At the beginning of the school year, Bee's signature was a wobbly scrawl, full of extra lines and the special flourishes that only a 4 year old can imagine in a printed name. I had to write the ‘s’ for her to copy, the fat curves confounding in her tiny hands. The people she drew were big splotches with splotchy heads and huge grins, which always gave me assurance that she was as happy as the people she drew.
I worried about the start of school – oh my lord, I worried. I worried that she would have trouble using the bathroom by herself. I worried that she wouldn’t be able to get her snowpants sorted by herself. I worried that her teacher would be too busy with all the other kids to be able to see the truly wonderful, generous, sweet spirit that my daughter possesses. I worried that I would be left out of the loop. I worried that her gentle spirit would be crushed by her first foray into institutionalized learning and that the Pavlovian cues she would be expected to abide by would turn her into a socialized automaton or worse! – a conventional thinker.
Turns out, I needn’t have worried. She has loved it. Every sit-in-the-circle, please-be-quiet, raise-your-hand, now-go-play second of it. She has discovered the art of making friends and cereal box robots. She has learned the words to O Canada and Three Little Birds. She likes rules and enforcing them, and her favourite days are the ones where she gets to hold the octagonal ‘Quiet Please!’ sign during the announcements, quick and eager to flash it in the direction of the tiny bodies that have a harder time keeping their hands and their mouths still. The recidivism rate does not look good, but that’s ok with my daughter, who realizes that the fun of being the enforcer ends if there’s nothing to enforce.
And as my daughter has discovered things about herself and her world, I have discovered many things about her. The boys love her (uh oh), and so do the teachers (phew). She can’t open the little Tupperware containers I bought in quadruplicate to send her snack in. She is better at remembering to send home, fill in and hand back forms than I am. Her musical tone and pitch is unbelievable. She doesn’t like the water table. She knows who Hannah Montana is. She is very, very good at thinking on her feet. (She told a boy that had not yet received an invitation to her birthday party that his was ‘in the mail.’) She made a set of pan flutes but always calls it a kazoo. She hugs everybody.
Her first year of school, Junior Kindergarten, is coming to an end. Bee has an end of year party, a beach day and a pizza snack to look forward to before she discovers what summer break is. Next year, Senior Kindergarten is, to my relief, supposed to be in the same class with the same teacher and many of the same kids. I’m sure this continuation of a familiar routine is as much for the parents as it is for the students – we’re both still getting used to this new life 10 months of the year.
And I’m still getting used to the differences in my daughter as the completion of her first year of school draws near. I’m still getting used to the independent, clever little thing that thankfully still bounds towards me with as much enthusiasm as she bounds away from me with.
And her signature has grown as sturdy and confident as she has. I don’t need to help her with the ‘s’ anymore and her splotch-people have evolved into stylized characters complete with clothes, sunglasses, hair and hoofs/fingers/hands. They are more controlled sketches often in contextualized settings. But the smiles haven’t changed – the smiles are just as big, just as secure, just as open. I hope they always are.