Our four year old daughter is shy. She gets excited to try new activities, but as class is about to start she freezes. Each time it is the same - she looks around at all the other kids and parents and starts to doubt herself. I can see the questions in her eyes: "Am I good enough?, will it be too hard?, what if I fail?" as the uncertainty paralyzes her. Sometimes she is willing to stay and try it out, but most days we both leave defeated and frustrated, having not participated.
Being at home full time since our twin boys arrived, not only has her dependence on me increased, but she is also missing the socialization that daycare provided. My husband and I decide that preschool will give her more opportunity to interact with peers and ease the transition to kindergarten. We find a preschool that will start in the fall, three mornings per week and within walking distance; it's ideal. We spend weeks talking about how fun it will be and how many new friends she will make. I know this will eventually be true, but I am dreading the first day. I envision sobbing and clawing at my legs while I try to leave.
On the first day of school, the whole family accompanies her on the short walk down the street. As we pass our neighbours' houses and approach the familiar schoolyard, she skips and sings, her pink Dora the Explorer backpack bobbing up and down on her little back. It is raining lightly so we quicken our pace. I am preoccupied by her choice of outfit and whether she will be warm enough if the rain worsens; she seems to be bustling with excitement, not nerves.
We arrive at the school and reacquaint ourselves with the teacher whom we had met a few months prior. While timid, our daughter seems interested. We show her the coat rack and cubby hole and she is thrilled to see it labelled with her name. We ensure she knows where she can find the important things like the bathroom, a snack, and her stuffed blue bear that has been brought along for moral support. She surveys the rest of the room, impressed by the books, toys, and brightly coloured decorations on the walls. Eyeing up the other children, she carefully selects a seat at the art table and begins working on a craft.
I am unsure what to do next, so I look to the teacher who says we're free to leave. That's it?! We kiss and and hug our daughter and say goodbye, but we can barely pull her attention away from the project she is engaged in. We slowly approach the door and still no reaction. Stunned, I turn one last time to look over my shoulder and see if she's looking for me. Instead, she is up to her elbows in glue and sparkles. We make our exit.
When we return to pick her up, the teacher tells us there were no tears and no asking for me. I am thrilled but wonder if it was just the excitement of the first day. So, every day for the first couple of weeks I ask how she's doing but every day the answer is the same - happy, enthusiastic and helpful. I realize she's actually ok; better than ok in fact.
Now half way through the school year, she still wakes up asking "Is today a preschool day?", disappointed when it's not. When I go to pick her up at the end of class, I often arrive early and stay out of sight so I can watch her laughing and chasing the other kids around the playground. I see that my daughter is social, outgoing, and most astoundingly - comfortable.
Finally, our shy little girl has found the confidence to feel like she belongs. All of the other activities that's she's still too shy for will be there when she's ready.