Sunday was a big day for M.: she got to go and meet her preschool teacher, some of her classmates, and see her classroom. To say she was excited was an understatement. It had already been a big weekend, with three of the out-of-town aunts coming home for a wedding shower, and one of her out-of-town uncles coming back as well. Plus, we had been talking up going to see her class for a couple weeks, so by Sunday afternoon, she was ready to go.
When we got to the school, I signed a few forms then wandered around until we found her classroom. We walked in and found nametags waiting for the kids. I put M.’s on her shirt, and one of the teachers came right over and said, “Hi M.!” M. lost all control of her excitement, doing a little happy dance and shrieking, “I’m at school! YEAH!!!” Any fears we had of her being a shrinking violet were quickly put to rest. I collected the other handouts that were waiting for us and tried to get her to play with the other kids. She was reluctant at first, preferring to bring toys over to me so she could show them to me, “Look, Dad, it’s a cooker!” (Her name for barbecue grills.) Her teacher came over and introduced herself and went through some of the things they’ll be doing this year with me, and asked a few questions like “Is she potty trained?” Not to jinx her and set her back, but fortunately the answer is yes. While we were talking, M. was playing with a letter game in which you make letters from sticks of different lengths and shapes. She was in the A position, but rotated the two long sticks so it looked like and H, and said, “Excuse me, Daddy. I made an H!” The teacher, who did not hear her entire sentence, said, “You’re right, that is an A.” I thought about correcting her – “No, no, she just made an H, see how well she knows her alphabet?” – but I chose to let it go. They’ll figure out how smart she is soon enough.
One of the teacher’s aides was going around taking pictures of all the kids, I assume so they can put faces with names before class starts in two weeks. When it was M.’s turn, she smiled at the camera and yelled, “CHEESE!” The aide looked at me and said, “I think someone’s had her picture taken before.” I should have handed her the address to our Flickr site!
M. finally decided to dive in and play with some of the other kids. She sat down at a table where another girl from her class, and that girl’s little sister, were playing with some toy food and place settings. They shared quietly for a few minutes, and then M. looked at the little sister, who was probably 18 months old and working on a binky, and asked me, “Is she a baby, Dad?” I responded that no, she was not a baby anymore. “Why does she have a binky then, Dad?” I sensed an opportunity to scar this little girl for life, so I chose my response carefully. “Well, some kids keep their binkies for awhile. You kept yours until you were almost two years old.” “Oh. OK.” And back to playing, with the little girl apparently no worse for my answer.
M. had said she wanted to go see the playground, so I started to move her in that direction. My wife tells me around three is the time when kids stop “parallel playing” and actually begin to interact. M. is starting to make that jump. She looked at her classmate, who had hardly said a word but had shared some toys nicely, and asked, “Do you want to go outside with me?” The girl just sat there and blinked. Sometimes it can be sad how little kids don’t understand how not every other kid wants to do the same things they want to do. But M. shook it off and we went outside.
We played for awhile, went back inside to get some ice cream, and then exited to head home. On our way out, M. saw a small statue of some kind of religious guy. Naturally, she had to ask who it was. I know it wasn’t Jesus, and could tell it wasn’t St. Francis, the only saint I can name by sight. The church is named after St. Elizabeth Seton, and I knew it wasn’t her. I didn’t have much else to go on. “Ummm, that’s a priest,” I said. Good enough for her, I figured. I quickly checked around to make sure there was no one else in earshot, especially one of the actual priests at the church. I figured it was a little early to pull the “I’m not Catholic” card which I keep in my back pocket to get out of jams at church. I don’t need the priests ensuring my daughter gets an extra heaping portion of dogma.
Despite my little faux pas at the end, it was a good day. M. was excited to go, was well-behaved, and seemed to enjoy it. Now, though, we’re working on the hard part: explaining that in two weeks, mommy or daddy will not be going in with her. This is the first time she’ll ever be away from us, so I expect either total acceptance because she’s excited about it, or a total meltdown. But definitely not indifference and silence.
Now Playing: <strong>The Right Profile</strong> from the album “London Calling” by <a href=”http://www.google.com/search?q=%22The%20Clash%22″>The Clash</a>