Before becoming a parent myself, the idea of Helicopter Parents seemed ludicrous to me. While I still find the actions of these parents over the top, the temptation to be that way is much more understandable as a mother, myself, now. When the time came for Little Buddy to begin Kindergarden at an Elementary School, I wondered how his teacher would know about him and his precious personality and idiosyncrasies and just who he was as a little guy. This was his introduction to the academic world and I wanted it to be perfect. I didn't want to come off as that Helicopter Parent, doing for my child when he needed to learn to do on his own, or covering up for his mistakes with excuses. I wanted to write a letter, but I didn't want to just offer it and put the teacher and me off to a bad start from day one. God heard my heart's pleadings. After our initial meeting with his teacher, we received a 'homework assignment' from her. To write a letter telling her about our child. Why yes, yes I can. I'm so glad you asked!
Today my Letter to my Children is to my Son. It is the letter I wrote to his first teacher for Kindergarden back in August. After you read this letter and view the accompanying images, please continue around our circle of photographers who are writing to their children as well. Next is my amazing and inspiring friend Ginger Unzueta.)
February 13, 2013
Dear Little Buddy,
You are the most amazing thing on this planet. I am so full of love for you I could simply burst. It feels like just yesterday you were newly learning how to speak. I found this video the other day while looking back for something and I cried. Truly, I cried. I love who you are today so much, but man, you were amazing then, too. (you were 2 and a half) You have grown into the most awesome little dude. I cannot wait to see what the next five years of your life brings for us.
You are six months into your first year of school, and you have done so remarkably well. Your daddy and I are so very proud of you. You have adapted to the challenges and restrictions that being in a classroom bring like a champ. You demonstrate maturity and leadership to the other students. But you are still so very much fun. I wanted you to know what we wrote to your teacher at the start of the school year. I cannot wait to see how the end of the school year brings about more change in you.
Love, your momma
Written August 13, 2012. A letter to his Kindergarden teacher at the start of the school year.
Dear Mrs. Bounds,
In October of 2006, we named him Nathan Andrew. Nathan means “Gift from God” and Andrew means “strong, manly, courageous, warrior”.
It won’t be long before he turns six. Several times a week, his daddy, Shawn, and I marvel towards each other just how amazing and how much fun our children have become as they have grown older. One of my parenting goals is for my children to be a blessing to those they encounter. Nathan is most certainly a blessing to me on a daily basis, and it is my sincere hope that he be a blessing to you this year, as well as his classmates.
Nathan loves blue. Camouflage. Grilled cheese. Sunflower Seeds. Hot (lukewarm) chocolate. Blue Gatorade. Popcorn. Ice cream. Mayonnaise. Swimming. Capturing and observing creatures. Bugs. Snakes. Dirt. Mud. Ocean creatures. Dinosaurs. Basketball. Exploring the coast. Going without a shirt. Watching learning nature shows like National Geographic LIFE (we’ve called them ‘animal videos’) or Dinosaur documentaries. Staying up late with mom and dad. Playing chase. Being read to. Helping his dad fix things. Just recently playing Super Mario and Mario cart on the Wii. Watching the tv shows River Monsters, Call of the Wildman, and the Olympics (particularly beach volleyball, swimming, track, gymnastics and synchronized diving). Riding with the windows down.
He can swallow pills. He has started to learn how to read. He can run a mile without stopping. He can make himself burp (and we are working on when that is and is NOT appropriate! Sorry!!!). He can find a stick and a spot of mud absolutely anywhere we go. He can put holes in the knees of his pants before you can blink your eyes.
Nathan dislikes failing. Ranch Dressing. Sauces of any kind. Beans. Rainy days (unless I let him splash in the puddles).
Nathan is a sweet, compliant, intelligent, logical, all-boy little guy. He craves physical affection at home, but seems to shy away from it from others not in our family. He loves to learn, just like his parents. He is the first-born pleaser all the way.
We often joke that Nathan is a little mini-me. It is quite remarkable how similar our personalities are. He has inherited the inability to make decisions or choose a favorite. When asked and pressed, he will always answer “both”. He simply cannot choose. He does not know how to handle good attention and embarrasses easily when praised. He will hold his tongue to the side of his mouth and stick it out awkwardly when he feels this way. We think he soaks in the praise and encouragement, but he just doesn’t know how to respond or behave.
