When I was a youngster, my mother became a preschool teacher. She was The Preschool Teacher in the neighbourhood for 18 or so years. All the kids knew her and their parents would corner her in the supermarket and ask her questions. Everyone came to our house at Halloween to show her their costumes. I got lots of babysitting jobs because being “good with kids” must run in the family.
Yes and no. I was a fine babysitter. But I was adamantly opposed to becoming a preschool teacher someday just like my mom. Partly because she was truly called to do that work. But mostly because people kept suggesting it and I have an allergic reaction to suggestions.
While I did not want to become a preschool teacher someday, I did learn a lot about preschools and how they run and who makes them run. I learned how to make playdough. I learned how to mix powdered paint. I helped cut out crafts on the weekend. I went in and helped in the school on my own school’s professional days; I learned the kids’ names too and how to play with them and how to not scare them.
I learned how important preschool is. How much kids can learn through play. How an environment that fosters cooperation and individuality and creativity can help a shy child blossom, help a boisterous child settle.
(What I have since learned is that preschool is a luxury, something that costs money and time and is not available to everyone. I have also learned that there are parents who think of preschool as a status symbol, as evidence of their ability to provide, like long fingernails mean you’re white collar. I do not think of preschool that way.)
I grew up in the preschool. It was a second home for me so when I went looking for a school for Trombone, I chose one that is not terribly close to our physical home but which is identical in feeling to the school where my mom taught. I walked in Trombone’s school for the first time, saw the poster on the wall that said, “But all those children do is play!” with its explanations of learning through play listed below and knew it was the right school for him.
Luckily he liked it too.
But with all my preschool knowledge, the one thing I never knew, of course, was how it feels on the other side. How it feels to be a parent, a parent of a three year old and a 17 month old, a parent who is more familiar with what the kids do AT school than she is with what the parents are supposed to be doing the rest of the time.
This morning, I spent 90 minutes subliminally advertising school to Trombone so he would calm down enough to get his pants on. There was a backlash last week, when he decided he didn’t like school and he wasn’t going anymore. This morning, he was screaming at me, screaming at Fresco, turning red from all the crying.
In the end, offering a coveted cereal bar for snacktime and the suggestion that his teacher might like to hear him sing “Barbara-Ann” got us there just in time. He didn’t even hug me goodbye, just walked right in. I witnessed several other kids walking in the same way and talking with the parents outside, discovered that many of them had spent the morning just as I had.
I feel like an idiot but I did not expect this. In my head it was going to go:
– a couple of days of being unsure
– see you later, mom; don’t the door hit you on the way out
He has not had an afternoon nap since school started. (His afternoon nap had been 2 hrs a day and yes I know I was very lucky but it was just YANKED away from me and now we do 1.5 hrs of “quiet time” which consists of me going up there to tell him to close his door approximately every 20 minutes and that is not relaxing for me, not at all.) Fresco has not had a morning nap since school started. The sibling rivalry that had died down to a dull-ish roar has come back, now that school has started. I have had a lingering cold/flu/who knows what since school started.
That last one is unrelated, I think, since the kids haven’t been sick, but it does shade my perspective here. I just feel like crap, mostly at night, but not enough to really complain.
In sum: Transitions are hard! I don’t have to make very many so it is surprising to me how hard. Especially if it is a transition for everyone in the house. Fresco is the clear winner here, since he still gets as many crackers as he can handle, plus the Totally Awesome < / sarcasm > one-on-one time with me.
Well Saint Aardvark is doing all right too. He’s blogging up a storm, anyway.
It was just always so much easier from (my child’s eye version of) my mom’s point of view. Kids came in, she learned their names, some of them cried and others peed their pants. And then, look, 15 boxes of Christmas chocolate! I think that’s it. I suspect no one is going to give me any chocolate.
I am hopeful the worst is over, that the short term pain is making way for that elusive long term gain. Already, the kids are (suspiciously) making friends with each other and the teachers were awestruck by Trombone’s rendition of Barbara-Ann, which is gratifying for him, as it is his favourite song to perform. Today was the first full two-hour class so Fresco and I went to the park and ate crackers and were quiet (! I KNOW!) together.
Like that, a month has passed. Slowly we stumble toward the new normal.