Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Latest Dread: School Days

As soon as we walk in, I get the familiar pang.  It's the smell, I'm pretty sure.  A mixture of linoleum, crayons, pencil shavings, industrial disinfectant, construction paper, musty books, and public restroom funk.  It's the same spasm I get with the first chill of autumn, or when I feel the days getting shorter.

There are kids all over the place.  Pushing scooters on the rooftop playground; cutting, pasting, coloring; marching from classroom to classroom under the supervision of their kindly-looking female teachers. 

This school isn't much like the ones I attended.  It's urban--surrounded by high-rises--and within spitting distance of the Pacific ocean.  Its physical presence comprises additions and annexes built in the sixties and seventies onto an austere brick church that dates back to the late 1800's.  In fact, there are religious messages and artwork posted through its labyrinthine stairwells and hallways.  My schools never had that.  But some of the toys, books, furniture, and certainly the architecture harken back to my own school days.  And of course, there's that old school smell.  

The visceral reaction I have when reminded of my school years, while not horrifying, is decidedly more bitter than sweet.  When I was a kid, there was very little I looked forward to as the new school year loomed.  Sure, there was the excitement of being back in the fray, with a much bigger pool of kids to run around with.  Summer did tend to drag on, and I would get tired of seeing the same kids from the neighborhood every day.  But school was just too  Not just the drudgery of the classroom, but also negotiating the social landscape.  We moved a lot, sometimes every year, so I was often the new kid.  But that was almost easier than returning to a school and trying to figure out what had changed over the summer, who belonged to which group, who I could sit with in the cafeteria, and which of my summertime friends would still be friends once everyone shook out into their respective cliques.  The effort it took to seem undaunted amid my writhing anxiety was exhausting. 

The reason that we're at this churchy school is that our girls are two-and-a-half-years old, and apparently that's just about when they're supposed to start spending entire days away from home in the care of people we don't even know, running around with bigger kids (almost all kids are bigger than ours) who don't appreciate their delicate genius, and somehow getting through all the tasks and transitions of the day without their parents.  Without me.  Speaking of pangs.

We take the tour and learn about the curriculum, the schedule, the classroom sizes, and the enrollment procedure.  We see the kids of two of my wife's colleagues, laughing on a play structure.  They are the reason we're considering this school.  It wouldn't have occurred to me to look into a "Christian school," but our friends, and the lady who gives us the tour, assure us that they're not in the business of proselytizing to pre-schoolers.  They read some Bible stories every week and talk about Christian values, the ones that aren't controversial.  Generally accepted morality.  I can live with that.

In addition to this school, we're on waiting lists for two others, both of them more progressive, more expensive, and without as much old school smell.

The thing is, we're actually going to do this.  Send them away for hours at a time, several days a week. 

I can't quite get my head around the fact that I'll drop them off and then just leave.  Shouldn't I sit in the office and wait, at least for the first couple of days?  I can't imagine a first-day-of-school scenario in which neither of the girls has a panic attack.

But really, I know, as with every benchmark in their development, I'm just approaching this with my standard incredulity.  They're gonna walk?!  These little rolly-pollies?  Yeah, right.  And I suppose they'll be able to use language to communicate some day.  I'm so sure.  And then when it comes to pass, as blown away as I am, I quickly get used to it and focus on pretending the next thing isn't already happening.    


  1. Woohoo!!! you will have fun!. Granted it will take a little getting use to have a few hours time to yourself... I bet your girls will love pre-school, all 3 of my kids did... And yeah, most are in churches... unless u send them to Pinecrest or Montessori... both chains.... they're language as well as social skills will grow... man, could i tell u stories about my 3....

  2. Good luck dad! Just remember, it's harder for you than it is for them!!

  3. Oh, the gut wrenching pain that these children endlessly unleash upon us with the growing!!! Why????? Hang in there, BD.

  4. Reminder: you're not throwing them into the deep end. This is just a chance for them to dip their toes in the pool, maybe splash around a bit.

    In the words of the educational film "The Other Guys"... they're peacocks, man. You've gotta let 'em fly.

  5. Good news - You've got two, so they'll have a built in comfort zone and added security. Bad news - you'll have double the screaming, clinging, and hysteria when you drop them off. Just wait until your caller ID shows "school" for the first time!

  6. Our daughter started co-op nursery school last year at two years old, attending twice a week for a couple of hours in the morning, and *I* wasn't ready. :) As for her, after a couple of weeks, she was walking into class without a backward glance to mom, ready to play with her friends. *sob*

    This year she goes two mornings a week, and, in preparation for full day kindergarten next fall, also 9:30-3 on Fridays. Again, I wasn't sure she was ready for that long stretch in "school", but it's her favourite day of the week.

