Monday, November 25, 2013

Miles To Go

In anticipation of the annual Gan Chanukah party, Raphaela spent almost two weeks singing the songs and showing me the elaborate dance moves her teacher had choreographed.  As she got dressed in her festive outfit for the party, she could not contain her enthusiasm, Raphaela was literally bouncing off the walls.

When we arrived, the large room filled up quickly, stuffed end to end with teachers and parents and grandparents and siblings and the children, the stars of the show.  That's when Raphaela went into performance anxiety/stage fright mode, and for most of the planned program sat on the side while her classmates gave their parents photo opportunities.

Toward the end of the Chanukah play, Raphaela made an attempt to join the group, but one of her teachers pushed her to the side, telling her that it was too late.

Needless to say, I felt confused and disappointed, despite my too clear recollection of the Purim costume melt-down last year.  And the reason that we stopped swimming lessons, and didn't even attempt ballet this year.

(I made excuses for it, maybe she was tired or maybe that is just her independent spirit.)

When we got home, Raphaela asked me if I was angry at her because she didn't participate, and I tried to not invest too much negative emotion in my reply.  I answered her that I was not angry, rather disappointed and sad for her;  that she did not participate, considering that I knew that she knew all the moves and knowing that she was looking forward to the event, and that it would have been fun and rewarding for her.

Raphaela reaffirmed that if she doesn't want to do something, she "will not do it."

I could not fall asleep last night, feeling like a bit of a failure as a parent, thinking about other parents talking about the debacle behind our back, and the worst feeling, that her teachers would somehow think less of Raphaela and treat her differently because of her adamant refusal.  As well, I felt frustrated because I had no spouse or partner, or even family with whom I could flesh out the issue.

This afternoon, Raphaela told me that several of her teachers had confronted her today about her behavior, and that it made her feel "icky from the icky words."

Having adopted the life philosophy that I am not going to allow lousy feelings to build up inside me, I left a message for her head teacher today, that I would like to speak to her when she had free time and the opportunity to brainstorm.  We spoke for almost 20 minutes, and I expressed my concern that while I admire Raphaela's determination and single minded-ness, I am afraid that she will not learn the benefits of being part of a group, that sometimes the rules of society are not objectionable.

I explained to her teacher that I too live "outside the box," in the sense that I generally do not care what others think of me, and that I will question the rules rather than following blindly.  However, having 45 years or so experience of doing things The Hard Way, I have come to appreciate that receiving help and dipping into the pool of the groupthink every once in a while moves things along nicely.

Hila, her teacher, admitted that she was quite surprised at Raphaela's behavior, that in rehearsals my daughter had shone and had been expected to be the star of the play.  Hila also suggested that rather than shyness, Raphaela seemed confused and overwhelmed by the large crowd.  We agreed together to meet and to discuss a long term educational plan suited for my daughter, to teach her how to straddle Raphaela World along with the rest of reality.

Yet, I am still having trouble letting go of the sadness and that sense of failure.


koshergourmetmart said...

kids do things at their own pace. i still remember my oldest ready to lead adon olam at shul and then crying hysterically and needing to be escorted away. Later on when he got older, he would inist on leading anim zmirot at every shul we visited. He also did not want to play group sports like soccer but later grew up to play travel soccer. perhaps like the teeacher noted she expected to be the star of the show and when she wasn't refused to perform. There is no failure here. Don't project your own feelings on to it. you should also talk to your parents-they could be helpful with your feelings and they can be someone to bounce idea off of

Midlife Singlemum said...

I can't believe that teacher pushed her away when she was ready to join in! Like Raphaela, Adiele gets overwhelmed when all the parents are watching (or maybe it's only me). At her Hanuka party she dipped in and out. Mostly she sat on my lap and watched but at some point she went back. Interestingly, she went back when they had a pairs dance and she knew it wasn't fair to let her partner down.
In our gan no one cares that one or two children are sitting with their mums instead of joining in. It certainly didn't occur to me that anyone would bother giving it any thought at all.
Personally, I think you're giving this way too much importance. She's 4. You can't reason with a 4yo when they don't want to do something. Either she'll grow out of it or she'll reach an age where she'll be able to tell you why she doesn't want to perform.
If you make a big deal of it with the teachers it will become a big deal and RR will feel it. Let it go. It's fine.

Batya Medad said...

I agree with Midlife... the gannenet was in the wrong not encouraging your daughter to participate when she was ready. My 3 year old granddaughter who also knew the show perfectly sat out the beginning of hers. The staff kept encouraging her (and a few others) to participate. Eventually she did. Also she shouldn't have been criticized by the staff afterwards.

Ariela said...

Having participated in 15 Channukah parties with my kids I can tell you that ~10% of kids do just what Raphaela does. It is NO BIG DEAL!!!! It is not a reflection of your parenting skills or her personality. Let it go - you are a fantastic mom.

Commenter Abbi said...

I so agree with midlife and I'm very disappointed in the gannent that she didn't encourage R to participate even at the end. It's very natural for kids to get overwhelmed by the crowd and other parents, especially at 4. And I think the teachers put way too much emphasis on the whole performance thing anyway. If she wants to participate, great, if she doesn't, let it go. There's nothing to worry about here.