I Flunked Kindergarten

I am in the midst of what I thought was a "new" stage of mothering. Recently I've observed that my children are questioning my competency as an adult.

Both my daughters have an unrealistic -- as I've concluded after talking to several other mothers and a therapist -- expectation of me. They want me to remember everything they tell me. And I mean everything. Here's a partial list of what they think I should retain:

  • The bell schedule at their schools (they go to two different schools at different times, with six classes each).

  • The names of all their teachers

  • The names of all their friends and many of their classmates (most of whom I've never met) and the anecdotes that go along with these friends

  • When all their tests and assignments are due

  • The plots of all the shows they have watched and told me about (not shows that I have actually watched)

  • Who is invited to what birthday party

  • Every social activity they have planned for the next month

  • Everything they need from the grocery store and Target

  • Which one of them biked to school today (which their supposed to do every day) and which needs a ride home. Okay, that one I really should remember.

When I don't remember these things, they call me an idiot. Not with their mouths, but with their faces. You parents understand what I'm saying. And I worry that they will have long-term psychological problems -- ranging from anxiety to codependency -- because I have not made them feel safe by providing a high-functioning mother at the helm.

I realize that this is all my fault. Not because I am failing at adulthood. Quite the contrary. My kids have a reliable schedule, a clean house, great food to eat, both ways and means to pursue their dreams and talents, and two parents who are emotionally attuned to them. In many ways I'm killing it.

My failure, if there is one, has been instead in the realm of confidence and bad self-talk in front of the kids. My fear that I'm failing, my own perfectionism, and the things I say out loud about myself are what has led them to believe I'm not competent. Too many times I have called myself lame, overwhelmed and forgetful in front of them, basically inviting them to judge me, and creating bad self-fulfilling prophecies.

My very qualified therapist also adds that they are in a developmentally appropriate stage in which children differentiate from their parents by finding fault with them. Phew.

Also, my first born is naturally extremely self disciplined (and also controlling, I would say if this wasn't on the internet). So she has been comparing herself to me since she was four and thinking she could maybe run things better, so we are not in a new stage after all. I'm not exaggerating. She is highly intelligent and successful in school, but it helps me to remember that she also lacks essential life skills and judgement (also developmentally appropriate) as evidenced by incidents like trying to power wash her upstairs bedroom window while failing to close any of the lower story windows first. That was fun.

I've been wrestling deeply with this issue of my competency, and today, God gave me a gift. He reminded me of a blog I wrote six years ago about how I "flunked" kindergarten, and rereading it now is revealing. Though I meant it to be humorous and self-deprecating, I see now in it something more like self-loathing and defeatism. Somewhere along the line, I decided that being disorganized and chaotic was part of my character -- genetic and unavoidable.

I've decided to lay this issue bare before both you, readers, and God. God, I believe, senses that I'm ready to believe something different about myself and help me change where change is necessary. I'm hoping first he starts with my mouth: that what comes out of it from now on is what I will start saying here: I am a good and attuned mother. My children can trust me. Their momentary opinions of me do not define me. And though I need God's power and strength every day to do it, I can teach them what they need to know to live well, because that is my heart's desire and in God's will for me.

Now, enjoy this blast from my past. Maybe it will give you a laugh, as I intended originally. But more so, I hope that if you find yourself in it, you too will feel empowered by God to become person who can give the ones you most love what they most need.

* * *

I flunked Kindergarten, so they are making me repeat it.

There goes my perfectionist nature again. I didn't flunk. In fact, on every report card, I received a "Needs Improvement" mark, which is not actually failing. But here I am, four years later, trying to improve.