The Caterpillar turned seven this weekend. 

We took a trip to Pennsylvania to meet up with some friends and eat dinner at an Indian restaurant and attend the Renaissance Faire.  It's what she wanted to do.

I mulled over things to write about the Year of Six in my head all weekend and I couldn't really come up with a lot.  I really liked age six; it's been fun.  She's been able to do so many more things.  Like me, she's an early riser, so she gets up in the morning before the rest of the house comes alive and sits next to me on the couch and we have these moments, these great conversations about spirituality, philosophy, the way the world works, why That Guy did That Thing on the tv, or just the latest jokes going around in school.  Plus, she is funny as hell, which makes life so entertaining.  

I said to her on her birthday, "You know, I don't really know if I want you to be seven.  I liked age six so much.  I don't know if you're going to be as nice when you're seven."

She looked up at me and gave me one of those Patient Looks parents reserve for their children when they ask ridiculous questions like, Why do I get wet when I put my hand in the pool, and said, "Mom," *heavy sigh,* "You haven't seen me at seven yet."  

We've been having some battles about homework and classroom behavior lately because she can't focus long enough to get it done in a timely fashion.  I worry about this because she is the youngest in her class and we are already starting to have some of the issues The Dormouse had at her age.  Her focus is on the short-attention-span-theater side -- probably due to being a little less mature than the other kids in her class. She talks a little too much in class -- probably due to having a little less impulse control than the older kids.  I'm wondering if I should have made her wait another year to enter school, but then again if I had, she'd be bored as all get out with the curriculum right now.  I know she can do this work, it's just a matter of will her teachers get that and be patient enough with these issues to be able to see it? and....  Sigh...  Same story, different kid. 

Probably because I'm sensitive to this, I've been riding her - perhaps a little too much - about sitting down to do her homework when she gets home and focusing until a task is done.  Twenty minutes of homework stretches into three or four hours when you can't sit in your chair for more than two minutes at a time.  It's exhausting because Momma gots stuff to do!  And because if she can't do work at home in a quiet house with no one else making noise, I know she isn't doing it at school with twenty-eight or so other kids in the room to serve as ready distractions.  We've had, ahem, a few arguments about this recently.

Today, I noticed that after about fifteen minutes, I didn't see her face back in the living room after I'd told her for the third time to sit back down and focus and I hadn't hollered at anyone in awhile.  It was quiet.  Too quiet.  I walked past and found her intently writing, so I leaned down in this quiet-for-the-first-time kitchen and whispered, "This is what I'm talking about.  This is how you focus and finish your schoolwork quickly.  Good job," and I kissed her on the head.  It was only then that I realized she'd written a full-page of whatever assignment she was working on (a lot for her - she tends to half-ass her answers because she doesn't like to write much) and she asked me if I wanted to read it.

They've been reading the Judy Blume book Freckle Juice in class.  Something I read when I was her age.  Here was the assignment:

Dear ______________, Freckles are the best thing in the whole world!  I had to have them, so I paid sneaky Sharon 50 cents for her secret freckle recipe.  I made it exactly like her recipe said and waited for the freckles to appear, but NO FRECKLES!  She had done this on purpose to trick me.  She knew it would never make me have freckles like Nicky Lane.  Do you have freckles and love them?  If you don't have freckles, do you want them just like me?  What would you do to get freckles or get rid of  them? Your friend, Andrew
They were supposed to write a letter back to Andrew. Cute, right?

It was her response back that I was not quite prepared for:

Dear Andrew,

I don't have freckles.  I don't want freckles.  I just want to be just like I am.  You should feel like that too.  You should like the way you are.  You know every body is fine the way they are.  Every body should have something special in them. You should be happy the way you are.



This.  This!  This is what doesn't get counted on school tests.  This is what doesn't show up on behavior reports and green card and red cards or clip-ups or clip-downs.  This is what I want my kids to learn from school more than anything.  I want them to grow up healthy, whole individuals who think for themselves and are brave enough to make decisions and stick by them when they know they're right and change their minds when they realize they've been wrong and who like who they are and who have opinions and don't apologize for them.  These are qualities that everyone knows will serve them well as adults, but man, teachers sure don't appreciate those qualities in kids who happen to be in their classrooms.

I'm never sure if I've gotten this parenting thing right on any given day.  Most days, I'm pretty sure I'm nowhere near the area of Good Mom and the fact that I don't forget to feed them for more than a single meal at a time is maybe all I have going for me.  But this homework assignment lets me know that sometimes I'm at least in the vicinity.  Also that This Caterpillar that we invited into our home seven short years ago?  She's pretty fantastic.