I’ve missed her all day. All day, I have looked forward to picking her up after school and feeling her little arms wrap around my waist with the biggest hug. All day, I have been thinking that if the weather stays this pretty, we’ll play outside when we get home. Maybe we’ll even have time to go to the pool if traffic isn’t too bad. I walk in and see her sitting at the little table, and my heart just floods with pride. For a moment, I watch her undetected. My precious girl. The sweet little upturn of her nose, the bright eyes, the ponytail all askew from a day full of play. In that moment, she is perfect.
Then she sees me, and all hell breaks loose. “Mama, I got on yellow.”
I remember being in second grade. I was in Mrs. Simon’s class in A Hall. I could still find that classroom with my eyes closed, if you asked me to. I remember the smell of the floor polish and the feel of my fingertips on the desk. I remember one day in particular VERY clearly. I was chatting with my friend next to me, and Mrs. Simon asked me to stop. On that particular day, my conversation was just too good to end it there. When she looked away, I defied everything I knew was good and right in my young world, and I continued to talk. Of course I got caught, and I was told to move my clip to from green to yellow.
I remember so clearly that walk of shame to the conduct chart. I remember moving my clip with trembling fingers, knowing that my life was surely over. I was no longer on the “good list,” Christmas was cancelled effective immediately, and I lived in fear for the rest of the school day. I had defied my teacher. I had disobeyed. I was devastated. When my mom finally picked me up that afternoon, she didn’t even HAVE to fuss at me, I was so ashamed of myself. I never, not ONCE in my entire elementary school career, had to move my clip ever again. I am a rule follower. I live a quiet life, I don’t like to rock boats, and I definitely don’t like to defy authority.
And years later, along came my darling girl to shake me to the very foundation.
Now, some of you may be thinking … it’s just yellow, what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that I’ve been dealing with this since she was in Pre-K4. My fiery girl has a will of iron and a mouth to match. Following the status quo is not exactly her forte.
We lucked out in Pre-K3 with an incredible teacher who, in all honesty, no one will ever compare to. Pre-K4 brought me to my knees with the constantly negativity. We started Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with the most amazing doctor, and despite making strides at home and in therapy, school continued to be an issue. Age four was the year of the smiley-face chart, and there were far more frowns than smiles on both her paper and my face.
Kindergarten was better. She had a teacher who cared enough to understand her and work with her but around Christmastime, that dreaded smiley chart came back school-wide and I spent the spring semester slowly spiraling, dreading car line every day, knowing that my child’s worth had been determined yet again by a series of smiley faces.
Now we’re at a new school. The smileys may be gone, but they’ve been replaced by a rainbow color chart spanning from pink at the top all the way down to red.
Since the beginning of first grade, my darling girl has never spent a day at green or above. The smiley faces, the main source of my anxiety, may be gone … but they’ve been replaced by my new nemesis, Roy G. Biv. And here I sit, seeing mostly red, because my child can’t stay on green. Something’s gotta give.
Before we get too far into the school year I’m trying to get myself in check. Trying to remember the good days … trying to remember that the most important thing in the world is feeling those little arms around me, and not the warm tones on the spectrum.
This year I’m doing my best to stop equating my child’s worth to her color on the conduct chart.
And while my child may never reach pink … her favorite color, the color of her bedroom, the color of the sky when there’s a gorgeous sunset, she’s worth more than pink.
She may never have a purple day. Purple, the color of her favorite grape popsicles, the LSU Tigers, or a bouquet of hydrangeas. But she’s worth more than purple.
Maybe she’ll have some blue days, like the sky on those perfect summer afternoons spent at the pool. Blue is beautiful, but she’s worth more than blue.
She is worth more than any combination of green, yellow, and orange.
And while she might end up on red more times than I’m comfortable with before this year is over, I just have to keep telling myself she is worth more than red.
She’s my perfect daughter. And she is worth more than any conduct chart.