Monday, November 24, 2014

What matters most

My daughter Hannah is one smart cookie. Developmentally, she's hit every milestone early, from walking and talking, to reading and writing. It's something that I love about her, and it makes me super proud in that obnoxious honor-roll-student-bumper-sticker-parent kind of way.

Last school year, Hannah was involved in a mixed abilities class as a typical peer, which means her class was composed mostly of kids with some sort of delay or anxiety and needed a little extra help. I explained to Hannah that her job was to be on her best behavior to help kids see how they were supposed to behave. She was supposed to be a leader.

Pretty early on I noticed that several of the kids got excited when she arrived for class. They'd wave excitedly and give her hugs and high fives when she'd approach the line. I also noticed that most of the positive comments that came home from school mentioned her helping a peer when they were sad, or being a good friend to someone in need. I thought it was nice, but then I didn't give it a second thought. I just kept pushing her to read, or write her letters better. I kept focusing on the state kindergarten standards so that when the time came she'd be ahead of the curve.

On her last day of class we were all invited to a party. Hannah picked a spot for us and I went and sat by her. Soon two other kids joined us. There wasn't enough room at the table so we moved and they moved with us, and we were joined by a third kid. I noticed this small group of kids seemed to gravitate to Hannah. It wasn't because she is on the ball, or super smart, or put together, or any of the things I'd hoped she'd be. It's because she is KIND. She is a good friend to them.

And I had one of Oprah's golden aha moments.

I've spent the last five years hoping she'd excel in life and essentially be perfect. I've gotten frustrated with her when she wasn't meeting my high expectations of her. I've thought of her as a reflection of me. I thought, if my kid was super obedient, or exceptionally well behaved then that must mean I'm doing my job, so when Hannah wasn't perfectly perfect I'd get embarrassed.

Apparently, this is an oldest child thing, because I haven't been that way with my second as much, and I don't think I'll be that way with my third. Also, maybe I'm just wound too tightly.

I've wanted her to be the best academically, but really, what I should have been wanting was for her to be kind and to be a friend. Thankfully, it seems that it is one of her inherent qualities, and my personal negligence in that department hasn't negatively impacted her. I became extremely emotional realizing my own mistake: missing her greatest asset and abilities. She is able to love, and be loved. She treats her peers with respect and kindness. She listens. She is fun. She cares about people, and what they have to say.

When Hannah is a grown woman nobody will remember that she walked at nine months old or she was reading at four years old, and nobody will remember the things she achieved in high school or college or in her chosen career. They'll remember how she treated them, and I hope she continues to be her same sweet, loving self. Hopefully she knows how much I appreciate the person she is. Even when I'm a little neurotic.

Alaina, Hannah, and Emma. They've known each other their whole lives, and are in the same kindergarten class.

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