On Saturday morning Adeline’s school had a little graduation ceremony for the Kindergarten students. Every classroom was invited to attend and they all had a couple songs to sing. Addie’s class – the two to three year olds – was going to sing two songs.
The teachers told us about it a couple weeks ago and I was really excited. But also, I had a suspicion that she wouldn’t want to get up and sing when the time actually came. See, she’s been really clingy lately. Probably because we’re moving and she’s about to be a big sister. Changes are afoot that she doesn’t really understand. Hell, I’m nervous and anxious about it and I’m doing it all voluntarily and with full understanding. It makes sense that she’s a little scared and confused.
So I thought maybe we should just skip it. But she seemed excited about it and I didn’t want to take away the opportunity. So we woke up early on Saturday morning, piled into the car and drove to the graduation.
As soon as we walked into the hall I knew I was right: it was crowded and noisy and she made me pick her up and then buried her head in my neck. But I took her over to where her class was gathered and tried to convince her to sit with them. She refused. So I sat there with her and when the time came for them to go on stage, I tried to convince her to go on stage. She still refused.
I did my best to stay positive and she sang the songs on my lap and even did the little motions (the songs were The Wheels on the Bus and Skidamarink-a-Dink). Halfway through the second song she was so happy and excited that she jumped out of my lap and made her way to the stage. But right as she was about to go on, the song ended. I just about cried.
But she turned around happily and ran back to my lap. So I kept the smile on my face and clapped along with her.
When it was all over, though, I felt miserable. Had I done the right thing? Should I have pushed her harder? Should I have made her get up there? Or was I right to just let her do it her way? There was one little girl whose parents did force her to go up. And she cried hysterically the entire time. I mean, she just stood there balling her eyes out on stage, her little hands shaking, while the rest of her class sang. Honestly, it made me uncomfortable. I wanted to get up there and hug her, the poor thing. I wouldn’t want to do that to Addie. But I still felt confused.
A friend recently finished her training as a Suzuki instructor, so I asked her about it. She said that it’s an issue they talk about in training and that the general logic is this: if the child just needs a nudge to get up there and once they’re up there they will have fun, then you should give them that nudge. But if they’re going to get up there and be miserable, you should let them say no.
Although I didn’t put it to myself in so many words, that’s what I was instinctively doing. I tried to remind her how excited she had been about it and I asked her, wouldn’t she have fun up there with all her friends? I wanted to make her see that she would have fun if she did it. But when she still told me she wouldn’t have fun, I let her stay with me.
But I guess the problem was that even though she was saying no, I didn’t really know where on the spectrum she was. I didn’t know if she just needed the nudge to get up there and have fun, or if she would end up crying on the stage just like that other little girl. And absent good information about how she felt, I was left to my own devices.
I was left with my own fear of putting too much pressure on her – my fear of making her do things she doesn’t want to do. And that fear was counter-balanced by my anxiety that I was letting the fear scare me into not pushing her enough; that I was letting my own insecurities make me a bad parent.
I know it sounds extreme. It was just two songs at a silly Kindergarten graduation that she most likely won’t remember either way. I’m probably making too much of it. But I think the bigger fear is that I’ll have the same problem in the future. That I still won’t know what’s best when she’s older and the stakes are higher.
That I’ll either put too much pressure on her and leave her feeling miserable, or I’ll be too lax and let her give up too easily, leaving her disappointed and unable to push herself. Because if I can’t get the little stuff right, how can I possibly get the big stuff right?
This is all from two songs at a Kindergarten graduation. In other words, parenting is really freaking hard. Especially with these pregnancy hormones making everything seem more emotional than it is. So tell me: what would you have done?