Finding the good

Last night, while Mabel failed to even try to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, I was filling in her forms for next year at nursery school. (She turns five in November, so she won’t go to elementary school until she’s nearly six.) It was, perhaps, not the most fortuitous timing. By the time I got to

What are your child’s strengths? 

I wrote

She will win every argument and never back down. We just have to harness her power for good, not evil.

Reading back over it this morning, I think I need to print out that page again and frame my thoughts in a more positive light. Next year’s teachers know her already; I don’t need to make her sound like the preschooler from the Black Lagoon. (Besides which, sometimes these answers reveal more about the parent than the child.)

This morning she’s painting calmly and delightfully while her brother plays at a friend’s house, and I am more inclined to find the good in her. I’ve been thinking lately that this year, for the first time, she looks outwardly much the same as she did last summer: she’s reached the age where she’s not changing and progressing by leaps and bounds any more, and I have to look a bit harder for the advances. But if I put a little thought into it, she has grown up a lot in the past year:

  • Last summer she was still nursing to sleep and several times a night, and would only go back to sleep for me and a boob. She would wake up two hours after she went to sleep, like clockwork, which was not good for my social life. Now, she only nurses first thing in the morning, and often sleeps all night. Even if she does wake up, she goes back to sleep easily with no nursing. We can let a babysitter put her to bed. This is HUGE.
  • Last summer she was still biting people. She doesn’t quite have a handle on her temper just yet, but at least she confines herself to hitting, which is a lot more socially acceptable.
  • She’s not picking the flowers out of other people’s gardens this summer, which means I can leave the house without sneaking past the neighbours.
Green marker, 3.5-year-old face.
And she hasn’t drawn on her face for at least a week.

Honestly, four-and-a-half was such a low point for her brother (in a different way), and he came out of it so well, that I do have faith in her. I think it’s an age where they’re starting to see themselves from the outside, to understand that others look at them and form opinions – and that they can influence those opinions. Sometimes they run away from that – as Dash did, by becoming overwhelmingly shy for a few months – and sometimes they fight it, as Mabel does now with defiant and rude behavior.

But trying to condense your child’s personality into a few lines that will help her teachers in three months’ time? This child is an enigma to me, and I should know her best. She’s a bundle of contradictions, and anything I say has to be immediately qualified by its opposite.

I think I’ll just let the teachers find her out for themselves.

12 thoughts on “Finding the good

  1. Justine Levine

    My daughter’s school asks us to circle eight words out of about 20 to describe our child. I remember doing it with my son, circling words like “thoughtful” and “focused” and “helpful.” My daughter? “Strong-willed.” “Independent.” “Active.” She is a very small powerhouse. Like Mabel, I suspect. And sometimes it’s hard to frame well in so few words.

    1. Maud

      That would be much easier to fill in, definitely. But I’d probably fill the rest of the page with qualifications and provisos.

  2. Gwendy

    Oh I like this a lot. My 5.5 yr old is doing the retreating thing at the moment. He has been invited to two girls birthday parties over the next week – lots of his boy class mates going too – but he has refused point blankly to go to either. He’s shy and still finding himself too.

  3. Jennifer Thorson

    I think all of the traits that can drive you crazy at four and a half will serve her well. No boy will take advantage of her, no guidance counselor or college professor will deter her. She will storm through life demanding her due. It will be glorious. Sure, there’s a lot of parenting between here and there, but I am confident that she’ll turn out very well in the end.

  4. Joanna

    I think you’ve seen through that form…..They’re trying to find out about the parents rather than the child. I think you’ve passed with flying colours!

    1. Maud

      I admit my role in the nursery school last year meant I got to see everyone’s forms, though I didn’t have time to read them in depth. But some parents give one-word answers and some type up a whole extra page of information. You can’t help but come to a few conclusions. 🙂

    2. Jennifer Thorson

      I do short answers for two reasons:

      1. I’m lazy.

      2. Unless my child has extraordinary needs I think the school can handle it without my help. I picked the school for that reason.

      and a bonus reason: My kid at school will be different from my kid at home. No one believes that Bird talks all the time at home, because he never talks at school. There’s no need to saddle the kid at school with the opinions of the parents at home.

  5. Looking for Blue Sky

    They never had forms like that “in my day” and it’s only 8 years since my youngest started school. Mostly they wanted to know name, address and date of birth! I let them discover the rest, and it can be amazing what they do discover! Sometimes talents I didn’t know they had 🙂 Hope all goes well for her x


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