Mini and I have been spending our mornings at preschool this week. It’s been quite a wild ride.
On the first day of preschool, Mini wanted me to help him balance while walking up a wooden plank, which is the kind of thing he is used to doing at My Gym with my help. So I was a little surprised when, as I stuck out my hand to help him up the plank, I was then treated to the pleasure of a ten-minute lecture regarding the fact that at preschool, they discourage parents from helping kids get into “situations” from which they cannot extract themselves. Because if I help him walk up this wooden plank, he’ll then be at the top of a makeshift climbing structure with no means of getting himself down. And this makes sense, especially if you are dealing with the kind of parent who likes to help her kid climb a tree, and then runs away really fast, so that the kid is stuck up in a tree, not unlike a lost kitten, crying for its mother, with nowhere to go. And then that parent laughs and laughs, and points at her stupid kid who is stuck in the tree. I can see why after seeing that happen a few hundred thousand times, you’d be like, “OK! Enough.”
But part of what is good about preschool is forcing Mini to encounter different ways of doing things, and I cannot argue with him learning to figure out how to do things on his own, rather than relying on my help. As a matter of fact, I applaud this methodology, not in small part because it gives me license to just sit down and watch Mini play, rather than having to hover over him and cater to his every need or want. But at preschool they don’t even let you push a kid on a swing, you have to stand there and tell them to use their legs, which is fine if you’re into masochism. Personally, I’d rather just discourage Mini from using the swings altogether while Mommy is at preschool, because I don’t want to have the conversation about why I’m not pushing him.
Mini’s preschool takes a kind of hippie commune approach to early childhood education, which is actually the kind of program I was in when I was younger, and a lot of the things they do remind me of those days. I’m kind of surprised that I would choose this kind of a school, given the fact that despite my left-leaning political tendencies, I’m not much of a granola type person, but I like the fact that they use Mini’s natural interests to encourage his learning. Mini loves to learn about things that already capture his interest, so they will work in numbers and colors and letters around the trains or the cars, which makes me feel good about sending him there.
Mini is enjoying preschool so far, and the other kids are going to be a great influence on him. The only problem with preschool is that, while Mini loves it when he’s there, he’s constantly keeping tabs on me to see if I’m planning on leaving. He’s not too keen on the idea of me leaving. But he did much better than the other new kid, who screamed at his mom the whole time they were there about wanting to go home, and then cried for over an hour after she left. Compared to that kid, Mini has made separation anxiety his bitch.
Here’s the thing with people who deal with kids — parents, teachers, early childhood education experts, whomever: nobody knows what approach to anything will work best on any given day. The sooner you accept that, the better off you are. Because otherwise, something will happen that totally confuses you, like when one day the head teacher tells you it’s a good idea to leave for a little while and then come back, so that Mini knows that Mommy leaves but she always comes back, and then the next day you’ll be in the midst of trying to do just that, and the other head teacher will tell you that it’s better to just say goodbye and leave, and not come back, and rip off the band aid, because otherwise you’re just building the kid’s anxiety. And you’ll be tempted to bring up the fact that they are giving out conflicting advice, but since you already know that nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing — it’s all a crapshoot — you will accept that we’re all in the same boat, trying to see what works.
This is a transitional time for all of us. Part of me is so excited for Mini, and so proud of him, particularly when he does things he’s not used to doing, like sitting down and eating puffed rice at snack time (what the hell? Puffed rice? Never in a million years would he eat that at home.) But part of me is also starting to feel him slip away from me, into the individual he will become, and I already miss him. I keep thinking about that old saying about how boys are made from “snips and snails and puppy dog tails,” and thinking how lucky I am that my boy is made from sunshine and snuggles, and everything that is right in the world.