6 Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter’s Elementary Years

This is the last week I’ll send her walking to the neighborhood elementary school. The last week she’ll play on the blacktop that still remembers her first steps to kindergarten.

{5th grade pic}

A lot’s changed since I walked my oldest baby to school for the first time. In the hurry to get her through learning to read, learning math, figuring out how to negotiate friendships, eat lunch in 15 minutes, make a flash card and create a family tree from her adoptive history… I look back and see some very sweet memories. And some ways the last six years have shaped how I see her and my role as a mom. What are some of the most memorable lessons?

I will screw things up (a lot), and that’s OK.

I’ll forget to make a lunch for that field trip day. I’ll misread an instruction on one of her assignments and we’ll spend 2 hours doing it wrong, and her teacher will scrunch up her nose at the product, and life will go on. I don’t even remember the mistakes we made in years before this one… even in months before this one. And neither does my daughter. It all worked out OK in the end.

{4th grade}We will fight like crazy, and still love each other.

The first time we hit a season of “I’m NOT doing that math!” (there have been many…) I thought we were doomed to a miserable, bickering mother-daughter relationship. Or that she was doomed to mediocre grades and prospects in life. Neither, it turns out, seem to be the case. Homework battles get forgotten like mistakes do.

No matter what, trust my instincts.

Even moving through new scenarios year after year, we moms have instincts that are almost always right. If it’s too good to be true, it almost always isn’t good. “I already did my math” may mean it’s done, or, it may mean “I don’t want to do my math.” We need to check on what seems fishy early, and keep tabs often, because even our good kids make bad choices sometimes and they need us to be there to help them grow straight.

When they’re ready to grow, let them grow.

Even though she was still only in 5th grade, I needed to shift in to a more mature version of our mom-daughter life mid-flight, so to speak. I needed to be learning in to the next season, finding out what’s going on in the tween and teen brain and development so I could interact with her hybrid “I still watch My Little Pony, but I like that boy in my class” phase.

Never stop playing together. {1st grade pic}

Even if she IS almost my height now, she still needs to play every day. We all do! So don’t let life get too serious. Take a deep breath and smile. Offer to play Uno for the two-thousandth time, and say yes whenever you can to offers of board games, chess, and even those video games you can’t, for the life of you, figure out how to play. She will always need her mom to play with her, even if Candyland and Chutes and Ladders are faded memories now.

Stay connected with the child inside.

{kindergarten pic}Even with the training bras and longer homework assignments and friend drama that developed in the last two years of elementary, she’s always going to be my little girl. How do I know? Because I’m 37 and I still am someone’s little girl down deep. My daughter will always have her silly moments, her “I need to play Uno. Stat!” moments and her “Mom, can I just have a hug?” moments. It may give me emotional whiplash to shift back and forth between increasingly grown-up moments and childlike ones, but by the grace of God I’m going to try to hold on for that ride.

What have you learned from your child’s journey through elementary school? (I’ve got 3 more going through or starting soon, so lay it on me!)