Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I'm not just an author. I'm the preschool Oprah.

My daughter recently started preschool. She's really enjoying being around kids her age (my son is nine, and she's three), and she loves her teachers and likes taking a break from me three days a week. I know she enjoys the break, because she told me, when last night she tearfully begged me not to come to her school today to be the class helper: "I don't want you to come to my school, mommy! That's my time away from you!"

After I pinkie swore that I would not cramp her style, and that she didn't even have to talk to me if she didn't want to, she relented and agreed that I could, indeed, be the preschool helper.

Let me tell you something about me and children. I think kids are pretty awesome. But I don't think I've ever been a kid in my entire life. When I was about five, a boy asked me to play doctor, and I, not understanding that "playing doctor" is a game of exploration and titillation, told him he had esophageal cancer and needed chemotherapy. I spent my childhood mostly around adults and teenagers. So, I've never related to children very well. The idea of spending three hours in a room full of eighteen three-year-olds is a terrifying prospect to me, like unto staring into the untempered schism.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that preschool is not the nightmare void of madness I'd expected it to be. There was a lot of snot. And a bathroom accident. Those things, I suppose I should have expected. I ran a paint station, where the kids painted a picture of a tooth with a toothbrush. It wasn't terribly hard, and it definitely helped that I had a little girl who sat next to me, prompting me with, "You forgot to talk about the root of the tooth," and "You can't say deciduous, he won't know what that means." I learned what kind of toothpaste and toothbrush every kid had. I'm actually astonished that there are toothbrushes for so many different characters, although I doubt the veracity of one claim, as it came from the same boy who insisted that he'd once killed a cheetah.

Slowly, the kids would just open up about something crazy and totally unconnected with painting or teeth. One boy told me that his mom is mean, then went on to describe said meanness, which I assure you, to a three-year-old, was horrific. Games where put on shelves, high up, where they cannot be reached. This cruel and unusual punishment was inflicted upon the poor child for simply being naughty! I assured him that his mom wasn't mean, she was just doing her job, because there have to be consequences in life. He nodded sagely, as if understanding every word, then said, "What's consequences mean?"

A little girl opened up about her struggles with thumb-sucking. She talked the way people talk in drug counseling: "I know I can't, because see, my teeth keep going backward, and I know they put the cream on my thumb that tastes so nasty, but I feel like I'm going to just start sucking my thumb and I can't help it!"

Another boy expressed his frustration with mothers the world over for their choice in favorite Star Wars characters: "Moms always like Han Solo best, because he's handsome. Luke is better!"

By the time snack time had rolled around, I had started thinking to myself, "wow, kids have just as many problems as we do." While it might not be as hard to quit sucking your thumb as it would be to kick heroin cold turkey, that kid was struggling with the same emotions of any addict. And the kid who who couldn't understand why anyone would like Han Solo when Luke Skywalker is clearly better... how is that different from grown ups arguing over politics on facebook?

So, my daughter and I have reached an accord, because now she realizes that mommy isn't going to cramp her style at school, and I don't dread next month's helper day quite as much as I was before this one. I think I might actually look forward to it.


Harlie Williams said...

Jennifer my 6 yr old son begs me to come to his school but alas, I work in a different town so its hard. Hubs takes care of that now and both of them enjoy it. Kids say the darnedst things, too. Our son is constantly surprising us.

BTW, Beast is AWESOME!!!! Half way through it.


Patricia Kiyono said...

My daughter didn't mind if I went to her school as long as I didn't tell anyone I was her mom. Of course, she's the spitting image of me, so I didn't need to tell anyone.

Mia Watts said...

@Jen, Wow, I seriously love this post. Like seriously. May I pretty please repost it on my blog with all credit to Jen-oprah?

Eileen said...

Oh those were the days. I faintly remember preschool but I do recall the social skills they were trying to teach them at 3 and 4. It was an eye opener for sure. Now I am waiting for my first grandchild to enter the world.

Molly Daniels said...

Kids say the darnedest things!

Jenny Trout said...

Marika- I'm glad you're enjoying it!
Patricia- I thought I was going to have to wait a while for the "I'm embarrassed of you" phase, but Wednesday is on it like BAM!
Mia-Sure, knock yourself out!
Eileen- Congrats on the grandbaby. Now you're really under pressure to remember all that fun stuff from childhood!
Molly- That, that most certainly do.

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