School days

The lils very first exposure to formal schooling was at a small primary school in India. Woo entered the equivalent of junior kindergarten, and Goose into a pre-K. It was a very formal setting, especially in contrast to the small, home-based day care they had just left behind in Canada. Woo dove in right away, but Goose struggled. She loved the school, her teachers, the learning, and the structure, but she hated leaving her mama every day. I watched and worried, and it faded in time. Over the course of the year, she continued to hate goodbyes, staying with me for as long as she could, quite often clinging to me. She was a quiet and shy girl who had a great deal of difficulty breaking in with other children.

Things got easier when we returned to Canada. The lils hated the play-based curriculum in Ontario, but they adjusted. We were lucky to have a small school with great teachers and many friends, so they were quickly comfortable. Goose still put up a fight when leaving me in the mornings, which led to a routine where she would hover near me in the yard. She would leave my side to play with friends as long as I was within sight and I gave her the appropriate number of hugs and kisses right before she went into the school.

The fall before we came to California, Goose made great strides towards independence. She would happily run to her friends when we arrived in the schoolyard, shedding her previous hesitation. Then we up and moved. The adjustment in California has been difficult. We assumed that the lils would be in the same school but there was no room for him in her school, and for her in his. Grudgingly, they started last year in different schools. Not what we wanted, not what they wanted.

The first months were rocky at times, the lils not able to break into existing friend groups, dealing with new curriculum and teaching styles, and mostly just missing the comfort of their school at home. Woo came around first, largely because his teacher was excellent and he made a couple of really good friends. He ultimately decided that he wanted to stay at the new school, even though it was far from home and a space had opened up Goose’s school. We were happy and made it work.

Goose’s adjustment took a long time. She had an excellent teacher but she was somewhat afraid of her for the first few months. The other children were nice enough, but it took a really long time for her to find her tribe. School drop-offs were where this was most evident. Goose didn’t want to leave my side until the bell rang, and always looks sad when I left. It wasn’t until the final few weeks of school that she found her people. I knew it was all going to be OK when she came home from school one day talking about the new friends that she ate lunch with. In her own words, they were like her, shy and quiet. I’m not sure anything was ever said in this group during lunches or recess, but she was delighted to have found them. On the second last day of school we arrived in the yard and she freely left my side to go with one of her new friends. I almost cried, because I knew she was happy.

Over the summer she saw some of these new friends, and was delighted to learn that three of them would be in her class this year. We arrived on the first day and she greeted them as excitedly as they greeted her. She went into her new classroom with no hesitation, and didn’t even glance back to make sure I was still there. On the second day she left me in the yard to wander and chat with one of her friends. I let out a small sigh of relief, knowing that it was gonna be OK. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time.

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