This past week, I logged onto Facebook and saw the many children of friends, striking poses for their first day of school, poses struck so that their parents will have a keepsake of these precious early years to look back upon when these same children reach adulthood and have children of their own. As I looked at these lovely children, some smiling tentatively, some unsmiling, and some clowning around for the camera, I wondered what was going on in their young minds.
While perusing these many “first day” photos, I came across one of May carrying her lunch tote. With toenails to match her turquoise painted fingernails, and the latest trendy bracelets going up her arm, she gave her best attempt at a smile. I was aware of her angst prior to this “cellphone moment” and questioned the sincerity behind her seemingly confident air. Were her parents’ accolades about kindergarten taking effect, or had she become resigned to the inevitable and was braving it out for a photo-op?
I must admit that I lied to my granddaughter during the days prior to her first day in kindergarten. I recall the exact moment when I lied. We were driving in the car, just the two of us, when May quietly and out of the blue said, “Grammy I’m really scared to start kindergarten.” I remember reassuring her that kindergarten would be so much fun; that she would get to play with all kinds of new things, learn about amazing “stuff,” meet so many new friends and that she would love her teacher. She then asked me if I could remember my first day and if I remembered how I felt. That is when I lied.
I may have forgotten about a movie I saw two days ago or what I had for dinner last night or I may even have forgotten the gist of a story I was reading late into the night, but I can still remember my first day of kindergarten. I recall crying my eyes out as I sat in a classroom surrounded by people I didn’t know. I remember crying so much that my teacher had me sit outside the classroom until my older brother came to talk to me. My recollection of how the rest of the day or week passed is hazy, but the impact of sitting on the corridor floor, crying and being scared remains vivid in my memory. However, that is not what I told May.
I told May that I remember a huge playhouse that I would hide in with the new friends I made. I told her about how kind the teacher was and that I liked to dress-up in the many available costumes. Finally, I told her a funny story about how my mother always called me “Betty,” but registered me as “Elizabeth” and that when the role was called, I didn’t respond because I didn’t know my given name. Sadly, I am embarrassed to say, the last part of our conversation was true. However, May got a huge laugh out of the story and it took her mind off the real issue of being scared.
Her question and my answer led my thoughts to May’s Aunt Jessica’s first day of kindergarten. I recall walking her to her classroom and wanting to hold her back, to protect her, to keep her safe. Without realizing it at the time, my personal experience was affecting her willingness to let go. My mouth may have been singing praises about kindergarten, but my body language was saying something else, instilling in her a sense of foreboding. Today, I can see how I inadvertently caused Jessica to feel anxious over starting something new. With May, I made sure that body language and words were one in the same, regardless of how I fantasized.
Although my early school experience was less than stellar, May’s was fantastic! It was everything the people she loved and trusted said it would be. I have no regrets over the story I invented during our car ride that summer’s day. How fortunate I was to be in a position to tell a little white lie in order to bring comfort to a person I love!