I Didn’t Truly Know My Own Daughter Until I Did This

Image Source: Monica Bielanko
Image Source: Monica Bielanko

I don’t really have the time for it but I’ve made volunteering in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom a priority. Her dad and I take turns, actually. Even though I have to race to work for a morning meeting then break the speed limit trying to get to her school on time and then fly back to work when it’s over, I gladly do it. What I’ve learned about my daughter while observing her in her classroom is worth all the trouble of getting there.

See, while I like to think I know everything about my daughter, I know damn well that I don’t. Not anymore, anyway. Her school life is a whole other universe that I’m not privy to — except when I volunteer. That’s when my world collides with her world and I can see how she treats her teacher and how she interacts with her friends. Not only that, but I can clock the other kids in the class and get a handle on all the little personalities bumping up against each other. That kind of first-hand information makes it so much easier to navigate the 6-year-old problems she comes home with.

When we first enrolled her in preschool — at the time she was our first child — we thought our kid was the bees knees. I imagine that’s generally par for the parenting course. But every now and again her teacher would issue a negative report about her behavior. She bit a kid once. She pushed a classmate another time. I blew it off, figured it was part of the learning curve of playing with other kids when you’re first-born and have yet to deal with siblings. Then a teacher suggested I come watch her in class for an hour and what I saw absolutely blew my mind. My kid was being a jerk. She was not interacting well with her peers and was acting out in ways we’d never witnessed at home, likely because her brother was still a baby who wasn’t old enough to bother her yet. I was stunned. I cried. I was so upset that my kid was behaving that way. She was 3 at the time so clearly it was a reflection of my bad parenting, or so I thought.

I shared my observations with my husband and we immediately set out to work on the issues we perceived our daughter was dealing with. Turns out, she was a slow starter when it came to social interactions. Things other children naturally realize didn’t seem to come to her easily. If someone accidentally bumped into her she perceived it to be a purposeful act of aggression. Over time, and with our instruction and constant collaboration with her teacher, she learned how to positively interact with her classmates. Still, it took me watching her in her environment to understand exactly how she was behaving to be able to steer her in the right direction. That’s why I’ve continued to be a very active part of each of her classes. Not only does it provide the teacher with ample opportunity to speak to me about any issues, but it allows me to get a handle on who my kid is in class. Is she socializing? Does she have friends? No, that doesn’t mean I’m this crazy, hovering mom. I don’t interact with her any more than I interact with the other children, but I watch her and the dynamic she creates with her peers to make sure she’s progressing socially.

And for that reason, I will always volunteer in her classes. It’s made such a difference to both of us. She loves having me there, takes comfort that mom is involved, and likes that I know all the kids in her class. I’d feel terribly left out in the cold if I didn’t have a solid feel for what she experiences every day when she’s away from me for eight hours. Do you think she’ll mind if I audit her college courses with her? KIDDING. Kind of.

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Article Posted 5 years Ago

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