Ella ended fourth grade this year and I must say this was yet another year to wrap my head around. From the very first day she started her career in school, I chose to put her in a parochial school. There are a number of reasons for it (another post for another day) but one of the most valuable reasons was because of the size. Ella struggles in some areas academically so it just makes sense for her to be in a school where the entire student body is less almost half what one of the classrooms is at a public school. Now, that is not to say that she would not have received any less help from a public school, however with only having one shot at choosing wisely for her and her education, it wasn’t necessarily something that I was willing to gamble with. I have been on both sides of the fence. Kindergarten through 8th grade, I was in a parochial school, following that 9th-12th grade was at a public high school. Anyway, this is not about me or even that. In Ella’s school, there are three separate classrooms. The first has the Pre-K, kindergarten and 1st graders. The second is 2nd-4th grade and the third has 5th-8th grade in it. Ella came to the school the middle of her second grade (from a nearby parochial school) so she has had plenty of time to settle in with Miss.V and become quite attached to her. Mr. P is not only the upper grades teacher but he is also the Principal. He is a little more firm but loving. Ella has expressed to me numerous times that she is “scared” to go into that classroom because now she is “one of the big kids” and “much more responsibility”. Meanwhile, I am secretly high-fiving and cheering with one hand and on the other, I too, am realizing that my “baby” is no longer my “baby”. She is modeling herself to be an independent, brave young lady. Frankly, that scares the shit out of me.
Moving into Mr.P’s room means that she also starts the lessons of the small catechism to prepare herself for confirmation and she will be preparing for speeches, helping the little kids and being far less dependent on the kids who are in grades above her. Moving classrooms is so much more than just walking a little farther down the hall or having just one locker that is too tall that she has to tip toe to reach the top shelf. Moving classrooms is so much more than losing the color chart to help her behavior stay on track (which she never needed anyway).
Moving into 5th grade means being in full swing of double digit age. It means she no longer needs me to ask “what color did you get?” and “What do you have for homework?” because the color cart won’t exist and she will be responsible for documenting what her homework is in the planner. Moving classrooms means that she sits higher in her desk, she has her own laptop to be responsible for doing her PowerPoints, she helps the littles with getting on their snow suits, and she gets bigger.
One of the biggest things that struck me is on the last day of school we had a cookout and let the kids do water balloons, water slide and a bounce house. I have always called Daniella, Ella for short or some sort of variation of Ella. I had my back to the group of girls that she was playing with when out of nowhere I hear this cheering of “Dani!, Dani! Dani!” I turn to look and it is the group of girls cheering on my Ella! WHO IS DANI?! Where did THIS come from?! Right then, I realized. She is coming into her own personality, she is discovering who she is, who she wants to be, what name she wants to be called and where she will build herself from here. Who am I to try and control that? Sure, was I devastated that my sweet little innocent girl is now requesting her grade school compadres to call her Dani? Absolutely. I had been fighting using that name for 10 years. Matter of fact, I had established with her Grammy that she will be called Ella for short and that is that. The most hilarious part? She saw the horrified look on my face and the second we got in the car to come home, she reassured me that it was just at school that she is to be called that. An imaginary wipe of the brow and I nodded to keep my eyes on the road and drive home, silently jumping up and down.
That following Sunday they do a graduation ceremony for the 8th graders that are leaving the school. They also recognize the high honor roll students for that year. Last year, Ella was on that list and this year was no exception. I couldn’t have been more proud. Lying in bed that night I thought to myself: “If she wants her damn name to be Dani, Kallai, then let it be so. She just crushed it with honor roll. Her name could be Bob for Pete sake and she will still make you proud. No matter where she goes, or what she does, she will be proud of her name while doing it and if she wants to be called Dani for her to be proud, well then I will support that. Supporting her in all she does will not only open her up to me about her life fears and expectations but it will also motivate her to be better than I, which is what every parent should wish out of their child. I am there to set an example to be greater than I did things. I am there to push her when she feels like slacking and be proud in ALL of her accomplishments, even if it is moving into 5th grade with high honor roll and the name Dani.
I love being her mom.