Sunday, August 21, 2005

It's My Baby And I'll Cry If I Want To

The 3-year-old went off to school for the first time this month. He had spent most of the summer insisting he was going to be "three forever" and that "I'm going to stay home and play with you and never go to school."

But the Big Day rolled around. Lunches were packed. Uniforms were donned. We headed to S.C.H.O.O.L. As I drove, he assured me we would be dropping off the 6-year-old at his first grade class, and then we would go home and play games. I did not argue the point.

After dropping off the 6-year-old in front of his school, I drove to the opposite side of the parking lot where the Pre-Kindergarten building was located. "Look, there's your teacher!" I said. She was smiling through the van window at him. Pre-K children get personal escorts so they do not escape into the general population while trying to flee their introduction to education.

The 3-year-old looked startled, in the way a mouse must before it is eaten by a Great Horned Owl. I unbuckled him from his carseat, and his teacher took his hand as he descended from the van clutching his lunchbox to his chest. He gave me one last unhappy glance before leaving with his teacher, marching straight forward with his head down, as if going off to his own execution.

I knew it was not an easy moment for him because it was not easy for me. I wanted to cling to his leg until the teacher peeled me off and told me I'd be all right, I'd be seeing him again in a few hours. I worried about him all morning.

Would the teachers be nice to him, recognizing that he is my Precious Angel? Would they realize he might be afraid to use "their potty?" Would he eat his carefully packed lunch, peanut butter sandwich carved into perfectly symmetrical triangles? Would he get along with the other children and understand they were of the same species as himself? Would he REMEMBER ME when I picked him up?

I needn't have worried. He was all smiles when I came to get him. The teacher told me he had a wonderful day and was fitting in nicely with the group. He would be turning 4 soon, the youngest preschooler in his class.

After I buckled him and asked about his day, he told me "We did songs. We did activities. We did costumes. BUT NO CRAFTS!" The lack of crafts was to be a recurring theme, as each day the first week he described his day, ending the litany with "BUT NO CRAFTS!" Apparently the only reason he had agreed to be educated at all was for the crafts. So thank heavens by Friday he came home with a personally created turtle made out of a green snack container.

He also admitted to me, "I was cranky and sad today, because I thought I lost my Mom." He insisted that I wait for him right in the parking lot until he came out the next day. Of course I promised him I would. In the first week he tried to make it out to be a Temporary Experience. "I'm going until Friday," he explained to me. "I can't go next week." He must have checked his schedule and concluded he was too busy.

Of course the 6-year-old cannot listen to such conversations without butting in with The Truth. "NO!" he shouted. "You have to go until MAY!" The next day the 3-year-old said to me, "I'm just going to preschool. I can't go to second grade." "NO!" the 6-year-old shrieked. "You have to go until COLLEGE!" Egads. Did we have to start getting him all upset about graduate school in the first week?

But in the second week his reluctant demeanor changed. I sincerely feared he would try to make good his threat to end his education after one week. But Monday he woke up perky! Ate his breakfast in a timely fashion! Picked out his own clothes! Had his teeth brushed, was dressed and armed by the door with his lunchbox before the 6-year-old had even struggled out of his pajamas!

He is still missing me. As I miss the both of them. But he is proud of being a preschooler who dresses himself and remembers to bring his lunchbox home. He even reported to me that he had invited his entire preschool class (20 children) to sleep over at our house! Hopefully while Hubby is home and I am overseas. Now if we can only maintain this cheerful outlook until college. Maybe I'll tell him college students do LOTS of arts and crafts. And of course I'll be waiting for him in the parking lot.

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