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My Giant

Last night the girls were getting ready for bed, and it wasn’t super easy. We’re at the end of the first week of school, and tears are close to the surface and tempers are frayed and everyone’s tired. But bedtime was going relatively smoothly and I was in Cora’s room helping her pick out clothes for the next day when Maddie came in and said formally, “Mommy, when I’m finished with my bedtime routine I’d like to lie in bed and talk to you about my day a bit.”

Hmm. That doesn’t sound good. Bedtime is the time of day Maddie’s most likely to talk about her day. When I pick her up from school, pretty much every day is a “good” day and she talks about the stuff that went right; but a few hours later, when she’s had time to sit with her day a bit, she’s willing to talk about whatever might have been a bit harder.

So we finished up with the teeth brushing and cat feeding and all the other nightly chores, I snuggled Cora and read books, then headed into Maddie’s room. I climbed into her bed, snuggled up, and said lightly, “Ok, cutie, whatcha want to talk about from today?”

Maddie rolled on her side and faced me. “Mommy, today was a really hard day.”

“Tell me about it.”

“My group in class was playing a game, and our teacher told us not to go past a certain point in the room while we played, and we all forgot and went past that point on accident, and so we all got our names moved from ‘green’ to ‘yellow’.”

This? Is big. This is Maddie’s fifth year of school (counting pre-k), and it’s her first time to go below green. EVER.

This is something Maddie’s been worrying about her whole career. In fact, I’ve half-jokingly begged her teachers over the years to move Maddie off green or sign her folder or SOMETHING to just get it over with, and help Maddie see that mistakes can be made and overcome. Two years ago, Maddie’s whole class received a blanket punishment for something that Maddie was not part of – and she STILL thinks about it.

This is big.

“How did you feel, getting moved to yellow?” I asked carefully.

Maddie’s eyes grew sad. “Mommy, I was SO embarrassed! I wanted to run out of the room. I can’t believe I got moved to yellow for the first time. And for something I didn’t even do to be mean, or disobedient – I just forgot!”

And this is what I had wondered about – would she argue that the discipline was unfair? Would she fight to get it changed? Would she be mad at the teacher?

“So was it worse for you that you got moved to yellow for forgetting a rule, rather than for making the choice to do something bad?”

Maddie was silent for a moment. “No, because I thought about it and I realized that even though it was on accident, I DID break a rule. So it was fair.” And we sat there for a few moments, silent together.

Then Maddie turned to me again, and her eyes sparkled. “But then guess what? I felt so bad about what I’d done that I couldn’t sit with it any more, and even though I was about to cry I went over to my teacher and said, ‘I know it doesn’t change anything, but I’m sorry I broke the rule.’ And then I sat down.”

I thought for a moment. “Did your teacher move you back up to green because you apologized?” I asked, hoping the answer would be ‘no’.

Maddie smiled. “No. But that didn’t matter! Mommy, after I apologized I felt like a GIANT! Like I was invincible, and could do ANYTHING! I was so happy, and so proud of myself!” And she wriggled like a puppy and snuggled closer to me.

“So that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I had a really great day, and it surprises me that I feel like this on my first ‘yellow’ day. I just feel really good and wanted to share that.”

My little giant.


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