Avery has always loved school, from St. Mary’s Early Learning Center to the Academy of the Sacred Heart. She loves to learn and she adores her teachers and friends. So, this summer between kindergarten and first grade, I was surprised when she began experiencing anxiety about the upcoming school year. At first, she started asking lots of questions about when she was a baby. “Mama, did I snuggle with you like this when I was a baby? Did you carry me like this when I was a baby? What did I eat when I was a baby?” She wanted to look at her baby pictures, and she often said “I wish I was a baby again. I don’t remember anything from when I was a baby.” Sometimes she would talk baby-talk and crawl on the floor. Once she even pulled up my t-shirt and wanted to be back in my tummy!

She also began acting out and being more difficult, which usually means it’s time for a discipline and structure check. But other than answer her questions and kind of ride out this phase, I really didn’t know what to do.

Finally, one night at bath time, she revealed the reason behind the baby behavior. I asked her if she was worried about anything. Avery looked down and said: “I don’t want to go to first grade. What if we have a test on the first day and I make an F?” My first thought was: “you’re not going to have a test on the first day and you’re not going to make a F.” But, thankfully, I caught myself. Instead I told her: “If you make a F on a test, I will still love you and you will still go to school. We will figure out what you didn’t understand, and you’ll do better the next time. Whatever happens, we will work together like we always do and it’ll be okay.”  She seemed reassured, and I was glad that, rather than preaching excellence and being conditional, I was able to validate her fear and give her unconditional love and support.


Avery is reluctantly ready for first grade.

As I watch her play out this tug-of-war between staying a baby and being a six-year-old, I feel the same struggle. I want her to stay little and snuggly, and at the same time, I want her to grow to be the independent, strong, spirited girl I know she can be. I know I need to let go (a little), but I hope she knows she can always come back to me. No matter if it’s making a F, scraping her knee, losing the back bend competition at gymnastics, or getting a broken heart from a boy (ugh), Mom will be here.

Avery is still not too sure about first grade. At a last minute, end-of-summer trip to the Baton Rouge Zoo, I made the mistake of bringing up school. I asked her: “Are you excited about first grade?” With a look approaching an eyeroll and more than a little frustration, she said: “Mom, we’re in the middle of the zoo. Let’s think about animals, NOT first grade.” Stay in the now, Mom, stay in the now.

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