The One with the School Trip

I woke up yesterday morning and couldn’t remember why I had a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. Then BigBrother came running up to me, crashing into my legs and I remembered: We were taking him to preschool for our tour, to ask questions and to watch him interact for a little while. Oh, yeah. The dread.

If you have children and you don’t have a Men In Black mind-eraser, you know that the age of two is unpredictable. Even if your child is normally mild-mannered and well-behaved, two-year-olds have a hair trigger and can go off without notice. If you look at BigBrother wrong on one of his bad days, you have committed an ultimate sin and will be punished with screaming, wailing and general CAPS LOCKS torture. And no, I don’t want to talk about sharing or the lack thereof. It’s bad. It’s just bad.

But I see the good in him as well. He says please, thank you, excuse me and welcome most of the time. He knows his letters, though not always in order, most of his numbers, though not always in order, and can always get the color blue right. (Everything under the sun is blue, just so you know.) He is mostly potty-trained (next step is getting him to do this himself). He is loving; just watch him with his brother when he’s not being mean. He is compassionate; cry. See what he does. He’s funny! But I spend all day and all night with him. I know his good points. And I have that parent bias. A little bit.

So, the dread. I feared walking in the door of the school to meet these teachers with whom BigBrother will spend three years and LittleBrother will also spend three years as their birthdays will keep them out of Kindergarten for that first year. I feared walking in the door and BigBrother having a moment, tossing himself on the floor and everything deteriorating to the point of tears. Not BigBrother, but me! Did I mention that LittleBrother was also with us, strapped in the Mei Tai. Oh, the things that could have gone wrong.

But they didn’t.

He held FireDad’s hand and walked into the school like a Big, Big Boy. When we walked into the classroom, which was perfect, by the way, he ran off and found some trucks, cars and, OH MY GOODNESS, Lightning McQueen. He didn’t run off to play with the kids first. Just the toys. We stood and watched him while discussing things with the teachers. I remembered most of the questions that I wanted to ask. I slowly started to calm down as I became confident in their ability to help him adjust to school, routine and transitions. They told me success stories about their younger starters (as BigBrother will be a month and a half away from being three when school starts) and pointed out an awesome little boy who helped BigBrother get something as one of their early starters. They clucked over the fact that he already knows his letters and made me feel like puffing out my chest even though all of that is mostly accidental learning; puzzles, magnets, games, reading and the Magnadoodle are to blame/thank.

Then the boys in the (small!) class surrounded BigBrother. They wanted to play. He was a head shorter than everyone as he was clocking in a year to almost two years younger than the lot of them at this point in the year. But he didn’t shy away. He held on to the car that he wanted to play with but he didn’t hit, scream or throw toys. He played and interacted for awhile, even slapping high fives with a really, really tall little dude. I felt my anxiety melt a little bit.

The teachers talked about time out and how some kids never, ever get set in the chair. I laughed at them. No, I did. I have no doubt that BigBrother will be in time out, at least twice, for the following infractions: not cleaning up toys after playtime, refusing to share and then fighting about it and oh, I could write a whole list of things here. But yesterday? He was a gem. He transitioned well when the one teacher took us down to show us the play gym. Not a, “No, I don’t want to.” Not a, “I’m busy!” Got up from where he was, took FireDad’s hand and went downstairs with us. When it was time to actually leave from the gym (to go home! oh no!), I bribed him with “a special treat,” and he didn’t whimper or cry or fuss. He said, “OKAY!” He told the teacher thank you. He said bye. And we left.

Yeah, I bought the kid some ice cream. Wouldn’t you?

And so, he did well. I’m less nervous about school in the fall. Less nervous because, let’s face it, I’m me. I’m going to be nervous. Forever. Long after he is grown and out of our home. But the teachers were awesome. BigBrother has some hidden social skills that we didn’t know about. And, well, it has to happen eventually so I better just suck it up and deal. Knowing that he will be at a good school with good teachers is what I needed to make this step.

I swear. Preschool is more about the parents than the kids. I swear.


Gearing Up + Nausea

How BB Thinks You Get to SchoolWe’re scheduled to tour the preschool we want BigBrother to attend in the fall on this coming Thursday. That’s right. Preschool. He won’t quite be three yet come September but as he’s just over the cut off and already potty trained (minus an accident here or there) they are willing to make an exception and take him.

Part of me wanted them to say, “Nope! No can do!” But, I called. I asked. They answered. And suddenly we’re on the slippery slope towards preschool.

We already know that we’ll like the school. Friends of ours sent their daughter and had lots of raves. FireDad has also been in the school on various occasions for fire demonstrations. We’ve researched quite a few schools in the area and this one seems to be most in line with how we teach BigBrother already and is, you know, clean and well-staffed. It’s a win-win situation.

The morning, two-day-a-week class was already full. I didn’t think he was ready for three days, so we’re going to be enrolling him in the afternoon, two-day-a-week class. Since his birthday will definitely cut him out of early enrollment in Kindergarten, he’ll have three full years of preschool. Next year, we’d switch to mornings, two days a week and the third year would be the mornings, three days a week. A slow, gradual work-up to mornings, five days a week in “real” school. I think I like the slow approach. Even though it’s giving me heart attacks.

He’s had some experience listening to teachers in church but no real experience yet. Isn’t that what preschool is for? We’ve been working on the importance of listening (read: not ignoring Mommy) and some other things. We’ve introduced him to the concept of teachers. But I have no idea how to further prepare him for preschool. It’s not as if he’s in daycare. It’s just All Mommy, All The Time up in this piece. And while we do fun learning things every day, it’s not really the learning I’m concerned about. It’s the whole other kids and sharing and remembering to go pee on the potty without me asking every 40 minutes to an hour and not hitting or biting or kicking. I mean, he doesn’t normally hit or bite or kick but he’s not normally with a bunch of other children. I’d have playdates with some other Moms who have kids his age but things have been busy lately for all of us. Perhaps as it gets warmer and we don’t feel like we’re forced to show off our messy houses we’ll all have time for the park or backyard playdates.

That said, I like this website’s ideas for preparing your child for preschool. Though the thought of taking him shopping for a backpack makes me weepy. How is my BigBrother really big enough for this kind of stuff? Where did his chubby cheeks go? And why does he reply with, “Of course,” whenever I ask him questions? Who is this really big kid and where did my chubby-cheeked little baby go?

Tips on enrolling your kid in preschool for the first time:

1. Be sure to call early. The morning class, as I said, is already full and we’re five months out.

2. Don’t tell your kid that he’s going to school in the fall. The kid has no concept of seasons and thinks everything is immediate. Right now, all he is doing is talking about school and gets mad when I say it will be a little while. I forgot about the immediacy of his world.

And yes, that’s all I’ve got. I’m new to this and it feels very big and scary. BigBrother seems not to be bothered. Me? I have a thousand and one questions for the teacher who will be giving us a tour on Thursday but no idea if they are normal questions or if I’m totally going to come off as Helicopter Mom. I also don’t know when or how to broach the subject of the fact that, yes, he has an older sister so he’s not just making up stories and no, she doesn’t live in our home. I really thought I would have some time to prepare for all of that. I was wrong.

Perhaps all of this is why I’m sitting here with a stomachache this morning. Or, now it’s afternoon and the stomachache has not gone away. Of course, BigBrother is not fazed. I am jealous.