Published originally back in 2009 when Margaret was about to start middle school, this post reflects on her preschool days.
“Baker!” Three-year-old Margaret clutched her chest, staring at her five-year-old brother who himself was in the grips of laughter. They’d been playing hide-and-seek: Baker stone-still in a hidey hole just big enough to hold him, his little sister frantically seeking him out. Margaret, unbeknownst to me, had become increasingly convinced that Baker was lost forever.
“Baker!” She cried out when at last his giggles revealed him. “You scared my heart.”
Baker stopped laughing with admirable speed and reached for her, apologizing. She sunk into his arms, offering forgiveness. Then, eyes still shiny from tears unshed, she looked up at her big brother and said, “Now I’ll hide and you count, okay?”
As she ran off, Baker, charmed, came quickly over to me whispering, not for the first time, “Isn’t she just the cutest thing, Mommy?”
Cute. That’s our Margaret. Well, cute and not a little bit sassy.
Margaret’s sassy side made rules frustrating for her when she was in preschool. In her four-year-old class the teacher kept student names clipped to a color-coded continuum. Good behavior moved names up; misbehavior inched them down. Far too frequently, Margaret’s name found its way to the lower spectrum. I tried a variety of rehabilitation methods, with minimal success. Realizing how much Margaret loved her teacher, I tried a new tactic.
“Margaret, do you know what it means when your name is moved down?”
Margaret’s blue eyes gazed at me, waiting.
“It means you’ve made Mrs. Lynn very sad.”
Margaret’s face fell. She looked away for a minute, seeming to think the whole thing through a bit. Then, a smile taking over her countenance, she shook her blond curls from side to side. “No Mommy. That’s not what it means. It just means I was screaming!” She nodded, satisfied, and went on to tell me about her day.
The next year, Margaret went to Kindergarten. And she must have taken care of the whole rebellion thing back in pre-k, because she seldom broke a rule the whole time she was in elementary school (at least so far as you or I know). Her teachers said she was delightful, imaginative, an independent learner (nobody ever mentioned excessive screaming).
So I guess that means she’s ready for her next frontier: middle school. Still, as she grows out of childhood into the young woman she will become, I hope she keeps her spunky side: that part that says, “Wait a minute, let me think about this before I accept your opinion as truth.” And I hope she guards her heart. But when the day comes that she allows some boy other than her brother to scare her heart, may that luckiest of fellows be as gentle with this treasure of a girl as her big brother has been right from the start.
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. Proverbs 22:6 (NRSV)
Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 28 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.
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