grown man versus four year old
who do you think won?
After revealing my crazy at the parent only orientation, I made sure I was on my very best behavior for the preschool meet and greet yesterday. I exhibited colossal restraint. I did not share any stories. I did not answer any questions intended for another person. I did not finish anyone’s sentences. I did not speak for anyone else. I did nothing more than support my daughter, like a real grown-up parent.
We walked into her classroom hand in hand. A teacher greeted us and Julia – though obviously distracted by the grandness that was her classroom – politely introduced her sister. Then she ran off to explore. She was so excited! I stood back and watched. All the other children were busy with activities, flowing freely from learning station to learning station. Julia eased right into the mix. A little girl named Grace handed me a very special “ticket” she’d made. Another girl came over to admire Lucy and commented that she was “pretty much the cutest baby.”
The room was so bright and lively, without being loud or overwhelming. Lucy never stopped pedaling her legs while she watched the kids play. Julia seemed comfortable and I was pleased with the way the teachers interacted with her. She told me that she loved her school at least four times. When I said it was time to go, she told me exactly what she wanted to check out when she came back next week. The meet and greet was a success.
On the way home, I asked Julia, “So, what do you think?”
“My one teacher has hair like Chewbacca.”
I prayed that she won’t tell her teacher that, even though it’s a huge compliment from Julia. She loves Chewbacca. She talks about him incessantly. She makes up stories about him. She draws pictures of him. She asks me to “talk like Chewbacca” throughout the day. She’s decided she wants to be an astronaut so she can go to space and get a wookie of her very own. To Julia, CHEWBACCA.IS.EVERYTHING. But, her teacher doesn’t know that. And, “Hey teacher, you look like Chewbacca!” could easily be misconstrued. So I told her, “Jules, maybe you shouldn’t -” then I stopped. No. I wasn’t going to do that. I started again, “You know, your teacher does have very nice hair.”
See how good preschool is? I’m learning already!
Dave actually had to reach around from behind me and help stuff them in so I could pump milk that Lucy refused to drink anyway. Ah, good times.
The moral of this story: Breast pumps are not one size fits all.
Julia will begin preschool in less than one week. I only wish I had the talent to illustrate a School House Rock-esque cartoon in which those words would be formed by brick letters that crash on me as they are sung by the guy who did I’m Just A Bill and The Tale of Mr. Morton, because that’s the only thing I can think of that would effectively communicate the enormity of that sentence: Julia will begin preschool in less than one week.
Dave and I attended a parent orientation last night all by ourselves. A few weeks ago the school sent a letter indicating that the orientation was for parents only. They even underlined that part: parents only. So, I bought a breast pump and asked my mom to sit with the girls while we went.
We had to take with us to the parents only preschool orientation some paperwork that included a questionnaire about Julia. It started out fun. We got to circle all the things Julia can do, most of the time. Button. Zip. Put on her coat. Run. Jump. Skip. State her name. Write her name. Then, it got a little harder. From a list of approximately 40 words, we had to choose the 8 that best described our daughter. Dave and I made our selections carefully and as a team. We copied the list and took turns eliminating words until we reached the 8 keepers. Part way through our selections, we noticed that many of the words were similar, but with different connotations. For example, CONFIDENT (positive connotation) and HEADSTRONG (negative connotation). So, we were mindful to choose the most positive form of each quality listed. Finally, we had to explain why we chose a Montessori school and what our immediate goals for Julia were. Dave began quoting lyrics to The Greatest Love Of All. I told him, “You! Don’t talk too much at this thing!”
It felt so weird to be out without the kids. It would have almost been exciting except there was no potential for adult-orientated shenanigans. So, mostly it was weird. Who would I blame for the stains on my shirt? It was the first time in almost five months that I left the house without a diaper bag. I couldn’t even find a purse to put my stuff in, so I used one of the free bags the hospital gave me when Lucy was born. Dave asked what I would possibly need to carry in it. I recited a list of essentials that ended with a pad and pen for taking notes at the orientation. He called me a nerd. I told him his nose hair was too long.
