Years ago, I was contemplating going to college for early childhood education. I talked to my mom (a teacher herself) about it, and she asked me why I wanted to be a teacher. I listed all the reasons, including the so-predictable “Kids really like me!” It was a sad, transparent list. When I was done reciting my list, my mom said, “Well, you know that if you become a teacher, you will have to wear pantyhose to work every day.”
And that, my friends, was the end of my desire to become a teacher. Of course, preschool is different. The teachers wear casual clothes and sneakers. But I think what I’m trying to say is that pantyhose is all it took for me to change the direction of my career.
(Pantyhose. That is such a silly word.)
Now, as a parent helper at Rowan’s school, I have a unique opportunity to have that decision validated. And validated. And validated.
1. There is no way on this earth, no matter what you offer me, that I will ever touch the following:
Furthermore, there is no way on this earth, no matter what you offer me, that I can pretend to think these things are both amazing and neat. Because they aren’t. They are disgusting.
2. I’m cool with a lot of things. Nose picking, for example. When my kids pick their noses, I pretend it really bothers me, but dude. We live in Arizona. Snot gets hard. It needs to be picked. However, I do watch the follow-through. Like today, when a little boy picked his nose, wiped it on his shirt, and then handed me a cracker. Not so cool. That’s the sort of thing I tend to see in slow motion, and in my head I am shouting—very slowly, due to the slow motion: “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”
3. If you haven’t noticed, my brain works sort of cinematically. It is virtually impossible for me to watch normal events occur at school without imbuing them with silliness. What is painful is that I not only see these things and make tiny little movies out of them in my head, but then I feel the need share them with the people around me. Sort of like Tourette’s.
You need an example.
Today, I saw three girls from our preschool class mosey on over to the other yard, where the younger kids are. It is barricaded by painted saw horses, which is to say, not really barricaded at all. They stood as close as they could get, and three little girls from the younger class walked over. They stood there not saying much for about 5 minutes, during which, in my head, I created a scenario involving (as I so compellingly pointed out to the adult next to me, who was just barely humoring me) the Bloods and the Crips, a knife fight, and one girl standing over another, screaming “don’t you EVER touch my glue stick again!”
4. I seriously eat, like, all the crackers during snack time.
5. There is a boy in the class who is super-duper big. If you look really quickly, you may mistake him for a TA. But really, he’s just 5 and happens to be one of the largest boys in the class. I have overheard this kid say things to other kids that would not sound out of place in the big house, and there, would probably get him shanked. I have gasped, audibly, in response to what comes out of his mouth and how he says the things that he says. It’s like he’s got the world by the balls, and he’s seen enough hurt in this life that everyone else is a fool. And you better give him is mother-fucking ball back or he’s gonna regulate. I’m actually a little frightened of him. He’s almost taller than me. For real, this kid could take me.
So today, we were alone in the room together and this tough guy was doing . . . art. So already I’m thinking, what a pansy! No, really, I was intrigued by the fact that this kid was doing art, so I asked him what he was making. And he turned around to me and started talking. In the few minutes we talked, he (A) used the word “middlest” when describing where he was in the family, which made me immediately love him, and (B) described some family members as being “teenagers,” who, when I asked him how old they were, he told me were 10 and 12. That is just adorable.
So, what’s the problem with this? Just the fact that I had judged this kid so quickly. I seriously saw him as destined to be a thug, and, well, that seems to solidify the fact that I am not teacher material.
6. I’m much nicer to people after I have a glass of wine. I’m pretty sure that it’s against some sort of policy to have a glass of wine at 8:30 am and then take care of some kids.
7. There are days when, no matter how hard I work at it, I just don’t want to be around people. As a mother, this has happens to me often, and each time it makes for a pretty hard day, but manageable because I only have two kids. On a day that I have to be present in the classroom for 12 kids? Not so pretty. And as we all know, I am a terrible actress. So if I don’t want to play Candyland, well, the entire planet can tell that I Don’t. Want. To. Play. CANDYLAND!
So today, I was sweeping up the utter disaster that was snack time. And to tell you the truth, this is my favorite activity. I can do it alone, it is meditative, and no one is touching me. So, imagine my disappointment when the teacher (who is, like, the nicest person on the face of the earth) asked me to put on a puppet show with her. I literally said, “Can I finish sweeping first?” to which she informed me that it could wait. Until after. The puppet show. I looked longingly over my shoulder at the broom as she led me away by the hand, over to the puppets. And then I proceeded to put on the worst puppet show ever. I’m surprised I didn’t get booed. She had to coach me from behind the table, feeding me my lines, which were things like, “I want to go over the hill to eat!” and, “I’m little Billy Goat Gruff!” I was an embarrassment to puppetry.
9. I think this may have been touched on before, but I love Rowan. This time that I get in the classroom is, of course, worth it to me because Rowan is there. But instead of being at school, all I really want to do is be with Rowan. We are never alone anymore, except for the short car ride to and from school on the days I help out. So there are times, when I am the helper parent, that I feel resentful. I don’t want to play with other kids (she says, stomping her foot) and I find myself gazing over their heads, searching for Rowan’s blue cap. I just want to take my kid by the hand, hide out in the digging pit, and play with him.
Last year, I decided to take Rowan out for pancakes, just the two of us, and it really freaked him out. The entire time we were there he was all, “But why are we here? Where is Papa and Luca? Can we go home?” So, going on “dates” won’t work. All I have is this time with him, once a week, for 12 weeks. I know now that this is all I get. So I go, and I try to make the best of it.
It is literally like that Bryan Adams song “Everything I do, I do It for You.” Which is a terrible song. But relevant.
We have only a few more weeks left of school and then Rowan will be a Kindergartener. I can only hope that he will still sit on my lap during story time, and pull my head down so he can kiss me, and rock me back and forth. I hope he still saves me a seat at the snack table, and asks me every single day, all year, whether I am the helper parent that day. And when I tell him, yes, I am the helper parent, I hope he still claps his hands and jumps up and down with delight. I will treasure my time in the classroom not because I love it, but because I love Rowan.
(For the first installment of this post, click this link: Preschool Confidential.)