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Letter sent on Feb 5, 2017

Letter #40: 4 lessons I learned from Evie’s first day of kindergarten

They grow up so damn quick.

So this week Evie started her first day of Kinder (we shorten it from Kindergarten here in Australia).

When she was overseas, she actually did a few months of kindergarten there. She really didn’t like it. In China, kinder is hardcore. They go from 8 am til about 5 pm, five days a week.

Here, it’s just two to three days a week and four to six hours a day.

Charlotte brought her there. She sent me photos of Evie going through the door, in her little outfit and bag.

She looked excited. It was the beginning of a long journey through education and self-discovery.

I smiled wistfully while looking through those photos. That was me, 20+ years ago. I can barely remember it.

I remember being with my grandmother as she walked me to and from kinder. I remember my first friend (who I am still friends with now).

Her first day got me thinking about what life held for her and for us now. Here are those ideas.

1. Are you still the amazing person she thinks you are?

I try to imagine myself looking through the eyes of Evie every now and again. Everything is bigger than you. Everyone is taller than you.

When Daddy and Mummy hold you, you feel safe, like nothing can hurt you. Your emotions are powerful. You can be bursting with happiness or boiling with anger.

But as long as Daddy and Mummy are there, everything’s OK. They can kill spiders and talk to you and feed you and wipe your bum. What else do you need?

Evie will seek meaning and connection beyond us the more she’s away from us. A couple decades later (or less), she’ll leave us.

She’ll look at us, eye to eye and say, “thanks for everything”. Maybe she’ll be relieved that we won’t be bossing her around anymore.

We were her world and soon she’ll have her own world to explore. What will she think of us in the mean time?

She’ll see her indeficiencies. The mirage will dissipate when she realises that we’re not as heroic as she once thought we were. She’ll realise that we’re not as amazing as she once thought we were.

It’s hard to be a hero. You see how hard it is in the movies. It’s even harder being a hero in real life.

If you stay the way you are, apathetic and drifting through life as you let your dreams corrode by the wayside, you’re forgoing your potential to be a hero.

Dreams are meant to be chased for a long time. Most parents don’t have the courage to chase them when they have kids.

“It’s irresponsible. My kids are my everything.”

That’s not a bad attitude to have not at all. But if more parents chased their dreams in front of their kids, wouldn’t this world be that much more enriched?

So be a hero. Show your son or daughter that the cape they put on you is not misplaced around your shoulders.

2. Make the time you spend with them count

The annoying thing about kinder here is that the days are awkward and don’t fit in with a 9–5 work life.

The hours are something like 8:30–4 and close by to home. I work in the city and for the moment, Charlotte can take her to and from kinder, but this will change.

We’ll have less and less time that we can spend together. We may get home some nights quite late. It’ll be all business: eat, shower, homework, sleep. Rinse and repeat.

You don’t have to tell me that time is of the essence. I knew it was of the essence the day my daughter was born. But as we become more time poor, I appreciate it far more.

That means less dead time. Cut out phone time. Spend it reading with your kid. Spend time in their world, as their sense of it expands.

Don’t forget to spend time in your world, too. Try to keep up your own habits and routine, just don’t waste so much time.

Also very importantly, look after your partner. You’re in this together for the long haul.

3. Are you going to became your dad/mum?

Look, I love my parents, but I don’t want to become them. They probably don’t want me to become them either.

Sometimes, I don’t know what they’re thinking when they look at me with a wife, kid and a mortgage. But something tells me that they’re quietly urging me to become more.

As a parent, I have come full circle and I know why my parents pushed me the way they did. They just want a better life for me. That’s all I want for Evie as well.

For society as a whole, that’s what we should all wish for our children. There are more and more problems in the world as time passes. New problems that we don’t know how to fix.

If we push our children to be better than we were, they can fix these problems. It’s sad that we have to think this way. We should be fixing the problems for our children, but I’m a pragmatist.

I’d rather raise a daughter to expect discrimination growing up than campaign against it myself. That’s because I know that these things take a long time to fix.

So as I watch Evie carry her little school bag to kinder, I wonder how I’m going to show her that she can be a far better person than I am.

4. Don’t be an adult all the time

I admit: I’m a bit of a man-child.

Charlotte is a great wife and mother and looks after Evie and I quite well. It’s truly a pleasure to watch her mature as a partner and parent. I can only hope that one day I become the partner I know I can become to support her better.

It’s not hard for me to channel my inner child because I’m not that far removed from him. There are days that I don’t want to “adult” and just play video games.

Charlotte admits that I Evie gets along with me better because I’m more fun. All I have to do is be myself and Evie’s laughing her head off.

At work, my team is easily the youngest around. Joining the parent organisation after being acquired, we can see that a lot of people have been here for quite a while. We’re told the average employee age is 40+.

Everyone feels mature and… adult. They feel like they could be my parent. I say that even though I’m a parent as well. Their kids are older though. But it’s just the way they go about things that’s adult-ish.

I can’t see myself becoming like that. Maybe I slowly am, the longer I work here and the longer I’m a dad. I feel like it’s the inevitable fate if you atrophy.

So I’m fighting against adulthood and staying the way I am. That’s how I am naturally. Adulthood is the gradual acceptance that everything’s going to end, so you might as well accept it now.

But if you have something you want to do, you have to rail against that and keep a shard of your childhood alive. That unreasonable, petulant part of you. That’s what keeps the part of you that wants to see change — in yourself, in the world — alive.

Please give a warm welcome to:

Maybe you don’t have a kid starting pre-school/kindergarten/school. Maybe you’re more experienced and have been through all this.

I think there’s lessons to be learned in all aspects of life. Hopefully you have gained something from my little life experience.

Til next week,

-J.