The curious case of the Harvest Festival

Today I was a parent helper at Emilie’s school. I volunteered to help walk the children in her class to the local church for their annual Harvest Festival assembly. I also decided to use this as a perfect chance to spy on  observe Emilie in action at school. The day didn’t start out so well. I tried to engage Emilie and asked her to show me some of her work in class. She refused. Then during circle time she barely paid attention, didn’t join in the discussion or answer questions, and had to be told twice that it was her turn to go to the toilet. When it was time for free play she chose to play at the play-doh table, cutting little pieces of dough into smaller pieces.  Again I tried to ask her what she was up to (in that sing song “I’m really interested in what you’re doing” tone) but she was still reluctant. At least she told me she was “making cookies”. I was a little disappointed but I understood that perhaps she was just shy to have me there. I mean it isn’t every day you have your Mummy sitting in class with you!

The walk to the church was uneventful, but when we arrived the acting up began. Emilie wasn’t using her “listening ears” so to speak. She put her feet up on the back of the pews, scribbled on all the offering envelopes, and refused to stand during the hymns. Jesus wept! Yet all of this I could handle. I whispered sharp threats about confiscating her laptop and she settled down. For a little while.

Much to my surprise (and eventual dismay) Emilie’s class was due to perform a song! As I watched 60 four-year olds file up to the front of the church I said a silent prayer (how appropriate) that Emilie would cooperate. I watched nervously from a middle pew, ducking my head slightly to stay out of her sight as much as possible. The music began and 59 little voices rung through the sanctuary. Notice I said 59.  There was one child who stood completely mute. Instead of singing, she shoved her fingers in her mouth. Instead of doing the actions to the words, she put her fingers in her nose. And rubbed her eyes and hung her head and fidgeted. Who was that poor, awkward child? That little shy/nervous/downright defiant child? Yes, she belonged to me. My very own offspring. Emilie. I shrunk lower in my seat wanting to disappear. I searched for an escape route. There was none. I was trapped. Trapped to witness my child being the oddball, the socially inept. Kill me now.

Afterward her teacher came to me as perplexed as I was. She was sympathetic, I was mortified. I asked if Emilie had known the words to the song. She confirmed that she knew both the words and the actions very well indeed. I was confounded. And felt just awful. The teacher suggested that perhaps it was because Emilie knew I was watching her. A bit of stage fright. Fair enough, but if that really was the case it makes me feel even WORSE. It’s much easier to believe that she was simply being rude and deserves a week of time outs. But to suggest that she didn’t participate in her class song because of me, her Mummy, being there — well that just hurts. And makes me feel as though I just don’t have this parenting thing figured out just yet. Why was she afraid to do her best in front of me? And how can I help her? How can I fix this? This is my pitfall in parenting. Always trying to fix something. Make it right. I have so many fears of doing the wrong thing as a mom, I don’t even know when I’ve done something right. Or how to give myself credit for it…

Now I am heading out in a few minutes to collect Emilie from school. And I think we will have a lot to talk about tonight. Will keep you posted…

2 thoughts on “The curious case of the Harvest Festival

  1. Pingback: Ooops, she did it again « I Write at Midnight

  2. Pingback: Harvest celebration reprise | I Write at Midnight

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