This is joy.

I held my breath when it was time for Adi, our middle daughter, to start preschool. When our oldest daughter, Wren, had started school for the first time, there was no doubt she’d be just fine. She was, after all, a rule follower and had already demonstrated a love for learning. Adi, on the other hand, was a button pushed, limit seeker, and spicy to say the least. We were’t sure how she’d respond to being in a school setting.

But after the first few weeks of preschool, I slowly exhaled as Adi showed us that she had followed in her sister’s footsteps and loved everything about school. She did promptly fall apart every day at pickup, but we thanked the stars above that she was able to hold it together during the school day.

Fast forward a year and we were preparing Adi to start kindergarten. Once again, anxiety settled in for me. Her preschool had been very nurturing and completely play-based. Wren’s experience in kindergarten had been the opposite of that. So as I watched the hours tick by until pick-up on day one, I worried.

Thankfully, when pickup time finally came, we were greeted by two smiling girls. Wren rattled off all of the details about second grade as we walked home. Adi remained tight lipped, not yet ready to talk about her day.

As soon as we got home, Adi asked to go to the playroom in the basement to get something. I saw her slip back upstairs a few minutes later with an Eric Carle book. I didn’t hear from her again, until she emerged in the kitchen where I was getting reunited with the packing lunches routine. She held up the book, began pointing to the words, and to my surprise read accurately. “Did your teacher read you that book today?” I asked figuring she remember the words from school since it wasn’t a book we read often.

“No. I just know how to read now,” she said before disappearing again.

A while later, my eyes wondered to the living room, where Adi was sitting on the coffee table, a small clipboard propped up on her knees. I listened as she coached her younger sister on writing letters and words.

Over the next few days, as Adi played, got dressed, or even used the bathroom, I would hear her reciting bits of songs and familiar books. “Trip trap trip trap,” she sang while getting into the car, a repeating line from The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Or, “wishy-washy, wishy-washy,” I’d hear her singing while coloring. I knew just what emergent story books her teacher was introducing to the class and my heart burst with excitement.

Then, today, Saturday-after the first full week of school, I went in search of Adi who had been far too quiet for far too long…usually a sign of trouble. I found her sitting at the small table in our playroom, her head resting in her hand as she worked on something. I tip-toed closer to see what she was up to and I saw that she had found a leftover writing booklet from Wren. She had drawn a picture and was stringing together letters and writing her words. I watched her for a few moments, her concentration was fierce.

In that quiet moment, I silently thanked her teacher for sparking this joy and love for learning and literacy so early in the school year.

This is my hope and dream for all kids.

This is the work of a school.

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10 thoughts on “This is joy.

  1. This slice is filled with so many emotions. I love how you weave together her preschool years with this new kindergarten year. Remember thought that the joy was sparked by you as well as her teacher.

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  2. Love the build up to the moment you find her writing! It’s a gift for us to watch our own children experience the joy and wonder of a literate life! What a celebration! On a side note – the WOTD today was “hope” – PvE’s slice ended with a hope line as does yours! Can we say in sync 😉

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  3. Joy is my #onelittleword this year, not just my wotd, and it’s been a great one. Yes, to everything you’ve written and all of the comments as well. Your posts often make me sentimental since my youngest of four daughters is now a senior in high school. I will tell you though that the joy stays, especially when you value it like you do. Your girls will continue to take your breath away.

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  4. Extend your hands and fingers
    to find the place where we thought
    the walls would be, only to discover
    that behind it all was the place
    we were going to all along:
    a place for us to be

    — a poem as sort of comment but only loosely connected (I now realize), and an observation: finding her in that quiet moment is the perfect kind of Slice of Life, I think.

    Kevin

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  5. I really enjoy Adi stories. She has such personality…speaking of complex characters. In addition to the button-pushing and limit-seeking, there’s the determination and the independence and the joy. Go Adi…and go Adi’s teachers (I’m including her parents in that).

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  6. These are beautiful moments you are witnessing and capturing. How lucky you are to have kids who feel so inspired by their school experiences. ALL kids need to feel like this!

    BTW: Being reunited with the lunch-packing routine made me laugh. Isabelle’s former school served lunch, so I hadn’t packed school lunch from preschool until this year. Being reunited with that routine is bittersweet.

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