And this bird you cannot change

Greg is a good student but he runs around a lot and makes fun of the other kids.

This is an excerpt from a report my stad received when he was in elementary school. His mom saved it and at some point passed it along to my parents. I think it's sitting in a box somewhere at their house.

I have not received that exact report on my child, but I think we're getting close. It's something to strive for. Earlier this week, I did receive this little gem from her teacher:

A had a hard time listening and following directions. She did like playing with playdoe [sic] and shapes. Disruptive to others at nap. Please have A wear shorts under her dresses, she has troubles not showing her underwear.

Great, she's a troublemaker and an exhibitionist. I've learned, though, that there is a fine line between teaching a child to follow the rules and squelching a free spirit. My daughter is a bright, loving, night owl of a child who has no time or patience for social norms and rules. She changes her clothes several times a day. She walks out of her underwear and leaves them where they lay (she gets this from her Aunt Craggy - hi sis!) She gallops in public and talks to strangers. She dances whenever and wherever there is music, even if it's just the "Dragon Tales" theme song. She has no interest in schedules or puzzles. You might say she's got a lot of joie de vivre.

I'm learning, however, that her new teacher doesn't dig joie de vivre. Or talking during naptime. I understand that it does cause a problem if my child is disruptive when other children are sleeping. If I spent my day dealing with pre-schoolers I'd surely want them to nap, too. So, I had a talk with the kid. Again.

"I need you to play or read quietly during naptime so that you don't bother the other kids, okay?"

I could tell that, as usual, she was wearing her ornamental ears and not the functional pair - the oft-mentioned "listening ears" that they want her wearing at Kindercare. I decided to try a different tactic and made her shake on it. She shook my hand and nodded solemnly while agreeing to try harder during naptime.

"Having integrity means doing what you say you're going to do, and when you shake on something you have to do it. Do you have integrity?" I asked her.

A nodded again. "I have tegrity," she replied and went back to making herself a moustache out of a yellow Bendaroo.

There's a part of me that would love to home-school her and let her be who she wants to be. But, our financial obligations dictate that I have to maintain gainful employment. So instead, I try to walk that line. I want to raise a polite child who has respect for others, but who is also a free-thinker and not a conformist. I envy her and wish I could be that free spirit. I have a friend who has an in-ground pool and occasionally she invites us over for a swim. Each time I visit this friend's house, I notice that the pile on her dining room table grows ever larger. I have actually never seen the surface, truth be told. And to be honest, I really admire my friend's ability to frolic in the pool while the clutter expands inside the house. I would be the type to say, "Just five more minutes and I promise we'll go swimming." And really, that's no way to be.

My daughter works on me and my goody-two-shoes ways as much as she can, though. I was trying to work on a website the other day, but she pulled me away and made me play the hand-clap game "Miss Mary Mack" on the couch instead. She requires me to dance to the theme song for "Bob the Builder." ("Can we fix it? Yes we can!") She pulls my hand until I agree to skip across the parking lot, into the grocery store. "Mama, can you do this?" she'll ask, hopping on one foot and contorting her face with her hands.

I can, and I do.