When we arrived at the school, we turned in our paperwork and headed for the meeting room. I wanted to sit in the front, Dave wanted to sit in the back. We compromised and sat in the middle where we fought over the packet of information they gave us until the orientation started. Dave didn’t even really want to read it, he was just keeping it from me because he knew I wanted it so badly. So, I yanked one of his nose hairs out and took the packet while he was still stunned.
We listened to the school director speak, then were released to our respective classrooms to meet the teacher. She remembered us right away from the open house they held last March. Probably because we had stayed there so long, we closed the open house. And I may have cried and hugged a stranger.
We looked around the room. We saw Julia’s name on her circle time spot. She’s right next to the teacher and a girl named Emma. (Emma. Emma sounds nice. Emma’s are friendly, no? I feel good about Julia sitting next to Emma.) Also, her name was listed along with her birthday on a cardboard rainbow on the bulletin board. (She’s not the oldest, not the youngest; she’s right in the middle. Perfect.) We saw her name on a drawer. (There’s already a lollipop in there for her!) The room looked ready for Julia. We were happy. Dave suggested we head out. I felt like we needed to at least say hello to the teacher. So, we skulked around until the teacher was free and then we meandered into her general vicinity.
“Do you have any questions?” she asked.
“I don’t think so,” I said, “I just can’t believe my baby is about to start school. I mean, she’s ready. She’s excited! This is going to be so good for her. I’m the one that’s freaked out.” And I proceeded to talk in such a way that I am certain convinced this woman that I’m a total flake. In fact, I think she may be afraid of me, because when I made a joke about camouflaging my face with green paint and watching class from the shrubs outside the window, she reminded me that they have a drop-off zone each morning, which means I don’t even have to get out of my car to drop Julia off at school.
There was an awkward silence.
Dave looked at me, “Well, you ready to go?”
Still, I kept talking. I volunteered to be the party parent. I offered Dave up as Santa Claus at Christmas.
Dave said with a chuckle, “Okay, well, I think we should go!” and gently pulled me toward the door.
I told a story about the first time Julia took a class I wasn’t allowed to accompany her to and how I laid on the floor, watching her feet under the door. (I vaguely remember telling that story at the Open House.)
“That it? Ready to go?” Dave asked, taking advantage of my need to breathe in some air.
“We’ll see you on Friday at the Meet and Greet,” the teacher said, trying to help Dave get me out of there.
I mentioned that I’d be bringing Lucy along and asked if that would be okay, then went on to tell her about how this was the first time I’d ever left Lucy and I had to pump my breast milk.
Dave squeezed my hand, tugged me toward the door and said, “Well, it looks like it’s time to go!” as he gestured toward the empty classroom next door and the teachers turning out lights, “Lucy’s waiting for you.”
Finally, I yielded and let Dave drag me out.
I’m not sure why I kept talking and talking. I don’t know what response I was hoping for. I don’t know why it was so hard to just walk out of that classroom. Maybe it’s because I know I can’t be there with her when she starts. It’s the first place of Julia’s that’s hers alone, not mine, too. It’s the first place in her life where I don’t belong. That’s not a feeling I’m used to.
The moment we reached the car, I pulled out my cell phone and called my mom to check on my girls. I could hear Lucy screaming. Mom said she’d been screaming for the past hour and was inconsolable. Dave put his foot on the gas. I said we’d be there as fast as we could and hung up. I sat there, in limbo, somewhere between holding on and letting go. Dave put his hand over mine and said, “It’s going to be okay.”
“Yeah,” I sniffled, wiping away tears.
“I just want to know what you’re going to do the day the teacher calls to tell you Julia’s been saying dammit.”
I took out a tissue, dried my face and said, “At least it wasn’t fuck.”
“I think we’re ready for preschool.”
“Yes we are.”
Also, in the spirit of back to school, I can’t stop singing We Are Going To Be Friends* by The White Stripes. Sing along, why don’t ya?
A ridiculous amount of time was spent debating the benefits of these choices.
“These underwear have Ariel on them, but when I scrunch them down below my belly button, they poof out and make my tummy look lumpy when I put my pants on. I don’t have to scrunch the other underwear, but they have no princesses on them at all!”
So, finally, I suggested we buy a pack of each. THIS WAS DUMB. Because now I have to face the great underwear dilemma every.single.morning.