Walk to School or Carry your Lunch?

It’s dark out side this morning and the rain is falling in uneven bunches across the front yard. Fog still clings doggedly to the tree tops and refuses to give up the fight and simply fade away. The sun will finish it off when it makes it’s appearance later on. Action Girl is already off to work, doing noisy things with sea going vessels and carrying people and cargo to the surrounding islands. As I sit alone on the couch, typing and drinking my quickly cooling coffee, all is quiet in the house. A novelty brought on only by the merciful sleeping of our two kids. Naturally, this won’t last. It never does for long.

Today though, is a special day, though Short Stack might not remember that it is. Lulu Belle most assuredly doesn’t. Today marks the beginning of our son’s ordered life. Today… he starts pre-school. Well, not pre-school exactly. He is, after all, only two and a half but he will be going some place very, very special later this morning and barring catastrophe and calamity, he will be attending three times a week, all day, for the rest of the school year. I, for one, am pensive.

Prior to this, we have always had babysitters watching the kids. Action Girl’s and my work schedules are off set enough that we ever really needed a lot of child care. One of us could be home with the kids much of the time and though it means that I don’t get to see a whole heck of a lot of my wife, it has sure saved us a bundle of money. The times that we couldn’t be home were filled with college girls looking to make a few extra bucks or local moms with broods of their own who somehow manage to keep their sanity when you double their work load by leaving your own kids with them. Weekends have fallen heavily on Grandma and Grandpa, giving me time to attempt work on the pile of construction materials that I’ve been cunningly arranging into the vague shape of a house.

Today is different, however. On our island there is a place build for the kids of the community. A place that is not quite a day care and not quite a pre-school. It’s a fun little hybrid and you need to be at least two and a half to be admitted. Guess who just turned two and a half? Short Stack has been there many times before and likes it. Action Girl is a volunteer on the board and both Short Stack and Lulu Belle have accompanied her there for meetings and functions. Happily, he won’t feel like he’s someplace scary. To make the transition that much easier (we hope), I shall be accompanying him today and stay the whole morning. It might be a bit of a zoo, but Dad will be there for reassurance.

Boy, do I hope this works.

The one thing that Short Stack hasn’t had a lot of experience with is big groups mad up of his peers. He’s become completely comfortable wandering through a forrest of adult legs or spending time happily pushing toy trains around and lost in his own imagination. He has a few friends his age who he enjoys playing NEAR but not usually WITH. This will be an eye opening day for him. He will be part of a class. One in the group. Another fuzzy head amongst all the other short folk.

The reason I’m a little worried is because I know my self pretty well. I’m a loner and always have been. That’s not to say that I’m stand-offish. I’m not! I’ve just never been a schmoozer and tend to drift off and away from the party. Action Girl is the same way and actually, it’s how we met in the first place. Both of us drifting on the periphery of a big group, noisily having fun. I guess wall flowers can spot each other a mile away. Unfortunately, Short Stack had inherited that gene. I say that it’s unfortunate because it can make life a little more difficult at times. I can vividly remember my first day at pre-school. It was only one of two that I ever spent there. I wasn’t bad or difficult. I didn’t cause trouble or upset the other kids. I was quiet and essentially, made the teachers sad. While the other kids played their games and did their activities, I had quietly sat in the back and simply observed. When the others all funneled outside to play on the swing sets and slides, I had asked if I could just stay in and color. I don’t know how the conversation between the pre-school and my parents went, but the upshot was that two days into it, my folks found a different place for me to go where I would be watched by a new mom and her kids. Essentially, people who didn’t mind the quiet kid, coloring in the corner.

Actually, I really enjoyed where I went after my two days in self imposed confinement. The little boy whose home I went to became a good friend and I had a blast. The difference was that it was just a little boy and his sister who I had to deal with. No rowdy group or established cliques. I liked the smaller groups much better, and so does Short Stack.

