My tiny, bony little boy only has four more days of being a preschooler. My boy, who confidently bounds through the parking lot and into the foyer at his familiar little preschool. He still remembers going to Ms. Donna’s, but doesn’t even remember the kid’s names who were there at the same time he was. I still took him to Ms. Donna’s when preschool was closed and I couldn’t get off work, but it was only a handful of days last year, and he was bored because she was technically closed, and doing me a favor, so the other kids weren’t in attendance.
His first preschool teacher, with unmatched tenacity and dedication, got him potty trained almost immediately so he could move up after only a few months, with his peers, to the next room. And then the next, and the next after that. Mastering holding a pencil. Hopping. Graduating to the “big kid” play structure in the back. Planting seeds to grow and learning about the pet hermit crab. Visits from pirates and balloon animal guys and police and firemen. Lemonade stand for charity. Thanksgiving potlucks with tons of parents sitting on teeny tiny chairs. The time his first good friend, the son of a pro football player, moved away to another state, and they had a sad and tearful goodbye on his last day. Lots of birthday parties. That one Valentine’s Day party where Alex ate too much candy and puked all over the table next to us. “He’s sick,” D said. “Obviously,” I replied. “I think he ate too much candy and cake,” he said sagely. I nodded, in full agreement, and amazed he had come to that realization.
In four more days, we say goodbye to the teachers and classrooms there forever. All the nosebleeds they’ve stopped, times they’ve cradled him when he got hurt and cried, their extreme patience in teaching him not to solve problems by hitting. How many stories have they read him, how many times have they stroked his back and shushed him gently during nap time. Songs they’ve sung to him, and dances they’ve all danced. Taught him to follow the rules, get in line, but still have fun and be yourself. Honestly it’s been worth every penny, and that’s been a lot of pennies.
The week after next, he goes to a big school. Where not one of his former classmates will attend. Where everybody in the school is unknown, and almost everyone is bigger, and everything is bigger; the hallways, the gym, the cavernous lunchroom. Where the bathroom is DOWN THE HALL. Where they don’t know that sometimes when he’s upset it’s because you’re not explaining HOW something works or the CONTEXT of something, and instead are just repeating the same thing. I’m less scared about him attending the new school though, than I am so extremely sad about him leaving his preschool. Of course because of the aging and transition thing, but also because it’s been so safe, controllable and compact. With rules and locked doors, and someone sitting RIGHT THERE screening who goes in and out all day long past their window. But inside is so filled with laughter and nuturing love and care, with amazing patience and the happy but wearied smiles of the teachers filling out form after form and fixing boo boos and breaking up fights in a seemingly continuous loop. I love them, really. I love them so much for doing what I was not able to do, what I could not do in so many ways, because of work, because I am a different kind of authority figure, because of a lot of things.
His preschool has been running a radio ad on the station I listen to in the morning. It’s fairly short and standard, and at the end has a voice pleasantly singing, “Mom, take my hand, let’s go to school.” I can’t even hear that fucking ad now without breaking into tears. I know, I’m a basket case, you don’t have to tell me. But I’m working so HARD to put a positive, fun spin on the upcoming change for D when we talk about it, but also being realistic, and trying to find the right balance.
Yesterday I described to him how we will go to school next week for “testing,” and it’s just to determine which class he should be in. I told him they would probably ask him a series of questions and ask him to do different things, like perhaps draw his name or try to draw different pictures, and that it wasn’t a contest, it was just to see who would make the best classmates for him to be in, so they could be the best group together for a teacher, having similar skills, interests and abilities. “What kinds of questions will they ask?” he asked me, so I started asking him a couple of things they might ask. “Oh come on,” I told him, “You can’t remember one fun thing we did during the camping staycation?” “Mom!” he said, “Be the teacher, not Mom, and ask me more questions!” In other words, don’t break character, Mom, you’re ruining it. So I asked him a bunch more questions. I honestly have no idea what they’ll ask him so I was making it all up, but he went along with it and now he’ll be ready for whatever they throw at him. Which I hope is how it will go the rest of the time, too.
Mom, take my hand, let’s go to school. Four more days.