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.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho….

So today was the big day. Action Girl is back at work and back on the water. After about eight months of being a “stay at home” mom, she’s put her ditty-bag back together, grabbed her charting tools and notebooks and is back piloting sea craft and transporting goods and passengers. Going back to work has loomed large on her horizon for months now and the pressure has been building. We, and everyone who knows her, understands that she’s not the “stay at home” type and though she has had a great time with the kiddos, she’s happiest when she’s hard at work, out on the water. As a bonus, deckhands follow orders better then two year olds do and conversation revolves around topics other than just toy trucks and peanut butter toast. Not always… but more often, you understand.

It was a bit of a mad house this morning as the two of us worked to get the four of us ready for the day. Short Stack was headed to a house with an ample supply of plastic dump trucks, blocks and kids his age whom he knows. Lulu Belle was off to a new place for more hands on, one on one care. Being a two months old, all she really needs are the necessities of life and someone to be attentive. In some ways, she’s the easiest though not the fun one.

I dropped Action Girl and Lulu Belle off first so the baby sitter could get the full, panicked parent rundown. I’d swing back after I dropped of The Boy. Action Girl leaned way back into the rear seats, wiped the peanut butter off one of Short Stack’s cheeks to make a clean spot and gave him a kiss along with wishes to have a great day. After the door was closed, I drove the rest of the way to where he would be spending the day. As he munched happily on his peanut butter pancake, he pointed out various objects of interest.

“Dat car is parked. It’s not going. Da rain is making the car all wet. Dis is a fast road. Cars go fast.”

I slowed down a bit.

We arrived at the house and I pulled him out along with his bag of goodies. He still happily munched away and continued the commentary about the various piles of fresh dirt, the scattered toys and the rain dripping from the trees. As we walked through the door, he immediately started to wiggle.

For half a second, I was afraid that he wanted to leave. I had been found out! He was on to me and knew that I was leaving him!… No. He had a HUGE smile on his face and wanted to get down and dive in to the cluster of kids playing on the floor. I just managed to get his shoes, hat and coat off before he blasted away like a wobbly rocket.

The last minute tips and instructions were given to the sitter and I went to leave. Short Stack was in the thick of it and laughing already. As much as it hurt to not get my last, last, LAST hug and kiss before I left him, I decided it was best to slip out unseen and avoid any tears. Just as I opened the door, his head shot up and he dashed through the scrum to jump up into my arms clamping me in a big hug. After I bent down and returned him to the floor, he was back into the pack of kids in seconds. I effected my quick escape, a much happier Dad.

The car was very quiet when I picked up Action Girl and drove us to away. It’s a very strange feeling to not have our kids with us or at least with a relative and it’s going to take getting used to. Lulu Belle won’t be able to relate her day to us later this evening, but I bet we’ll get an earful from Short Stack.

I hope Action Girl has a good first day back. It’s a little rainy, but the wind isn’t blowing. She has a good crew whom she knows and likes and the runs for her today are nice and simple. I’ll be heading back to my shop and get caught up in my own work. The real trick will be staying until I should. The temptation to come home early is already gnawing at me… and it’s only nine in the morning.

Hmmm… Maybe if I just work through lunch…

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