Relax

Kindergarten naptime followed a routine so clear that I can remember it more than 40 years later. First, all of the children went to the box and got out one of the colorful sleeping mats. Then, we put them in a circle on the taped lines. Something calming and comforting came next – did Mrs. Kay read to us? sing? I can’t quite remember, probably because I was getting sleepy. What I remember very clearly, however, is the final step: relaxation check.

We lay very still on our mats and relaxed. Mrs. Kay, whom I adored, walked quietly around the circle, gently picking up the hand of one kindergartner after another. If we were relaxed, our arm would fall easily back to the ground. By the time she was finished, most of us were asleep.

Except for me. Oh, I was plenty tired – I’d started kindergarten “early” and was the youngest in the class, so I needed my rest – but the relaxation check drove me to distraction. I simply could not remember if I was supposed to keep my arm up or let it fall down when Mrs. Kay lifted it. I would settle onto the mat, and my senses would go on high alert. I listened for my beloved teacher’s soft step and strained to hear if the other children were letting their arms drop or keeping them up. As Mrs. Kay approached, my body tensed. I held my breath. Would I get it right? Up or down? Up or down?

I must have figured this out over time. I know I napped because I remember waking up. It’s possible, even likely, that these anxious moments only occurred for a week or two near the beginning of the year, but emotion makes memory and I remember the desperation of wanting to relax in the right way more than I remember relaxing.

This memory surfaced as I read aloud to the kids tonight and my older son postured and played and then stuck his arm straight up in the air. “Settle your body,” I said and he giggled, then relaxed into the story.

After the kids were in bed, I immediately started thinking about just a few more things that I needed to get done. “Settle,” I told myself sternly, “relax.” But somehow I’m forever back in kindergarten, wanting to please, wanting to sleep, trying to remember whether my arm should be up or down. Up or down? Up or down?

If only Mrs. Kay were here to shake my arm gently, lean down to me and whisper in my ear, “It’s ok, Mandy. Let go. You can sleep now. ”

 

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10 thoughts on “Relax

  1. Settling is a challenge for me, too. I’m still filling time with more than I realistically can accomplish.

    I think, like your Kindergarten self, we don’t quite know how to get in the right position. I miss those days when napping was part of the structure of a day, something required and necessary.

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  2. “Emotion makes memory.” How true! And what if we all remembered this as educators? Your connection between your kindergarten self and today’s anxious pandemic period is so fascinating, and the message so powerful- we need to actually relax because it’s important that we do. Thanks for this Amanda!

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  3. I remember lying in bed as a kid one night after learning my mom was pregnant with my brother. I was 8. I remember her telling me to think about what colour quilt we should make for the new baby. That was before people had any idea what gender the baby would be. I feel like I was up all night dying to figure out what she meant by “think”. It took me a long time to be able to lay down and relax! I’m quite sure I never napped in kindergarten.

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    1. I was so little in kindergarten & I had a terrible time settling down; I’m sure I napped! And your “think” story made me remember another one: when I was a new teacher the “Dean of Faculty” at my old school told me that I would learn to stop taking things so personally. I spent ages obsessing about that – effectively taking his comment quite personally. SIGH.

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  4. I love this memory and the connection to now. I wonder how much about us stays the same from the time we are very young. I was right back there in kindergarten with you… and of course this brought on my own memories. A great reminder for us all right now- to try and relax.

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  5. I love how the softness of this memory comes back to you now and you recognize how you’ve always been this way. The repetition of Mrs. Kay’s directives is effective. I need her in my life.

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