Sweaty Palms at First Grade Orientation

Family Matters on 08.26.12
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Photo: Twix/ Creative Commons

Walking into first grade orientation, I felt like a sweaty-palmed middle-schooler. Will my daughter get invited to the birthday parties? Will the moms ask me to volunteer with them in the classroom?

As the kids found their desks and started filling out a scavenger hunt sheet, the moms circled. A clique of women embraced one another and kissed cheeks like they knew each other well. I wondered if their daughters were already "bffs."

In my own life, I could care less what people think of me. I seldom wear the right thing or say the right thing. But I lose my cavalier attitude when it comes to my daughter, because I want so badly for her to be accepted.

Maia struggles with anxiety. In kindergarten, she had difficulty speaking when called on or simply interacting with adults in school. I know that to other kids (and parents) some of her behaviors seem strange.

Last year, we had a few massive playdates, as suggested by her kindergarten teacher, to help Maia feel comfortable with her classmates in a setting outside the school. The kids couldn't believe how differently Maia acted at home, dancing, singing and being silly. Her classmates were unfiltered, honest and kind, and they helped her to open up in the classroom.

I found the "mommy scene" trickier to navigate. At this age, parents are brokers of their children's time. Moms were likely to ask their friends and their friend's kids to go on playdates to the movies and the playground.

A pecking order exists among the moms at school. There are stay-at-home moms who volunteer at the school a lot (and I think maybe go to yoga together) and moms who work full-time and are seldom in the classroom during business hours. I am thankful that women exist in my daughter's school on both ends of this spectrum. 

But I have one foot in both worlds. I write and teach 2-3 days a week and then do as much as possible with the kids on my days at home (in addition to cleaning, errands, paying bills, correcting papers and blogging). I don't have time to make and maintain social connections with the moms in my daughter's class, but I don't want her to miss out because of that. 

The moms I have connected with at school made it a point to be friendly and inclusive. I think all of us would say we want our kids to be friendly and inclusive too. But as I'm learning, it's hard to practice what you preach.

I don't want kids and parents to prejudge my child. I want them to give her a chance. So I have to do the same mom-wise. I am going to make a point to say hello to as many moms as possible this year (randomly, in the hallways), even if they don't seem friendly at first. Because I realized as I was standing there scowling at the circle of moms who knew each other at first grade orientation, I probably didn't look too friendly either.

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