“Is today flashcards day, Mami?” asks my impatient 5-year-old girl most mornings soon after waking up. Flashcard days are every Tuesday and they’ve become something we both really look forward to. It’s the one day every week when it’s my turn to take her to school, walk in with her through the main doors and don a “volunteer” sticker she proudly slaps on my breast as she excitedly leads me through the glass doors towards the patio to join the rest of her classmates right before the bell rings.
She holds my hand tightly the whole time while we stand in a frantic line amongst anxious kindergarteners. I can see her hide a smile every time one of the kids calls out “Hi, Camila’s mom!” and then I feel her grip give a pulsing squeeze to my hand. Then la maestra appears to lead us all into her Spanish immersion kindergarten classroom, and I get to walk in with my little one as she ignores all her girlfriends to show me her latest and greatest, or the scene of the latest classroom happening, or point me towards so and so that just did this or that. You know, all those intriguing things that happen behind classroom doors that parents are hardly ever witness to and must comfort ourselves with kiddie hearsay.
As soon as she’s dropped her lunch bag and backpack in her cubby, and placed her homework folder in the plastic bin, she runs to me for some final kisses, hugs and the deepest-felt “I love you” that is repeated over and over again. She knows it’s now my turn to sit down in a too-small-for-me plastic chair, grab the latest set of flashcards with either numbers, letters or high-frequency words in Spanish and start calling out names from the roster la maestra has left for me. She also knows that I won’t leave until she’s had a turn to do flashcards with me. She sits not-so-patiently in her red square on the carpet as they call out the names of the week in unison in Spanish. She blows kisses at me anytime she catches me stealing a glance her way and I worry I made her lose her focus as they count up to 100.
One by one I get to sit with each kid. After five months of weekly flashcards days, I’ve learned all the kids’ names. I know who’s really been practicing their flashcards at home. I know who has a hard time focusing. I know which ones are always the last ones to get in line when it’s time for P.E. I know who the other three kids my daughter sits with in her assigned group are and I know they call themselves “Los cachorritos, cachorritos” (The puppies, puppies).
When it’s time to leave I know my daughter’s day has been nurtured with love and caring. She knows I can only stay one hour because mami has to work. But she also knows that not all kids can have their moms there and she understands it’s special. That one hour I take off from my hectic life as a mompreneur has not only nurtured the relationship with my daughter, but also with her teacher, her classmates and has allowed me to meet other parents. That one hour gives me a glimpse into my girl’s day-to-day life and makes our after school conversations that much richer because I know the character’s in her life and she knows I know — and care.