Since her very first day of (pre)school, I've never had to worry about Isla being naughty. My concern; however, was always in relation to her shyness and her ability to overcome it. For the past three years, I've sat back and silently observed as she cautiously and deliberately dismantled a notably secure and guarded wall. Still, despite a tenacious appetite for learning and a plethora of new friendships, she continues to dance to the beat of an entirely different drum, and nothing (or no ONE) will ever get her to change it.
A few weeks ago, I arrived early for pick up. I snuck to the back of the school to look out the window, which overlooked the playground. There, I saw a dozen children running around screaming and laughing. I looked around to find Isla and was, at first, saddened by the fact that she wasn't playing with anyone in particular. She was laughing and running around like the other kids, but she wasn't really interacting with any of them. As I stood watching, I noticed that she was just following some of her friends around and directing them on where the other children were, "Grady! London is over there!" she'd point, contagiously smiling and laughing the whole time. I took a deep breath, feeling sorry for her... then glanced up and saw one of the other children hit one of her friends. I tapped the glass hard with my fingernails to get their attention, but no one heard me. Now, when I say "hit" what I really mean is "punch," and I watched in horror as this child kept throwing more of them. After each swing, they would glance down to see if the teachers were looking. In an instant, I was happy that my daughter was neither watching nor participating... best of all, she was smiling and having a great time in her own little world.
As I was buckling her into her car seat after school, she reached over and hugged me. "Mommy never has to worry about you being naughty at school, do I?" "Nope!" she announced, "I always follow direction." "You've never had any of your friends hit you at school, have you?" I asked. "No, but some of the boys play too rough and I don't like it." "Well..." I begin, "If any of your friends ever DO hit you, how would you handle it?" "Um, I don't know," she confessed. "Sure you do. You just tell them, DO NOT hit me, and I don't like it!" I advised. "That's not very nice," she tells me. "Well, it's not very nice to hit your friends!" "Yeah, but you didn't say please. You should have said, please do not hit me."
When I picked her up from "summer camp" last week, she sprinted to her desk and grabbed a small sheet of paper containing twelve stickers. I didn't have to ask... I knew what those stickers meant, "Mommy LOOK! I got all twelve stickers!" I knelt down to get a better look and gave her a hug, "I am so proud of you, Isla!" Though I already knew the answer to my question, it didn't stop me from asking, "So.. what are you going to choose for your reward?" Then, like two Siamese twins, we both giggled and blurted out the answer, "Couch pillow!" As we walked down the steps out of the school, one of her classmates went whizzing by. Isla looked over at me and rolled her eyes, "Maitland didn't get any stickers," she whispered. "Shhh..." I began, "We don't want to make her feel bad for not getting any." "That's okay," she reassured me, "She knows she was being naughty." We laughed all the way to the car and all I could think of was how much I loved that little girl. "Mommy loves you more than anything in the whole world," I said. "I love you, too!" she countered. "I love you more!" We both smiled, knowing how this was going to end. She grabbed my hand to pull closer in, "I love you the S A M E way!"