I was told that academically she is doing fine. She's reading, writing sentences, counting buttons, writing numbers and has mastered a pair of safety scissors. Her tying skills suck, but hey, that's what velcro is for. Oh, and the flashlight that was taken away on Groundhog Day that had been sitting on the teacher's desk? Well, Zoe had grabbed it off of the desk on Wednesday and brought it home, without telling the teacher. Oops. Sincere apology, stern look, a short lecture about how "You don't take things, even if it's yours, off of the teacher's desk," a second apology, let's continue.
I knew not to get too comfortable because I had received an email from the teacher a couple days ago that said: "It will be good to talk at the conference. Zoe is having a hard time being kind to others." Ouch. I am raising a 34-pound dictator.
Turns out that if someone is annoying my daughter, she isn't very good at hiding her feelings and definitely is not passive. She has poked kids, stuck her tongue out and said something similar to "You're kind of annoying" along with some other not-very-nice phrases. While these behaviors are all unacceptable in a classroom setting, I know for a fact that I've been guilty of all-of-the-above at some point in the last six months. Oh, who the hell am I kidding, more like in the last week. The difference is that she's ballsier than me since I only manage to shove someone or stick my tongue out in my imagination. And as far as telling someone that they're annoying, I only say that after they're out of earshot.
Along with the lack of tolerance for weird children, she has also demonstrated anger when faced with a conflict, gets frustrated easily when things don't go exactly right and has a hard time waiting for others. While the teacher was explaining these issues to me, I felt a little bit of confusion because I lost track of whether she was describing me or we were still talking about Zoe. How did this woman know that if I ask someone to take out the garbage and it doesn't happen in twelve seconds I end up just doing it myself? And of course things should go exactly right! That's why we plan ahead, dammit!
So, my post-conference chats with Zoe will include praise for her being so smart, but will also stress the importance of patience, non-violent interactions and not telling every kid that picks his nose that "he's so super gross and disgusting." I will also remind her that we love her just the way she is and we always want her to stick up for herself.
As I was getting up to leave, her teacher assured me that she really likes having Zoe in class and loves her personality, and that's when I got teary. I calmly explained that while I understand that Zoe needs to be nicer to her friends and have more patience, there was no way I was going to tell her to sit in her chair, motionless and mute, if someone next to her was making her crazy because that would be sending her the message that being outspoken and having an opinion is wrong. There are a lot of people that expect little girls to be perfectly behaved and quiet, saying "sweetie" and "oh my" while they play with dolls, have tea parties, practice penmanship and adjust the bows in their hair. Zoe likes laughing at the people that fall off of ladders on America's Funniest Home Videos, loves worms and Nerf guns and gets her hair cut at a barbershop where she can dance to The Sex Pistols while she waits for her appointment. And she's not passive.
Before we left, Zoe hugged her teacher goodbye and when we got to the car, for some reason, I started to cry.