Monday, April 30, 2012

Portrait of a Third Grader

"It's not easy being green," my father would acknowledge to me and my siblings, invoking Kermit the Frog's familiar lament whenever one of us was experiencing a rough phase or facing the reality of some temporary or permanent state of being. 

We'd heard third grade was a seminal year in terms of development; eight-year-olds gain social consciousness, better understand life and death and other abstract ideas, and are challenged to make significant academic leaps at school (hello multiplication tables and cursive handwriting!). 

What I didn't know was how like thirteen, or thirty, would be third grade.  It isn't easy being eight. 

It is a landscape of deep heavy sighs and merry peaks of giddiness.  The emotional currents shift swiftly; I think of the lyrics to a Crowded House song I love:  "Even when you're feeling warm/The temperature could drop away/Like four seasons in one day." 

When I watched this video--a time-lapsed compilation of footage recorded by a father of his daughter, birth to 12 years--I reflected on just how complex humans are from the very beginning.  Papa Hofmeester captures such a wide range of his daughter's expressions in a video with no sound; we see her plaintive and contemplative and triumphant and pouty and pained and teary and resolute and ecstatic--a celebration of the privilege of hosting the growth of a human from birth. 

We wonder if the videos continue past his daughter's twelfth birthday.  I am particularly interested in knowing what permissions he has from Lotte, the subject of his video.  I promised Big Sis I wouldn't post the photo above without her permission.  We had lots of discussions about trust and sharing of confidences before she agreed I could publish this post.

Because third grade means more privacy.  It means defining comfortable boundaries in every domain:  with language, relationships, the truth, actions, her body, with laughing out loud in class. 

The emergence of insecurities makes us wince.  She is appraising, already, her appearance, and her actions.  We've watched her replay scenarios and review them, as well as her own behavior and that of others, in a quest to understand and become a better person in her own eyes.   She is balancing her sense of justice with her fear of peer reprisal.  She's paying close attention, and she's exhausted. 

With greater understanding of the world comes greater depth of feeling.  Over the past year we've watched our daughter mourn.  We've watched her fret.  We've observed her manage strong feelings coming her way as well as confusing feelings she has for others.  We are watching her sort it out.

Yesterday she squealed with glee. Tonight she's wiping tears.  Tomorrow she'll skip down the sidewalk, or...?  We'll see. 

We're along for the ride.

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