Normally on this date I write something mushy and sentimental about the most wonderful event that has occurred in my short life.
I started it not so beautifully, being sick, but the enthusiasm of one very tall and very beautiful 5 year old was pretty infectious. She loved her presents which she opened with an excitement that was palpable while I finished icing her cupcakes. As I was still feeling pretty under the weather I decided to take the day off to recuperate and looked forward to being able to drop my Elfling off at school at her classroom with a box of iced pink cupcakes (because there is no other colour).
The Elfling was already hyped, but me being there was making her fairly radiate joyfulness in her new strawberry hair clips and perfect pigtails as she bounded up to her teacher to tell her "it's my birthday! And my Mummy's here!" to which she was told tersely to stand in line. I was a little bit stung for her, but being told to stand in line didn't dampen her in the slightest as her friends buzzed excitedly around her as she mentioned the magic words of "birthday" and "cupcakes". I gave her a kiss and watched her skip off barely managing to keep inside her skin while I had whimsical flashbacks to a tiny little baby in my arms.
Managing not to vomit on the way to the shops I did some grocery shopping as well as to buy some desperately needed mylanta before heading home and instead of going to bed (which I really should have) I set about making a Dolly Varden cake. All pink icing with rosewater essence to make it as princessy as I could. Pink sparkle candles at the ready, and at 2:30pm on the dot I went to pick her up again.
I loved birthdays as a child and I was determined to make them as special for my baby girl who puts up with so much and is so sweet and lovely. When she saw me outside her classroom her already luminescent skin brightened and she hopped up and down excitedly on her bottom as she waited to be allowed to leave the classroom to see me and tell me about her special day. Realising that the caketins were still in her classroom I went back in to pick them up and was greeted by her teacher - a young and enthusiastic looking new grad. Expecting to be told what a lovely birthday she had had, I was surprised when she looked away from me to the Elfling and asked her to go sit down. She then turned to me and started a discussion about "behavioural issues". All my "picking up my fairy and enjoying a special afternoon together" thoughts became muddled as I tried to listen to what the teacher was telling me.
"blah blah blah defiant blah blah blah disobedient blah blah blah long days blah blah blah time out on her birthday blah blah blah mothers working long hours "
At this stage I was blinking back tears. My Elfling on her birthday, I was not being told one positive thing, but instead reams of stories of her being cheeky and defiant. She giggles with her friends during group time, she needs to be told more than once to clean up after herself, she doesn't seem to listen, children with parents who work long hours often have issues... I couldn't understand. She has been in formal kindergarten for 2 years and I have had regular meetings with her teachers who have fallen over themselves to tell me how bright and giving she is. I have never before had a teacher have an issue with her behaviour, except for being tardy at tidy up time.
I was dismissed with a directive to talk to her about it tonight. Tonight. Her Birthday. I managed to get to the car before I brought it up shakily with the Elfling, hating myself for spoiling this rare time with just the two of us. She was confused too, but was telling me about how she loves school and her friends and tries to be good. About how everyone runs around but that she is the one that gets sent to Time Out with me explaining that it doesn't matter what everyone else does (and trying to squash the urge to get upset with her) but that she has to listen to her teacher.
By the time I got home, between being sick, being tired, being hormonal and being blindsided I was a tearful mess which had her in tears too (yay for great parenting moments). I tried to talk it through with her but still can't see anything major in her behaviour that warranted this. So I sought outside help. I talked to the wonderful Shannon on
msn, knowing that she both knows the Elfling and that she has experienced the politics of school and let her give me some words of advice.
Then later I called Mum and Dad, who I may have mentioned before are teachers. Beyond that they are also trained specifically as early childhood teachers (further diploma) and so are well versed in the new Prep curriculum, and having actually had the Elfling stay with them before I knew they could give me their professional opinion. I started talking to Mum and she was immediately as surprised as I was, letting me describe the conversation and not really interrupting much. When I got to the bit about working mothers there was suddenly an outburst at the other end as my Dad (who had been listening on the other line) exploded in disbelief and went on a bit of a rant.
I ended up defending her teacher as they both went on a bit of a warpath and asked immediately if she was a new teacher because she evidently had no clue. By this time I was choking out words and sobbing out others which obviously was also upsetting my parents because as far as they are concerned I do. not. cry. To the point that Dad was threatening to call the school himself to speak to the teacher and ascertain exactly what the problem was. A thought I appreciated, but that didn't stop me blubbering away into my simmering risotto.
I have a desperate fear of being one of "those" parents, one that believes that no-one understands their truly heinous child while everyone else rolls their eyes. I've obviously been brought up to respect teachers and as much as I adore them I am not blind to my children's faults. I know that the Elfling is vague and scatterbrained and that when excited she is like the Energizer Bunny and cannot. sit. still. But she only turned 5 today, and when I have read through the curriculum for Prep, I never believed that she would have an issue. I would certainly not have described her as having a "behavioural problem" and aside from the occasional moments of tired self pity, I have never before seen or been able to find a negative impact on my baby of having a mother who works.
But today that was shattered and I can't stop crying. Every single person I have talked to, those that are invested and those that are not cannot understand the problem and tell me I'm not deluding myself that I have a sweet and lovely well behaved child. But I still can't shake the depression and the conviction that I have severely fucked it up. That I am "that" parent. That in spite of all her friends and how well she seems to be coping that she is "that child".
Today is traditionally the anniversary of the proudest day of my life. And yet, today it feels like the smallest.