I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
October 29, 2012
Punky is eight now, and in the third grade. She’s transitioning from little girl to big kid and lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time gently helping her to unravel the complexities of her life, as she struggles to figure out the social order and her place in it. Listening to her stories, I’m starting to see traces of cliques forming, popularity beginning to be established, and mean girls doing their thing and hurting other kids’ feelings. It’s tough to think of the things my daughter is going to have to endure over the next few years, and I know it’s only going to get tougher.
I have worried this school year that my daughter, who still wears pigtails, believes in Santa Claus and finds boys about as appealing as two-week-old trash, would start to be teased by the girls in her grade who are more, shall we say, “emotionally developed.” But my fears were relieved after I went to a class publishing party last week. The students had been working on personal narratives, and parents were invited to come and listen to the kids read their stories aloud.
To be honest, I was sort of dreading sitting through the life stories of 21 eight and nine-year-olds. I was still getting over a bad cold, I had a persistent tickle in the back of my throat, and my head felt like it was stuffed full of cotton. Attempting to sit quietly and listen to the narratives of a bunch of kids sounded like mild torture. I squirmed uncomfortably in my child-sized seat as the first girl went to a chair at the front of the room, sat down, and began to read a story about her grandparents. She told us of trips to Mamaw and Papaw’s home, where she’d help bake cookies and listen to stories on their broad front porch. “I love my Mamaw and Papaw more than anything in the world,” she finished. “We are very close. If my Mamaw and Papaw died, I would never be happy again.” I felt a lump begin to form in the back of my throat. Oh Lord. This was definitely not what I had expected.
Then another boy went to the chair to read us the story of his little brother’s birth. His narrative was laced with charming details, like knowing that his mother was having a boy because the baby in the ultrasound photo didn’t have a bow on its head. “Today, my brother is four,” the boy finished. “He’s a lover of trains and a good friend. And I love him very much.” The lump in my throat got bigger and my eyes began to water. Who knew third graders could make a person so… emotional?
A boy with Down’s Syndrome stood up next. I held my breath in anticipation. This sweet boy had been in Punky’s kindergarten class a few years earlier, and had started that year barely able to speak, much less read. On this day, though, he sat confidently in the chair at the front of the room, held up his paper, and read his entire story aloud. As he finished and the parents cheered, it was all I could do to hold back a few loud sobs. To see a child overcome obstacles and come so far… Well, it was a little bit overwhelming. I fanned my eyes as the next girl went to the front of the room.
“This story is about my teddy bear,” she began. “My daddy gave me my teddy bear and I love it a lot. When my daddy died, I looked at my teddy bear and I cried. Now, I hold my teddy bear and rock it like a baby and I hug my teddy bear tight.” As she went on, I fought back an urge to slither to the floor and lie there, beating the ground and sobbing at the unfairness of it all. Mercifully, the girl finished her story and calmly returned to her seat before I had an all-out breakdown.
I drew a few shuddering breaths, struggling to compose myself as the last child read a story that was, thankfully, simply about being on an all-star baseball team. I realized, for one thing, that I could never be a teacher and endure these bittersweet stories day after day after day. I would be a total wreck, ugly crying at my desk every time I had to grade their daily journals.
The other thing I learned that day was that for all the budding talk of boyfriends, Justin Bieber, and popularity that I’m beginning to hear about after school, I don’t need to worry for my daughter just yet. Her classmates are all progressing at different levels, academically and socially, but there was such sweet support in that room for each child, whether it was the girl who got a case of nerves and stumbled through her story or the boy that wrote about his favorite stuffed animal and the way it gets softer year after year. There was no judgment from the other children. No mockery. No whispers or giggles. Instead, there was acceptance and understanding. I’ve always believed that I was at my very best in those few short years just before puberty, and on this day, I was reminded of why. We could all learn a lesson from these children.
The time will come, of course, when these kids will begin to try on different personalities and we’ll have to figure out how to deal with the tangled web of hurt feelings and surging hormones and plain old growing up. But that time is not now.
And for that, I am grateful.
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also, sounds like a great school.
It is an AMAZING school! 🙂
Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!
What an awesome thing for parents to get to do. I would have been a mess too. I am sure Punky was so proud to have her mom there; after all, you are a writer too! She got to be just like mom 🙂 Prayers that our girls never grow up faster than they need to.
I am so grateful to be able to be at most of their school events. I’ve had to miss a few this year and last because of my job- Dennis has been able to go instead, but it still broke my heart a little…
I got all snuffly reading this… I hope my kids classrooms are as wonderful as Punky’s…
Me too! 🙂
awesome story, but what did Punky write about?
Finding her babysitter’s lost dog and returning it. LOL. She wants to be a pet detective when she grows up, so this was a VERY BIG DEAL!
This was beautiful! I loved hearing about all their little stories. I can’t wait for our kids to start daily journals.
We stumbled across the journals for my then 11 year old twins when I took them home for college. We laughed till we cried. Life is so sweet and innocent at that age.
Oh goodness. I would be a crying mess as well. So glad the kids are young and innocent. Being able to be accepted at face value is such a blessing.
[…] which more aptly describes the kind of mom I was over the summer), baking shit and doing crafts and going to school functions like this one, where I broke down shrieking and sobbing and had to be forcibly removed. […]