Thursday, May 31, 2007

Childhood Innocence... Sliver by Sliver

My oldest, Greyson, just attended his last day of preschool (he’ll be going to Kindergarten in the Fall). His class had a little graduation program on Wednesday, and then in honor of the last day of school, Friday was dubbed “Water Day.” The kids were told to come dressed in their swimming suits, with plenty of sunscreen applied ahead of time, and to bring a towel. We also had a small gift for his teacher, who, incidentally, also happens to be my mother.

In our usual morning rush, we quickly grabbed our stuff and piled in the car when it was time to go. Twenty minutes later, we pulled up in the driveway, alongside two other preschooler’s cars. As he was unbuckling his seat belt, and I was gathering up his stuff, I said to him, “Grey, would you rather put Grandma’s gift in your backpack, and carry your towel; or put the towel in your backpack and carry the gift?” Right as I said this, Ben popped out of the SUV parked just next to us, carrying only a towel. Noticing this, and then quickly scanning to see if anyone else had emerged from neighboring vehicles, Grey said to me, “Mom, no one else has a backpack…. I don’t want to take mine in either.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, “I think you’ll have a couple of projects from off the bulletin board to take home today, and a backpack would be a good place to put them to keep them all together.”

A slight hesitation on his part, and then, spotting Taylor and Elizabeth emerge both carrying backpacks, responded, “Well, OK. I guess I changed my mind. I want to put my towel in my backpack.” So, I walked him inside, kissed him goodbye, and that was that….for him.

For me, however, it was a little different story… Now granted, choosing to take or not take your backpack to the last day of preschool is certainly a fleeting choice. But it’s what fueled his decision – whether or not the other kids were taking their backpacks – that got me thinking. It was the first time I had ever witnessed such an outward display of this kind of unspoken peer pressure influence on him and I felt just the tiniest part of my heart breaking a little bit. Sure, wanting to fit in and be like your friends is certainly part of a natural developmental progression. And after all, how can he go on to become the caring and compassionate person I hope he will be, if he can’t first learn to look beyond himself and notice what’s happening with others. But at the same time, I can’t help feeling just a little sad that a small sliver of his childhood innocence – the part that enables him to just be free and not care about what others think – is quickly fading away.

My children are growing up much faster than I am ready for them to be….

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