"Tonight is your last night as a five year old. And tomorrow?"
"I will be six."
"Are you excited?"
"Yes, but will ALL my teeth be loose tomorrow?"
For some reason, Sprite has placed all of her expectations for turning six on losing teeth. She watched friend after friend wiggle them out and cash them in throughout the lean year of five. Six must surely offer some dividends.
However, five had its own diamonds in the rough. It brought about changes unlike any Sprite has ever experienced before. Leaving behind the preschool she knew so well, the teachers that seemed to grow with her, spending her summer in a free-willed, yet loosely structured dance camp where there was no time to misbehave as long as there was a cool teenaged girl to follow around and mimic. (This also brought about a brief yet intense passion for Justin Bieber, the young one, not the old one, yes there is a difference.)
August introduced her to public school, a new teacher, a new set of rules, standards, people. She took it all in with a confident smile, making friends, crushing on the wild one, and obediently following directions with gentle guidance. "No, we don't yell for others to be quiet." "Sprite, please do not interrupt the others. Yes, I understand you're done with your work but they are not."
She quickly taught us all, teachers and parents, how readily she was absorbing the material now laid out in front of her. Books which had intimidated her throughout four and most of five, became easy challenges, morsels to be enjoyed and relished again and again, earning me some relief for my voice now that she has to share in story time.
Her little forays into the yellows and reds of the behavior color chart taught her how to spell and even punctuate the ever so necessary apology letters she was required to write whenever she came home with a note. Sight words became quick nightly spelling tests (without cheating) complete with sentences at the end. "I did not get a red today. I got a green!"
Yes, life was moving rather easily for our five year old.
...I really have no idea.
I'd like to say it all started right after Blue passed away. I kept waiting for her to fall off the emotional cliff, not able to keep my own tears away from the void whenever someone would mention her death. The tears and sadness never came. She merely pulled out her rest friend, a tri-color beagle which became known as "Blue, but not the real Blue. This is a fake one. The real one died."
Yeah, I'm still tearing up over it.
I had warned her teacher for the just in case moments. The clock kept ticking and none of the textbook moments happened. Instead, the behavior started to go south.
The notes popped up more frequently in her daily planner. "Not listening in the cafeteria." "Not participating in small group work." (That one came up twice. Her excuse was "it makes me sleepy". We quickly decoded it to "I'm bored.") "Hitting another child in the back of the head."
Ooh, that kid is so done..
There are two rules we have in our home, no lying, no hitting. Oh, and set the alarm. Make that three rules.
Luckily, she's a lousy liar, I catch her at it every time, the shifty eyes and slowed speech with requisite "um's" and "uh's". "If you have to think about what happened, you're trying to lie. The truth doesn't take that long."
The hitting? John and I were flummoxed. Where had our child, known for her penchant of chatting anyone and everyone up, learned to use her hands in that way?
We had repeated emails and conferences with her teacher, even the principal made a cameo once to drill it into Sprite's head that the safe umbrella of Kindergarten behavior does not encompass hitting, i.e., you're not covered for that.
Punishment was swift and eclipsing, no electronics, no toys, no dessert. Only books, writing, and arts and crafts to show her how to use her hands constructively.
Her teacher and the principal call it "only child syndrome". Basically, she's in an environment where the teacher is the mother figure and she needs to share her with seventeen other kids when at home, it's the "All Sprite Show starring Sprite! With special guest Sid the Science Kid!" So she acts out to get the attention, positive or negative.
The hitting allegedly stems from not having to share with siblings at home. Sure, my sister and I had our share of beatdowns, she had nails so she usually won, but in school, we were (mostly) angels. Sprite never had a round 1 or round 2, so she's learning now that hitting your classmate is not only not cool, it will land you in detention.
The bad behavior has been building for a while, meanwhile at home, she's been a mostly pleasant child, eager to have fun, and even more eager to learn, the same ole' Sprite we know and love.
So we've had to adapt the theme of six a bit.
Five was about new experiences. Six is about rules.
"No hitting. No lying. No talking back to teachers or parents."
Luckily, she can read those words now. I merely have to point to them.
We did give her a reprieve from the punishment to enjoy her birthday party this weekend, so we're not the strictest parents in the world.
"Mommy, since I'm going to be Merida at my birthday party, you need to be Queen Elinor."
"What about Daddy?"
"Um, he can be Mor'du."
"The scary bear? Why not the King?"
"Because the King wears a skirt. No one needs to see his business."
Happy sixth birthday, Sprite. Keep spreading those wings, love. Just try not to get them into other people's fly space..