The difference, I’m hoping, will be that he knows a lot of these kids already. Where we live has a pretty tight knit community and the young families tend to seek each other out. The faces with be ones that he has seen before, many of whom he’s played with one-on-one with not very long ago. Here’s hoping that will help things along.

In the mean time, I need to pack up a miniature lunchbox and get an extra set of clothes ready for him. The activities they have planned for the day can get messy and fun and the food requirements are pretty darned strict. No juice boxes, no candy, no pre-packaged food of any kind. I’ll go cut up some fruit and other good to eat stuff and hopefully have it all done before he’s up. I can hear him coughing, so I doubt I’ll succeed, but that’s okay. It’s a big day, after all and I’m happy to have him give me his version of “help” to get us both prepared for this next step in our lives.

5 Responses

  1. Oh, I hope he will blend in and have a good time. Hopefully the preschools/kindergartens/whateverthey’recalled recognize nowadays that not everyone likes to be in the whirlpool, they definitely do up here. I was very happy with the place my kids went to, our youngest sounds a bit the same as Short Stack (and you, for that matter), mostly wanted to play by himself and didn’t like the rowdier crowd. He was allowed to do that and was very happy there.

    Well, its been a few hours since I wrote this little essay and I’m happy to report that he’s having fun. For a while he was stuck to me like glue, to the point where insisted that he follow me into the directors office where I had some paper work to fill out. After about ten minutes he got bored. After another ten of wandering the hallway, he eventually went back into the play room. I actually managed to sneak out with out being discovered. He had joined the fun and didn’t even see dad slip out the back. Both a relief and kind of sad for his old man.

  2. He’ll be just fine. We tend to project our own fears unto others but I’ll bet he’ll adapt very well. I tend to think that most of our social behaviors are not innate but learned.

    The fact that your kid never frequented daycare before will probably have an impact on how he relates to groups of kids, and the reason why he never went to daycare may take root in the fact both you and your wife feel more individualistic than team players.

    I’m not casting any judgment here. I feel very much the same way you do, but I think that the reason I am that way is because my parents kept me out of daycare, then when I went to school and until I was 12 years old, my mom picked me up for lunch every day. I never had a chance to learn how to socially belong to a group until late (probably too late!)

    I’ve seen what that can do when taken too far. We have friends who home schooled their kids and though that hardly sentences someone to being an outsider, in this case it really didn’t help. Both of the parents are a bit odd and fairly reclusive. This behavior was amplified within their kids, partly, I believe, because they were sequestered away from out side influences. In the end, I think it did them no favors. On the other hand, they seem to be happy, so who the heck am I to judge. I’m hardly “normal” or a “team player” and never have been. I just get a kick out of making my own decisions and living by them. Being socialized however, is one of those things that can make life a heck of a lot easier in the long run. I won’t exactly cry a river if my kids decide to eschew the frat or sorority scene later on, though.

  3. Epilogue:

    Things went fine. I spent about an hour there with him and once I was sure that I was no longer needed for security blanket duty, I slipped out the door. With some luck, he will continue to do well there and enjoy his time with his class mates.


  4. As I’m sure you are aware, I think it’s a good thing to “socialize” children early. Kids being kids, he will want to play with what other kids are playing with and that’s going to lead to interaction and dealing with it’s consequences.

    Traumatic at first but it’s all practice for later life.

    I’ve also met adults who’ve been home schooled and I remember feeling that their social skills weren’t all that well developed.

    It will be good for you in the future when he has friends to amuse him rather than being dependant on you for company.

  5. Good luck, Short Stack! You’ve got one oh-so-adorable backpack there!

    I didn’t start school until I was five and then it was half-day kindergarten. I wish my mother had started me earlier in a preschool. Some of my earliest memories were of clinging to the flagpole in front of the school where I went to summer camp wanting no part of going inside. I wanted to be home. Where I was safe and comfortable. I’m still not very social in larger groups. I definitely prefer one-on-one.

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