cutting right up the middle of the apple. I intervened, whispering in his ear, “Try to cut along the dark line.” He pasted a shredded apple to the page, wrote a P and an A, and illegibly scribbled the rest of his name.
Meanwhile, I watched perfectly colored and cut out apples go by. I heard an intake teacher say loud enough for everyone to hear, “She wrote her first, middle and last name? Wonderful!”
My panic was spinning thoughts faster in my head than I could keep up: These have to be kindergarten kids, right? What have I done wrong? Did I not give Parker enough coloring time? I let him watch too much TV. I have to limit his iPad time. I’m the opposite of the arts and crafts mom, and it shows. I have to work on his writing skills more. Have I been too easygoing as a mom? I haven’t pushed him enough.
The entire experience was painful. I left the school feeling that I was the one that took an evaluation. It was a parental evaluation and I failed miserably.
I checked my thoughts and reminded myself that the last thing I would want is for Parker to pick up on my feelings of inadequacy and feel that he is not enough.
We live in a society where one’s worth is often valued based on what he/she does, and I’m trying to raise a child that knows his value is based on who he is. It would be handy if I could apply this same logic to my own intrinsic value as a mom.
Flash-forward to a year later at the evaluation for my son to enter kindergarten.
Now I’m seasoned and relaxed. Parker nails the evaluation (night and day difference to last year) and I’m waiting in line for the second part of the evaluation (letter sounds).
I see a mom sitting with her daughter and she is the spitting image of me last year. I recognize the pained expression on her face as she watches her daughter struggle with the apple picture. The mom is hovering, whispering tips in her child’s ear. I can almost hear the moms’ worried thoughts.
Don’t Hurry to Worry
To a certain degree, worrying is in the job description for motherhood.
When they are babies, we worry when they don’t sleep, and then we worry when they do.
We worry when they are late walkers and we worry when they are late talkers.
We worry about whether they eat too much or eat too little.
We worry about every rash, illness, and abnormality.
We worry and worry, but where does it really get us?
Worrying turns time into the enemy. It welcomes fear into the present moment and projects fear into a future that we haven’t experienced yet. Worry makes us forget that time is actually our wise friend that always provides us with perspective. Time generally shows us that our worries are useless.
I at least worry less with my second child than I did with my first due to experience, but I still wish I didn’t rush to worry so often when I encounter new unknowns. Instead, I want to pause more, listen for my deep inner voice, and take a page from my friend faith.
I didn’t have the courage to approach the worried mom at the kindergarten evaluation, but I’ll write out the words I wish I had spoken to her and that I wish someone had said to me a year ago:
Stop worrying. These kids are 90 percent kindergarteners. This year will fly by so fast and the milestones your child will hit and the inches she will grow will take your breath away. Don’t put pressure on your child. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Let time do its thing. A year from now you will want to turn back the hands of time to savor this moment. Be fully present with her, right where she is on her path of development. Breathe in love, breathe out worry.
Stop worrying. Stop worrying. Stop worrying.