My daughter turns 3 next month and she has never attended any type of regular group socialization like classes or playgroups. Due to unfortunate sporadic schedules and finances, we only first entertained the idea of preschool a little over a month ago. I’m without a car during the day, and therefore limited to the two decent preschools I could walk to, and both, of course, were already full with waitlists. Not surprising. Not that I know *anything* about the world of preschool, but I’ve read these crazy stories of parents camping out in order to get into the right preschool programs, so I guess it didn’t surprise me that late July is a little too late to begin looking into a preschool for your kid, but eh, it’s the best I could, so I signed up for the waitlist.
But I didn’t hear anything from them and made other plans. I figured that maybe next year preschool would happen, but that, either way, at least I was finally on one of these infamous preschool waitlists like a “responsible” modern parent is apparently supposed to be.
Yesterday morning though, I received a phone call from the preschool. They had a last-minute opening for their Tues/Thurs half-day class, if I wanted it. I told them I did and they shot me quick info over the phone. Meet the Teacher was tomorrow, along with Parent Orientation. She’d be in Room 3. I needed to bring this and that for her teachers. Regular school starts next week. They’d give me a packet of info to fill out and bring back along with first months payment. Etc.
Whoa. I mean, YAY! I can’t tell you how much I’ve wanted this and more importantly, how much my daughter needs this. But whoa, as in, I was not AT ALL prepared for this. Preschool? I had added my name to the waitlist without actually thinking I’d ever get off it. And then, for a spot to open up so suddenly right before school starts? Whoa.
KP and I showed up a bit early this morning, as the teachers wanted to meet us before the rest of the day started, since they’d met everyone else already. It was surreal and I had no clue what to expect. It was like we were *real* parents, meeting our child’s teachers and talking to them. I have been teaching (middle and high school, but still) for going on 7 years, and I’ve been a counselor/teacher at summer programs for 10 years. And now, for the first time ever *I’m* the parent on the other end?? What kind of new universe is this??
Everything was so fast and hurried in those few minutes that I had no chance to really digest the moment. I should have taken a picture of C in her classroom. I didn’t. I had briefly thought to do so, but then felt weird, like I’d be a weird over-anxious parent pulling out my phone to take pictures of my kid exploring the classroom. So I didn’t. I should have.
KP took off for work and I left C in the classroom with her teachers without much celebration. Told her I’d be back soon and to have fun. She’d discovered and was occupied with some playdough and could care less about me. I wasn’t sad or anxious and easily walked out the door to the Parent Orientation. I knew she’d be fine without me.
When I got to the Parent Orientation room, I suddenly felt extremely out of place. Uh, I found out that apparently this was NOT a “Meet the Teachers” event as I had mistakenly believed. No, today was actually the first minimum day of preschool. Whatever that means? Meet the Teacher was last week. Next week is the first FULL day of preschool (which is still only a half day). There were committee sign up forms in the back of the room and sign ups for room parents and snack volunteers. All the other parents were lining up to sign up for things, like they all understood everything that was going on. I ended up signing up for the gardening committee because I figured I couldn’t be the slacker parent who didn’t sign up for anything and hey, I do kind of like gardening. Was I supposed to sign up to bring snack one day? I have no idea. I didn’t. I hope I don’t get in trouble for that.
After the Parent Orientation, all the parents made their way back to the kids classrooms. I kept hoping another parent would start talking to me. I mean, this was the most potential socialization I’ve had in months! All these other parents right next to me, and we all at least have something in common: a kid in the same preschool! Some of the moms even carried around babies too as I was carrying around Baby S. I should have gone up to them and talked to them. I should have made friends. I smiled at a few of them and they smiled back, but no words were exchanged. I did ask one lady who was waiting at the door of the same classroom I was for our older kids how old her baby was. That was the extent of the conversation though. I don’t know her name. I don’t know which preschooler she belongs to. When I see her again, I hope she has her 7 week old baby with her; that’s probably the only way I’ll recognize her. Hey, maybe we can be friends. I seriously do not know how to do this whole mom-friend thing.
When it was my turn to get my daughter, I saw her before she saw me. I was one of the later parents to get there and I could see her looking around anxiously at all the other parents, wondering when it’d be her turn to go and when her mom would be there. When she saw me, and came running to me, there was a super brief moment of emotion I caught in her eyes. It was as if she was happy and scared and overwhelmed all in the same moment and *I*, her mom, was the comfort and stability she was hoping for. I picked her up and almost thought she was going to start crying for a second, but she smiled and hugged me tight instead (meanwhile, I should I add, I was carrying Baby S in an Ergo carrier, so I had both kids in my arms at once). It was a cool moment to be a parent.
As we walked out of the classroom, the teacher was standing at the door. The parent in front of me asked how her son had been and the teacher answered something about him doing an art project or something. Oh, I assumed, I guess upon leaving the classroom you’re supposed to have a quick check-in with the teacher about your kid each day? I wasn’t sure, but I followed suit anyways and asked the teacher how C had been. “She was great, until she was told she couldn’t do something she wanted to”. I could see it in my mind, C throwing an all out tantrum like she does at home. Ugh. “Yeah,” I told the teacher, “that’s something we’ve been working on at home too.” And then the teacher started talking to the next parent and we were on our way. But I kept thinking about it. Did I look like an acceptable parent to the teacher? I wondered if the teacher believed me that we really ARE trying to work on her patience and tantrums at home. Or is the teacher really thinking, ‘oh great, we got a difficult kid added to our class at the last-minute’.
I hope not. I really want to be a good preschool parent. I also, having been a teacher/counselor for so many years, want to be a non-annoying parent. With a non-annoying kid. I want the teachers to like my kid. I want the teachers to like me. I want to make friends with the other parents. In Parent Orientation, they were talking about organizing holiday parties and such. I got giddy at the idea of having a school group of parents to do these things with. And classmates to invite to birthday parties to? You mean, maybe, just maybe, if I play my cards right, I could belong somewhere here? Cool. And C’s birthday is in a couple weeks; I can bring cookies or something for her class. Wow. I should hit up pinterest for ideas. I’m so very used to being an island and am amazed at suddenly being included in this new preschool world.
On the 0.9mi walk home (hey, anything under a mile is considered “walking distance” to me), I tried to talk to C in between mouthfuls of granola bar (see, I’m a good parent – I brought a snack for the walk home), but I could tell she was tired. I didn’t get much out of her. Apparently they did circle time like on Blue’s Clues and she painted with green paint (of which she still had drops of on her shirt). That’s all I really got from her.
But she did go down easily for and took a pretty awesome nap today. I’m excited for next week and for this to become a regular part of our schedule.
I’ve got a kid in preschool.