that time I cried during "goin' on a bear hunt"


Summer is my time. Maybe it was growing up in the land of eternal summer (aka Florida), but I'm totally okay with 10 popsicles a day, the smell of sunscreen and running through sprinklers in the backyard, relaxed schedules and negotiable bedtimes- it's my very favorite.

This summer also feels special, because although as a teacher I've had many summer breaks, this is Jillian's first true summer break since she just finished kindergarten! I plan to teach her all the ways of popsicling and red cheeks from endless hours of playing outside.

Kindergarten was a growing experience- it really stretched her (mentally, emotionally and physically- the kid grew like 5 inches). I know the adjustment can be hard for a lot of kids, and it proved to be so for her as well. She needed me to walk her to her classroom every morning for about 3 months! But looking back, it felt good to be needed. It always does. By the end of the year she'd hop out of the car and meet up with other friends getting dropped off and they'd run in the front doors together, rarely looking back. I always give her a kiss before she went in and for a while she would say, "no time for kisses!" as she would rush to catch up with one of her buddies. I'd always make her stop anyway- because there is always time for kisses.

^with her teacher, Mrs. Mitchell

Throughout the school year her class put on several performances- Mother's Day, Christmas, grandparent's day, Daddy donut day...all of which involved some kind of singing or poem reciting. Jillian hates that kind of thing. I think it's a combination of her personality- she is shy by nature, combined with her struggles with sensory processing- but a room full of eyes on her doing something is too much for her to handle. She will either run off the stage crying, or refuse to go up at all. We figured this out pretty early on in her life, and I usually just go into those things with zero expectations. We've tried a lot of different things to help her get over her fears, but nothing has worked so far. So we've kind of backed off. If she isn't the kid that does the cute dance recitals, or the kid singing the loudest (or at all)- it's fine. We've learned to let her shine in other ways where she can still gain more confidence in herself.

During the last week of school the school had a dance festival where each grade level performed a dance for the parents and the rest of the student body- one of the biggest performances of the year. I debated even taking her- knowing she wouldn't want to do anything and thinking of trying to keep Olivia entertained for an hour outside in the heat while each grade level performed. But the night before, I told James that I always want the opportunity for her to try to be there, just in case.

Ever so ironically, when I woke up in the morning and was casually scrolling through my facebook feed before the girls woke up, my Time Hop showed me a blog post I'd written from the day where she completely melted down during her end of year preschool event- and I handled it horribly. It was a definite learning experience for me as a parent. I thought, "This is definitely a sign! She's not going to do anything, but we're going to go anyway and support her class and she can just watch."

All of the grades filed outside on the lawn behind the school. All the kindergartners had on safari hats and binoculars crafted out of toilet paper tubes- their dance was "Going on a Bear Hunt". I snapped a picture of her sitting with her class waiting to perform because I was sure that was the only chance I'd have to do so. As each grade level performed, the parents' of students in that grade would go closer to the front, crouching down with their phone in hand to get a close up recording of the performance. When kindergarten walked up, I decided I would just stay in my seat since I knew there wouldn't be anything to record anyway (but maybe her running towards me in terror). But when Jillian actually walked out with them, I thought...well this is new. And inched my way towards the front, curious about how this was going to play out.

Jillian moved from the back of the group to the front row. As the music started, she started. She was DOING IT!

And then, behind my sunglasses, tears started to roll down my cheeks. I mean, I AM enormously pregnant so there ARE lots of extra hormones going on over here, but I think I would have regardless. She performed the entire song- on the front row, in front of the entire school.
I was as flabbergasted as I was proud, and I couldn't wait to tell her just how proud of her I was.

Do I think this will happen every time from now on? No. Definitely not. But do I think it was a heck of a confidence builder for both of us? Definitely. We'll take the wins where we can. It validated my approach to all of this with her fears about performing- not forcing her to do it or shaming her for not doing it, but at least always giving her the opportunity to try.

And now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, we'll be jumping into all-day first grade next year. I know it will come with new challenges for her and I'll keep messing up this parenting thing as we go, but I also can't wait to see more of those growing moments- in her and in me. 

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