Fluffy doesn’t like Kindergarten. This morning she said she didn’t want to go. When I asked why, she said, “I’m just not in the mood.” On further investigation, it seems her main beef with Kindergarten is the restrictiveness of the rules. Preschool was 33% goofing around on the playground, and 45% goofing around at the stations in the classroom. Now Fluffy says, “You have to be quiet in the halls, line-up, do every rule they tell you to do.” Bletch.
Yes. Welcome to socialization, an on-going process wherein people who know better than you plan your day in 15 minute increments. Later, you’ll get to plan your own increments, but there still won’t be enough time to goof around with the Legos as much as you want. It’s all cut, cut, cut, paste, paste, paste.
I remember hating being a kid because I felt like I had no control over my life. Other people’s nostalgia for childhood always puzzled me. What’s so great about being a kid when you have no decision making power?
Later, I started to understand. It’s not the freedom of childhood, which to me at least, never felt free, but the newness of experience. Every first hits you with the full impact of its freshness. That bloom of novelty is what you remember with fondness later when, innoculated against an enormous fraction of your life, you experience almost everything through the barrier of familiarity. Last weekend we took the kids to a park and I swang on the swings with Fluffy and went down the slide with Peppers. On the swings, Fluffy told me, “Close your eyes, Mom. It’s like you’re floating on a cloud.” I did. And it was awesome. Or rather, I remembered when it was truly awesome.
Fluffy is an obedient, sweet person who has already come home with feather stickers for good behavior. Yet I’ve taken three points away from her this week for dumping her things in the foyer instead of putting them “all the way away” as per our rules. Now that I’m looking at it objectively, I’m remembering all that research on self-regulation and discipline and realizing that her shoes and bag in the foyer are not meant to say, “Screw you, mom” but rather, “Hey, Mom, I love you, but I’ve been self-regulating all day, and I’m plum tapped out. I just really need to get immediately to my room where I can chose for myself how I want to spend my time. It feels like the first chance I’ve had since you dragged me out of bed and into the bathtub this morning before 7am to chose for myself what I want to do.”
And then today, I watched part of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which among other insights into childhood contains this gem: ”I think people don’t understand how lonely it is to be a kid, like you don’t matter.” I hope Fluffy doesn’t feel that way. Sometimes I rush impatiently through the empathy scripts so we can get back to the daily have-to’s (“You’re feeling ____ and ____, right? I know how that feels. Sometimes when x happens, I also y, but right now we’ve got to z.”), or turn into a martyr, (“You think I want to ___? There are a thousand things I’d rather be doing right now than this, but we just have to do it. Everybody has to ____.) The scripts are better than full-on dismissiveness, but I think the Fluffinator needs a more sincere sense that her feelings and wishes do matter even in this new world of chore charts and bell schedules.
When I pick Fluffy up today, I’m going to give her some options and ask her what she wants to do. Then I’m going to pick up and put away her shoes and bag from the foyer without comment.