In our house, we don’t say ‘kindergarten’. We’ve always called it ‘maternelle’, even when speaking in English because my older two kids went to maternelle in a French school.

And even though we decided to homeschool, it was always our intention to send Leila to maternelle. What do we hope to get out of it? A year of French immersion, a year with an amazing teacher (keeping our fingers crossed that Leila gets the same teacher that Noah and Zahra had), a solid base of skills and a springboard to further adventures.

So we’ve been planting the seed, talking about maternelle from time to time. Zahra and Noah share what they remember, and Leila’s been in the school several times. She’s very excited to go. She boasts to friends¬†that she’s going to maternelle soon. She asks when we can buy her markers and backpack.

This morning was her orientation. As we walked into the school, we met up with Jill and Elise, and we saw other people we knew. But the minute we entered the cafeteria and sat down, Leila froze up. She became suddenly clingy and very solemn.

There was an introduction, and then the teachers called up the kids by name so they could go into the classrooms and do a few fun activities while the parents got the administrative talk. When they called her name, she walked up there, the smile erased from her face. After she got her name sticker, she looked up and searched me out in the crowd. I stood up and waved to her as she filed out. She waved back, but her eyes were wide and she looked like she was about to cry. When she came back, she seemed fine, maybe a bit nervous. But her smile returned. I took the kids out for lunch before Zahra’s piano lesson.

For the rest of the day, she was awful. She kept bothering the chicks; she messed up Zahra’s Legos; she spilled her drink at dinner, and when I asked her to clean it up, she took the hose and sprayed it into the kitchen and also into the chicken coop. After she walked around the outside of the house in white tights with no shoes and came back with a muddy face, I said enough was enough, stripped her down, gave her a bath and put her to bed.

I asked her what her favourite part of the day was, and she said holding the chicks (no recollection of terrorizing them, apparently). I asked her what her least favourite part of the day was, and she said when Noah pushed her (no recollection that this was because she was threatening to step on his set-up). I could tell something was up, so I said, “And how did you like maternelle?”

“Good.” she replied.

“You looked a little bit nervous. Were you nervous?”

She nodded her head.

“But you were brave, and you went, and you didn’t cry.”

At this, she burst out crying, “I did want to cry, but another girl was crying, and the teacher hugged her, but that teacher is not our friend-teacher, and I didn’t want her to hug me!”

Wow. That brought tears to my eyes. I gave her a hug and told her how happy I was that she could tell me what she was feeling. I was impressed that she was able to pinpoint the source of those uneasy feelings. I also tried to reassure her that maternelle wasn’t starting until after the summer and so she had lots of time to get used to the idea. To which she replied, still crying, “But I want to go to maternelle now!”

Oh, my sweet baby and her conflicting feelings! Not such a baby anymore.