Yesterday I dropped Ava off at our Community Centre for a three hour craft class. She went to a card class a few weeks ago, and was excited about the chance to go to this one, where they were making an accordion photo album. There was a girl from her Grade Two class in the first one she went to, but when I dropped her off for this longer class, every girl was at least three years older than Ava.
She didn't pause or hesitate when we walked in, but after scanning the room we both knew that there wasn't anyone her age, and only one girl in Grade Five that she really knew. Ava chose a seat by her, and took her coat off, and began sorting her photos (predominantly of the kittens) while I hung around for a few minutes, hesitant to leave my daughter in a room full of older girls who were giggling and talking to each other.
It's hard to let go of our school-age kids. When they are preschoolers, and home with us, we are the centre of their world and can control most of what happens to them. This is not the case when they go to school, and lessons, and craft classes where they have to find their way without you to guide them.
I know in my head that it's important for our kids to find their way socially. For the rest of their lives, they need these skills to make it in any new setting. That head knowledge doesn't always help when my heart squeezes because I don't want my beloved child to be hurt, or feel ostracized, or left out for any reason. I have to believe that she will be fine, and that it's important for her to find ways to fit in and feel comfortable, and she won't learn anything if I smooth the way for her every time.
The world is a big and frightening place, and as parents we must keep the main goal front and centre as our priority, and that is to take a dependent child and turn them into an independent adult. This is my plan, and my ambition, and my dream for my kids: to see them transformed into healthy, giving, functional adults who don't need me to be able to make it in the world. To get there they need to feel uncomfortable, and unsure, and experience pain from time to time. I cannot intervene in that process, or I run the risk of taking something critical away from them.
It's just easier said than done. As philosophies go, I agree wholeheartedly, but the challenge comes in walking it out in real life. When I picked her up, after feeling low-grade anxiety for the duration of the class, I was relieved and thrilled to hear her glowing report. She made new friends, and shared laughs and memories with girls who are no longer strangers to her. She was worried and unsure when she walked in the room, and confident and happy when she walked out. That's the goal, and it was achieved yesterday, even if we both had to grow a little to get there.