Confounded by a Primary Composition Notebook

School Supplies Pencils Erasers August 07, 20103
School Supplies Pencils Erasers August 07, 20103 (Photo credit: stevendepolo)

Early Friday morning, we loaded up the van and headed for Target, armed with three school supply lists and Christian’s iPhone to calculate whether it’s better to buy 18 small glue sticks or 9 large ones.

I had compiled the three lists into one so we’d know total numbers without having to cross-check lists, but questions kept arising, and I’d have to refer back to one list or another. Filling the boys’ was pretty straightforward, but as we picked items off the shelf for Julianna, I found myself for the first time really contemplating the disparity between her and her soon-to-be classmates.

There are things on Nicholas’ preschool list that he can use, and she, a kindergartener, can’t.

There are things on Julianna’s list that made me stop, kerflummoxed. A primary composition notebook? Really? She’s still in the scribble-all-over-full-sheets-of-paper stage. A composition notebook is a very poor use of money for her.

I thought back. Yes, of course, Alex wrote in one of those notebooks. It’s a perfectly reasonable item to place on a kindergarten list.

It was just that I hadn’t really processed how far delayed Julianna is. I’ve consistently said she’s really close to on-target in her understanding–she knows letters and colors, for instance, and she can count to five and sometimes higher. It’s just her speech, I said, that makes people think she’s so much farther behind than she really is.

But a primary composition notebook?

“You’re the one who said you wanted her to be included more,” Christian reminded me; in other words: Don’t overthink the list, let her be like her peers. And he’s right, of course.

It just drew the distinction in a way I wasn’t quite prepared for.

Last night as I helped her brush her teeth, Alex came into the bathroom. He’s far too tall now for the stool Christian made for him, the stool both Julianna and Nicholas have to use to reach the sink. But tonight, for some reason, he climbed up beside his sister, reached across her for a cup. Julianna turned her head, gave him a big goofy grin, and put her arm around him. She stuck it at a right angle to her body, and wrapped Alex’s waist.

His waist.

They are less than two years apart.

Afterward, I came downstairs and faithfully copied her school calendar into my planner, just like I do for Alex, just like I do for Nicholas. There were things I found exciting. Movie nights. Parent teas, a fancy dinner on Valentine’s Day for the kindergarteners.

And yet I’m scared. Intimidated. Our first public school. Julianna’s first foray into the real world, where she’s going to interact with the un-walled-off population of the world without us around to guide and protect her.

(That’s not really true; we sent her to children’s liturgy by herself yesterday, and she did great–came back all by herself, just like any other kid. But still.)

The week before Alex started kindergarten, I was awash with excitement for him. Today, my feelings are much more ambiguous. It’s poignant. Bittersweet. Kind of nerve-wracking.

I’m sure she’ll continue to leave a string of touch points behind her, as she always has. I’m sure she’ll charm everyone. But it’s a different experience this time. Alex was ready to fly the coop. I knew it, placidly, comfortably. Julianna’s ready, too–at least, she thinks she is. But I’m nervous about pushing her out of the nest.