When my child expressed his fear to me, I—in a move that would make Sigmund Freud himself proud—full-on projected, reacting to my own memories and the obvious biographical parallels. Yes, my child is also the son of immigrants. I ended up leaving my home country and relocating to North America a few years ago with my husband, but we speak English to our kids, and Ben reads and writes it. He is also not a stranger to the environment he’ll be spending most of his time in come September. My son’s senior kindergarten teacher took his class on a few visits to the schoolyard during school hours. He’s been playing there after hours and on weekends ever since he was a toddler. Having attended preschool in the same facility, he knows some of his teachers and all of the building’s secret passageways. This is nothing like my situation so many years ago.
I often worry about my ability to properly bond with my son; it seems like gender and geography often get in the way of finding a common ground. In this moment, I missed an opportunity to create a different kind of bond, one based on listening. Instead of seizing the opportunity, I unintentionally made this about me and my own experiences instead of him and his feelings. I didn’t need to find a solution. I needed to let him speak instead.
Tomorrow when my son wakes up, I won’t be perfect. I’ll miss some other new, important cues, I’m sure. But we will talk about Grade One once again, and I will ask the question that children ask their parents so often: “Why?” and then this time, I’ll just listen.