    Every evening she asks if tomorrow is a school day, and every morning she asks "do I get to go to school today?".

    Don't worry, your girls will be fine - it's mom and dad that it's harder on!

  7. I don't even have kids but your description is making ME nervous for their first day!

    Hang in there. Possibly in a tree across the street with high powered binoculars.

  8. As much as there are times when I want to rush through this (trying) phase of toddlerhood with my youngest, I also want to slow the arrival of that day (in 2 years) when she heads off to pre-k. Even in her most difficult moments, it wrenches my heart to imagine dropping her off and letting her go. But, I have been through this three times before with my much older children, and I remember that the hours went by painlessly and so quickly. Too quickly sometimes. My children loved preschool- it instilled a lifelong love of learning, creating, contemplating the workings of the world and their place in it. Hopefully you will be as fortunate.

    Wishing you (and the girls)much success in this next phase of their growth (of your growth).

  9. The beauty of twins is that they will be there together. They won't be going alone.

    And YOU will have some time to yourself.

    Preschool is pure gold.

  10. This makes me think of our first-born taking an exam to get into kindergarten. She overheard the teacher say she was "shy." Not knowing what that meant, she was crushed. And I was worried. In just a little while, though, she loved it and had lots of friends. Happy ending.

  11. Our three year old just started pre-school this year. He cried and screamed as we left on his first day. It was absolutely heart wrenching. But when we picked him up later he was running around with the other kids with a big smile. The pride we felt made up for the heart wrenching from the morning. Well, mostly.

  12. @KBF--I'm sure I will find ways to fill my new hours of freedom. Like getting a job.

    @Momnextdoor--I hope it's harder for me than for them. That would make it easier on me. Wait.

    @TwoBusy--Oh my God their precious little toes what if something happens to them ?!

    @Amancalleddad--I've already gotten a taste of the double cling factor a couple times when I've put them in the kids club the gym. Not cool.

    @Mel--They're totally inconsiderate!

    @Jen--I hope our kids like school that much!

    @TT--I'm gonna fill up my minivan with surveillance equipment and slap a flower delivery magnet on the side.

    @Amy--Well said! Thanks for the wisdom.

    @Sarah--I can't even imagine this "time to myself" thing you speak of. Makes me a little giddy to think about.

    @Granny J--this first-born of yours sounds familiar. Never would have called her shy.

    @Out of Sync--Thanks!

    @Christian--Seems like parenting involves a lot of juxtaposed contradictory emotions. They really put you through the wringer.

  13. OK. I have to say JEALOUS!!! I had to deal with the whole "wait, I have to leave him with someone who isn't me, my hubby or my mom for HOURS at a time?!?!" issue when my boy-o was a mere 11.5 WEEKS old. Stupid better paying job and all that.... It'll be hard. It won't be fun (for you) and there will be many ups and downs... but the rewards will be worth it in the long run. And at least Dr. Mom has already been through this and can help you with your separation anxiety.

    (I don't mean to sound mean horrible or bitter... but *sigh* there are days I'd give just about anything to be a stay-at-home- or even a mostly-at-home-mom...)

  14. I think it quite strange on the rare days I drop off or pick up at the preschool where the 5 and 3 year old go. Can't imagine dropping them off at a REAL SCHOOL like we'll do next year when the 5 year old starts 1st grade!

  15. @Addey--I get it. I always feel a little guilty when I gripe about stay-at-home parenting issues, since it's really a pretty sweet gig.

    @Muskrat--There's no way my kids are going to go to grade school. That shit is crazy.

  16. With our first daughter, we eased into it by having her grandmothers do the daycare 1 day a week (they travelled 2hrs each way to do it!) Plus we were lucky enough to get into the brand new, not-for-profit, council run daycare across the road, so we effectively were sitting out the front while she went the first couple of times.

    My challenge now is to re-skill over the next 12 months (or so) so I am in a position to do something constructive when the twins start going to daycare and the big one is at school... Do I really need to get a job?

  17. @Inertia--That sounds like a smooth transition. That "job" question is one that I'm also gonna have to face before I know it. Dislike.

  18. Aw! I feel for you! It does seem early and that always baffles me... But I guess that's the thing to do?

  19. Since it's just January, and I assume you are looking for school for September, my advice would be to wait and see how different the twins are by then. They will be. Three is a lot different than two. I remember those changes very fondly from my daughter, family friends, and relatives. I'd say it's my favorite little girl age, although six is another that's memorable.
    The challenge that upped my angst was letting them ride their bikes in the street/across streets. The car thing is bad, but you kindasorta feel it when they are ready, it was much easier than the bike.


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