He has also inherited my perfectionism (very much so). As soon as his little sister Cora was born, he moved into the first-born, obedient, compliant, pleaser role. He is a rule follower and a listener. He does what he is told and doesn’t require a lot of follow up or reminding (most of the time). I can trust him totally. But with that comes the extraordinary pressure he places on himself to never, ever, make a mistake. This has worsened over the last few months, unfortunately. Despite our efforts to reassure him that he isn’t perfect, we aren’t perfect, that no one is perfect… that we don’t expect him to never make mistakes, his little spirit is wholly crushed when he does, even really minimal silly things. He bursts into tears which he desperately tries to hide, withdraws into himself and prefers to hide his face, whether that is burying it in my shirt or covering himself with a blanket. He cannot face the fact that he failed. Being a perfectionist myself, I understand his pain. We are working to break down those barriers so that perfectionism doesn’t paralyze him or discourage him.
We’ve battled this in many areas because he doesn’t want to do something he cannot do perfectly from the first try. We just keep encouraging him that doing things well requires practice for everyone, and that we don’t give up. We just keep trying and trying.
Nathan has always been a “thinker”. He continues to think about things well after the conversation is over and tries to put things together logically. He needs for things to make sense to him. This was very challenging for me with discussions about God and Jesus. At 3 he was emphatic and persistent in asking why can’t SEE God, why we can’t SEE Jesus, where IS Heaven, HOW do we get there? The questions that there aren’t definitive answers to or that wouldn’t make logical sense to a 3 year old… he would NOT let go of these. It is a relief that he’s at least been able to let go of needing to make sense of those things for now and we can talk about God and Jesus without such inner turmoil. His preschool teacher even told me that he defended God vehemently to an atheist little boy in his class last year!
However, Nathan is also shy. While he may have questions or have things to add to a conversation in a school like setting, he won’t speak up to ask or add them. He stands back and keeps to himself, or at least this was his behavior last year at his preschool pre-K class. His teacher did give us the feedback that he does not succumb to peer pressure (at least yet). That when the other children were engaging in something they knew was wrong or against the rules, he would withdraw himself and not go along.
Something we have noticed is that Nathan loves to BE pursued, but doesn’t understand that he must also pursue others. Some times last year he would lament that no one would play with him on the playground. We think the situation was more that Nathan wanted to play chase, and the other children wanted to play something else. He interpreted that to be that they didn’t want to play with him. We have been strongly encouraging him about give and take and that he must also do what other children like sometimes, too, and not just what he likes. We are trying to encourage him to be the one to initiate conversations and requests to play. This seems to be very difficult for him. I’m not fully sure why, but my guess is that it is fear of rejection.
Nathan likes to know what to expect, what is expected of him, and to have a script to work from. I have found it very helpful to role-play scenarios with him and giving him the words that are the right things to say. If he is unsure of the “perfect” thing to say/respond/ask, he just stands there mute and paralyzed. I remember feeling this way myself as a child, and I’ve tried hard to help him work through how to handle these scenarios, whether it is apologizing for an accident or asking someone to play.
Nathan recently stopped taking Karate from USA Karate in Boones Creek. We only stopped out of concern for being too busy with activities once the school year started – we want him to still get to BE 5 and have time to play. But Nathan took lessons twice a week for 1.5 years and loved it. We enrolled him mostly in an effort to boost his self-confidence. We are concerned that Nathan will be a likely target for a bully. We encourage him very much to stand up for himself. In situations with other children that we’ve been able to observe over the years, he lets himself get taken advantage of and doesn’t stand up for himself. If I’m present, he will often come to me and just tell me what happened, wanting me to fix it. I usually help him with the words he needs to use, but insist that HE be the only to solve the problem. He is very reluctant to do so. This is probably one of my biggest concerns about him starting school.
Nathan has struggled with fine motor skills some. We’ve worked very hard on holding a pencil the correct way. I never pushed activities when he was little, like blocks or pegs or legos, because he didn’t seem to like them. I later realized last year that it was his weak hand muscles that made it challenging, which made perfectionist him just quit. We are hoping that he’s overcome this and will be caught up with the rest of his class.
Nathan loves learning about things he is interested in and we’ve totally jumped on that. When something new comes up (like the cicadas last spring), we delve in and research. I’ve tried to be very hands on and he seems to like that. I’m not very sure whether his learning style is hands on, visual, auditory. I will be anxious to hear your thoughts on that. He does seem to like routine and structure.
Our goals for him for this year are for him to love school, to learn how to make friends, and transition and thrive in the more academic environment. We want him to be more grateful for what he has, become less self-centered, and more others focused and aware. We are excited to enter this new adventure in parenting.
Please continue around our circle of photographers who are writing to their children as well. Next is my amazing and inspiring friend Ginger Unzueta.