When you’re a parent, you’ve got to learn to let go. Not just when your kid goes off to sleep-away camp for the first time, or drives the car by herself. Long before that – you’ll need to let go early and often.
My daughter is in preschool. She’s four-and-a-half, well, four-and-three-quarters, really. She should be entering kindergarten this year, but she can’t. She’s got all the academic skills. She can write her name; she’s learning how to read and she can count and do simple math. She can sit still and pay attention, which is another big requirement, and she gets along with all the kids.
But my daughter, who will be five in November, isn’t old enough for kindergarten. According to the school district, she must turn five by August 31st. She can’t even test into school. In order to qualify for the early entrance test, she must turn five by October 31st. It doesn’t matter that she’s ready. It doesn’t matter that all of her friends are going to kindergarten. My daughter – my quick-witted, prodigy of a daughter – can’t get into school.
I can’t even express how angry I am at the school district. My daughter has to spend a third year in preschool. She started preschool at two-and-a-half. (I meant it when I said she was a prodigy.) I love her preschool. Her teachers are great and I’m sure they’ll find a way to challenge her, but it’s not kindergarten. She belongs in kindergarten.
I looked at the problem every way I could think of. Private kindergarten is too expensive; other districts have the same rules; and even if I did know someone who could forge a birth certificate, she knows her age and her birthday, so she’d spill the beans and I’d get arrested.
I failed to solve this problem, so I have to let it go. I’d like to say that I have let it go, but I haven’t. I’m still mad. That doesn’t matter, though, because my feelings aren’t going to change anything. I’m learning that I’m not really good at letting things go. I can’t even relinquish control over little things.
Lately my daughter’s been asking to help me in the kitchen. I love to cook, so I’m happy that she’s taken an interest in food. The other day we made cupcakes – not just any cupcakes — these had a chocolate fudge filling. They still came from a mix but they were a little more complicated than regular cupcakes. We had to spoon half of the batter into the cups, squeeze some filling into each cupcake, then cover it with the rest of the batter.
“I wanna put it in,” my daughter said, taking the batter spoon to fill the first cup.
“Okay,” I said, taking back the spoon. “Let me just show you how to do it.” I scooped up some batter and dumped it into the cup.
“I wanna do the next one,” she said.
“Okay,” I said, handing her the spoon. She scooped up a huge portion. “A little bit less than that,” I told her. She dumped the batter into the cup. “Okay, for the next one, take this much,” I said, grabbing the spoon again.
She grabbed the spoon back and took a very small portion. “Uh, a little bit more than that,” I said. She took a huge scoop. I took a deep breath.
After fifteen excruciating minutes of filling the cupcakes to various depths, it came time to squeeze the filling into them. I took the packet of fudge, cut off a corner according to the instructions, and showed her how to squeeze it into the cupcake. “You have to keep it in the middle,” I said. “It’s not supposed to touch the sides.”
I demonstrated with three cupcakes before she grabbed the packet. “I wanna do it!” she said. Of course. She started to squeeze. “Tut, tut, tut…Honey, not on the sides. Not on the sides!” She kept going. “That’s too much. You’ve got to leave some for the other cupcakes!” She kept going.
I started to say something, but I stopped. What made me think that cupcakes made by a four-and-a-half-year-old were going to come out perfect, or even right? Who was causing all the stress in that room? Me. I had to let go of my expectations for the cupcakes. I watched my daughter squeeze the rest of the fudge in, and you know what? It was cute. She didn’t get it right very often, but she was really doing it herself. And that’s what the whole activity was about. Or at least that’s what it should have been about. Just the two of us, making cupcakes.
I’ve got to let go of the school thing the same way. Of course, there’s a lot more riding on her education, but I’ve got to believe that everything happens for a reason. (Not absolutely everything. There are some things I just can’t rationalize.) Maybe she’ll get more individual attention at preschool than she would in public school. Maybe her education will go further than it would in a big classroom with one teacher. I don’t know, but I’ve got to tell myself something good will come of it. Until then, I’ve just got to trust that it’s for the best.