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September 10, 2013

Caution Against Any Recipe for Perfect Children

heather“I caution against any recipe for perfect children or for perfect families.” –Joan Bodger, “Afterword”, How the Heather Looks

How the Heather Looks is one of my favourite books about parenting and children’s literature, mostly for the wisdom contained in its Afterword. On a surface level, the book itself is really an incredible primer on the lengths parents can go to to make books come alive for their children, as well as a splendid introduction to so many kid-lit classics. But if you didn’t read Bodger’s Afterword, or her extraordinary memoir The Crack in the Teacupyou might imagine that the idyllic 1950s’ family depicted in her book was her reality. Instead we learn that even limitless exposure to the greatest books ever written cannot keep trouble from darkening one’s doors. For some of us, that’s a difficult lesson to learn.

I’m thinking about this now as we’re struggling at our house with an unexpected and really difficult adjustment to kindergarten. I totally thought that we’d gotten off scot-free because Harriet has been in schooling for a year now, and has loved her play-school experience so much. When she began play-school last year, she shed nary and tear and ran along to play like she’d been there always, and I secretly thought that this was a reflection of her character and resilience, as well as my own infinite wisdom as a parent for enrolling her in schooling when the time was right, and for preparing her so well to be in the world. But the last few days have been a hearty Ha! to that idea.

Living a life is so difficult, and loving someone little who is making their way can be so gut-punchingly horrible. You can never be prepared for that, or prepare that little one for everything she might encounter. There is no recipe for a perfect childhood, and while I’d like to wrap the world in cotton-wool, I can’t, so instead I will keep on reminding myself that just loving her so hard is enough,

5 thoughts on “Caution Against Any Recipe for Perfect Children”

  1. I love that Joan Bodger book too, but whenever I think of children in kindergarten I always think of Ramona (i.e. The Pest) and her initial excitement at starting school and the chaos that follows. It still charms me even as an adult. I hope it gets easier for her and for you.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Oh, dear–I hope the second week goes better for you all. I was also cruelly disappointed by kindergarten after *3* years of various playschools. I’m not sure what the dissonance was, but I eventually got over it and made a construction paper kookoo clock that my parents still have.

  3. Kiley says:

    Love this, Kerry. I feel the same way. (And, I pity the first child to punch Oliver, because I have I can really throw one.)

  4. Michele Landsberg says:

    Just to add to what others said…it’s so hard to start “big school” with a new baby at home! And, to judge by how lovingly you have raised Harriet, the impersonal rules of kindergarten must seem so alien. Extra affection coming your way…

  5. Kristin says:

    My son started kindergarten last year and it was hard for all of us. Very unexpectedly different from preschool. He had a tough year, although it got better. This year, the transition into first grade has been much easier and I think he is enjoying it. I think part of it was that I had a new baby at home and our 3 year old daughter, and my son didn’t understand why he couldn’t be with us. He would come home SO exhausted and hungry and crabby. Kindergarten is hard work! I hope it gets better for your family soon.

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