Fitting In – In First Grade

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Kindergarten was all about the adjustment. A new school, new friends, a new routine and of course, the big yellow bus. Our slow-to-warm-up girl blossomed over the course of that year and we grew comfortable in our role as parents to an elementary-aged child (boy, was it surreal to sign up for the PTA). By the time first grade rolled around there was a sense of calm and a “we got this” mentality. This year we knew what to expect.

But there were some changes that seemed to appear overnight. Changes I didn’t quite anticipate but that unfolded in subtle ways like packing an avocado in her lunch. “Can you pack that in my snack bag for morning snack instead?” “How come?” I asked. She fell silent and then responded. “Because kids make fun of me for eating it at lunch. They laugh and say, ‘that’s gross’” Hmmm, this was something new.

I knew this whole “fitting in” thing would eventually come, but here it was happening right in front of my eyes.

Friendships started to develop into little groups and clubs. The righty tighty club (my daughter, a lefty, said she could be in it because she could use scissors with her right hand), the tumbling club (my daughter begged to sign up for gymnastics), and let’s not forget the fan club for a boy in her class, where the girls chased after him and spied on him during recess. Oh, man…

And the day of my daughter’s birthday party. When the room quickly filled with a continuous melody of giggles and laughter. It was the first time I had heard my daughter fake laugh. It wasn’t the laugh I had been used to, but one that sounded forced. And everyone seemed to want to sit next to the same girl who chose to sit next to her best friend. The one that everyone could identify. And I just sat back and watched, fascinated by it all.

And then there was that evening before bath when my daughter looked down at her shirt a second before undressing and started to cry. “What’s wrong, honey?” She came over and planted her face in my arms and cried. “The kids on the bus said my shirt was for babies.” I looked down at her Minnie Mouse flip shirt. The one I had bought for her little cousin’s Mickey themed birthday party. I wiped away the tears and kissed her face. My heart felt sad. Her little spirit was broken. She still liked Minnie, but so wanted to be a big kid.

Fitting in. It can be hard. My little first grader, my first born child was trying to figure it out and make sense of the social world around her. This was a new stage of parenting. A different kind of layer. As a mama bear it can be hard to watch because you want to protect them, shield them from it all. But I also know that she needs to learn how to cope and problem solve around these feelings. Because this is how she will grow.

It’s not my job to always fix things for her, but to give her the tools she needs to navigate through life. Right now it’s my job to help her identify those big emotions and problem solve around them. It’s my job to teach her that friends can be amazing and special and wonderful, but it’s also my job to let her know that she can beat to her own drum and create her own path. It’s my job to teach her to be kind and accepting of others. These are the lessons that will prepare her for the future. 

This is just the beginning of her journey in life. I’ll be right here if she needs me. A listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Always. But I know she will figure it out. She will be okay. She will grow. 

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Alisa is a psychotherapist, life coach and mom of three. Alisa is a native of Fairfield County and lives with her husband (a New York transplant), daughter (October 2012) and two sons (January 2015, June 2018). Following the birth of her second child, Alisa left her full-time job and pursued her dream of starting her own private practice by founding Balanced Being Counseling, LLC and Balanced Being Coaching, LLC (abalancedbeing.com) located in downtown Fairfield. Alisa specializes in working with young women and moms to decrease stress and manage feelings of anxiety and depression. She is trained in treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and is an active committee member of Postpartum Support International- CT Chapter serving as the Communications Chair. Alisa is the creator the Facebook Group, Balanced Mama, a non-judgmental space for moms to feel inspired, gain support and come together among the chaos. She is passionate about motherhood, supporting women, buffalo chicken and a good margarita.

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