Today was Fresco’s day to be special helper at school. This involves: bringing something for show and tell, helping the teacher get everyone’s snack, ringing the ‘cleanup triangle’ and possibly other rituals I am not aware of. What Happens At Preschool, etc.
Last week we learned that today would be special helper day and Fresco was deeeelighted with this information. He has been bringing potential show and tell items in his backpack since the first day of school. Puppies, cats, candy, crayons, notebooks, you name it, he will drag it to school, convinced someone wants to see it.
So I was surprised when yesterday, on our way back from walking Trombone to school, Fresco said,
“I’m not going to school tomorrow. I don’t want to be special helper.”
“Whaaaaat?” I said.
“Yeah. I’m not gonna go. I’ll just stay home with you.”
I elected to change the subject because staying at home with me? NOT AN OPTION. I have just under two hours and I want those two hours and your capricious, wishy-washy, flip-flopping brain will not steal them. I had this idea that if I changed the subject he would forget he’d said it and we’d be back to normal.
I know. I continue to delude myself that he has the mind of a five month old cat. (Oh look! A tail to chase!)
Later, I mentioned something about ‘tomorrow’ and he stopped what he was doing and stared at me.
“Am I going to school tomorrow?”
“Yes. It’s Tuesday! Hooray for Tuesday!”
He shook his head.
“No. I’m not going, remember?”
“But you’re going to be special helper! It will be so much fun!”
“No. It will be too much work.”
“Yes. All that *talking to people.* And telling them about *my stuff.*”
Aha. My little shrieking banshee is an INTROVERT. How did I not see that one coming. Oh yeah, because I was blinded by his deafening SHOUTING.
“You sound like you’re nervous about the show and tell,” I said, in my best counseling voice.
“Mmmm,” he said.
“All the kids looking at you. Asking you things. Yikes! Scary!” I said.
“Yeah!” he said.
“Yeah, I understand,” I said. I stopped there, hoping that some inspirational claptrap would occur to me in the intervening 16 hours.
Helpfully, by which I mean not helpfully, this morning Trombone remembered that it was Fresco’s turn for special helper and once he realized that Fresco was uncomfortable about it, proceeded to torture him until it was time to leave.
“So! Fresco! Got your SHOW AND TELL ready yet? Hmmm? Decided what you’re going to take?”
“I’m not going. I’m not going to school. I’m not GOOOOIIIIING.”
Oh god please don’t barf.
Finally, this morning, as he refused to put on socks or pants, I told him it was supposed to be fun, not work. That he could say a lot, or say nothing. He could say “This is my dog, Spot. The end.” Or he could tell a story about Spot and the other puppies running away to Mongolia together to fish for giant monster fish in the river. Or he could have Spot do a song and dance routine. It was totally up to him. (Fresco, not Spot. Spot isn’t real.)
He changed his mind. And when I say ‘changed his mind’ I mean went right back to the way it was last week. It was like a light switch. He was skipping, hopping, excited and happy, clutching Spot, as well as the skull of a Halloween decoration. (symbolic meaning: not sure?)
“Don’t forget my badge,” he said. “I’m the special helper today.”
“Yeah. OK. Got it,” I said.
It’s a helpful reminder, to know that as early as toddlerhood, we* can become paralyzed with anxiety about new situations. I know exactly how Fresco feels. I would *totally* sign up to do a show-and-tell and then, at the last minute, get nervous and try to weasel out of it. Trying new things is exciting/terrifying. And then, after you do the new thing, you feel like a superstar.
It isn’t rocket science. But we stay safe, in our houses, with our grumpy mothers, when we should be out telling people about our stuffed dogs.
So to speak.
I thought it was a lesson worth writing down. Maybe now it will stick.
* Royal “we,” of course. Your mileage may vary and probably is, in fact, way better than mine. Ours. You know.