On our way to the Bruce Springsteen concert, we remembered our tickets were still on top the fridge back home. Another time I went to Bendigo for the day, and my handbag was still on the kitchen table. Aside from incidences like those, I’m usually pretty organised and reliable.
Like this morning. We slept in. It didn’t matter. I had porridge made for Maeve, a poached egg for Elsie, lunches for kinder and school packed in backpacks by the back door, all while giving orders, “Maeve – toilet. Elsie – shoes.” And then I sent them out to the car to strap themselves in to their carseats while I ran down the passage to get dressed.
I pulled up at kinder only 10 minutes late and opened the back door for Maeve.
Inside kinder, mat time and sharing were in full swing. And there was my third mistake for the day. Sleeping in was the first. Forgetting the backpacks, the second. (And yes, we could say the girls should have remembered them, but my request to ‘go and get in the car and strap yourselves in’ was urgent — at no point could it have been misinterpreted for ‘Okay my precious angels, well done on getting ready in ten minutes. If you think you have everything you need, then pop your backpack on and meet me in the car, I’ll be there in just a jiffy.’
When show and tell or sharing has already started, I don’t imagine it would be fun to be Maeve. Teachers can hardly interrupt the child who is talking about her new shoes to welcome Maeve. And I whisper to Maeve to go and take a seat on the mat, where the circle is full and there aren’t really any places to sit. And I head for the door and look back and smile and wave like a good mother.
We didn’t get to that point this morning. Maeve looked at the full mat, looked at me and burst into tears. Despite the efforts of the teachers, other kids, the parent helper and me, Maeve was inconsolable.
Maeve didn’t see, but the teacher would have seen not only Maeve crying for the first time this year, but tears in my eyes too. I’m strong like that.
‘It’s not like her,’ the teacher said. Did that mean take her home or leave her? What would she learn if I take her home when she cries? Or even if I sit on the mat with her for a while? What would she learn if I just walked away from where she was being restrained in a hug from another teacher, her arms outstretched as she cried for me?
I went and scooped her up and given that Elsie was waiting for me outside, I told the teacher that Maeve and I would take Elsie to school and that we’d be back.
Outside Maeve stopped crying immediately. In the car, Elsie asked Maeve why she was crying.
‘Because I’m so tired,’ Maeve said.
I said that Elsie is tired too but she still has to go to school. That people are tired all the time (I was a little tired when I said it actually) but they still have to live their lives. Dad’s tired but he still has to work on the farm. And that it’s not a choice to go to school or kinder or work. That they’re a part of life. But life is full of fun things. And you can’t miss out on them just because you’re tired.
And then as I pulled up at Elsie’s school, I turned to Maeve and blurted this out:
‘Here’s a choice for you, Maeve. You can go back to kinder and have fun with your friends, or if you’re that tired, you can have a sleep; you can come home with me, walk straight through the house and into your bed and you can stay there until you’ve had a sleep.’
I don’t know if that was right or wrong. It just came out. And so did her answer.
‘Okay, I’ll go back to kinder.’
I walked Elsie to her classroom which was empty, and then found the entire school in their Monday morning closed assembly, which we interrupted so Elsie could walk in and join her class.
On the way back to kinder, Maeve and I chatted about the play they were doing at kinder today and the marble painting and all the things that the teacher and I had talked about in the earlier attempts to change her mind and somehow turn her crying into great joy and anticipation of the fun to be had if she stayed.
We arrived back at kinder and she skipped ahead to the gate. Once inside, her friends met her at the door with an A4 sheet of paper that was a treasure map and they all ran off laughing and searching for gold as I stood at the door ready to say goodbye.
I drove home happy. I was happy that Elsie was outside kinder waiting that morning and there was no choice but to get her to school. That I took Maeve with me and we had the opportunity to talk about why she was crying and that right or wrong, I’d given her a choice and she chose to go back to kinder. And that she went back so happily that I didn’t even get to say goodbye.
I hope that she learned that it’s okay to be tired or upset, but that I’m here for her, that she can always talk to me and we can work something out together.
I’ll pick her up from kinder shortly and be sure to tell her how proud I am of that.
As for what I learned? If I got up earlier (I thought I’d already learned that lesson) and got her to kinder earlier, she could have chosen a spot on the mat with her friends and we would’t have interrupted sharing time. Or school assembly. I might have even seen the backpacks as I hurdled them to get out to the car pulling a jumper over my head that I picked up off the bedroom floor.
Is it just me or is it really hard to get up in the morning?