Yesterday, we toured (and eventually signed the boys up for) Nursery School. The faculty was gentle and loving and laughing, even though (or especially because) this was the last day of school. I liked the vibe. I liked the space. I liked the teachers. I liked the program. I liked the play-based philosophy. I liked the teacher-student ratio. I liked how Monkeys J. and L. jumped right in and joined in the fun, despite the fact that we were looking at the 4-year-old class (the two-year-old class didn’t meet that day.) I liked how they were complimented for their motor skills and spirit and their big, kind, loving smiles.
I really loved hearing what happy monkeys I have by so many people at the school. They seemed delighted by the boys’ delight.
It’s not that I didn’t like, but I was certainly given paused by a handful of other kids. Most of the kids I saw, the four-year-olds, were adorable, playful, kinda weird. Normal four-year-olds figuring out how to manipulate their facial muscles and what fingers they could stick where and the best way to hold hands with their buddy. Sticky and silly and singing their way down the halls.
One girl, big for a four-year-old, trailing behind her class as we took our boys around with the head of school, ran up to my 25th percentile weight and height J., my sweet, silly boy and stuck her face in his, twisted her face into something hideous resembling an unholy cross between a frog and a mole, and made a similarly weird and startling sound right into my boy’s face. J. was visibly startled for a moment, taken aback. He’s not used to bigger kids and was already overwhelmed by the experience to start with.
He looked to me and the other adults for cues about how to react. “Oh, that was silly!” I said, quickly. The teachers – rightly, says my educator’s brain – dismissed the girl, laughing and telling me that she has a knack for scaring the boys. They seemed impressed by her Grrrl Power. It was the last day of school, they are used to weird four-year-old behavior, and seemed to assume that boys aren’t and shouldn’t be phased by anything a girl does.
The mother side of my brain whimpered that a tiny boy, a 20-month-old’s feelings/experiences trump a four-year-old’s need to express her equality, if not dominance, over males. Were that another boy in my kid’s face, or a boy in a younger girl’s face, would we be laughing?
The debate in my head raged between the Teacher and the Mother. “Let it go!” “Protect your boy!” For some reason, both Teacher and Mother have Irish accents. I looked at J., happily going down the Indoor! Slide! headfirst. I let it go, but in my mind, that girl’s face froze in that hideous grimace, making all of her future prom photo shoots awkward indeed.
When we went into a 4-year-old classroom, J. went to sit down and tried to play with some plastic dinosaurs two other boys were playing with. He took some out of the plastic bin. They were snatched away by one of the kids. “That’s ours!” he said. I get the territoriality of 4-year-olds. I really do. I don’t like the look on J’s face when these little interactions occur. He’s learning. These moments are etching into his brain. I am just glad he’s had so many more positive interactions with people in his life, but generally, the ones with older kids have been nasty. (When we went to the Children’s museum, J. had toys and equipment ripped out of his hands by older kids, and was yelled at by them.) I took J’s hand and told him that we were going to look at some of the swings outside. I did say to the older boy, gently, that J. was trying to play with him, that he just took a dinosaur out of the bin and was trying to be like the big boys. “Little boys like J. look up to big boys like you.” I walked away.
I was told that the lessons they will learn in Nursery School next year are social skills and basic independence and life-skills, like hand-washing and the buddy system and taking turns and not spilling your juice.
There are other lessons they will and must get that are not in the curriculum. Unkindness. The fact that most people in the world will not adore them as they’ve been adored for the first twenty-one months of their lives. I won’t be able to do bubble them and surround them with people who love, like or at least smile at them.
They will have their feelings hurt for the first time.
They will learn from that.
I dread the day of that first pain.
I hope they have so few of those that they never lose their happiness. They were called the happiest toddlers. (We were also told they have good manual dexterity, but that didn’t give me the same warm fuzzies. I mean, it’s important they can put pegs into holes – no jokes, please, they are babies – but sheesh. How many match.com profiles list “I have good manual dexterity” in a way that isn’t creepy?) Curious. Happy.
Don’t lose the happy, monkeys.
We work at happiness in our house and our social circles are fun-loving, but the world is not always a happy place on a regular basis. We are and know smart people. Smart people tend toward cynicism; smart people absorb the injustice and imbalance in the world, trying desperately to get the rest of the world to recognize it. To fix it. I don’t want cynical babies. So few of the boys were smiling. So few of the girls were smiling. I’ve seen that in kids for the last few years…they get anxious and defensive so much younger now. I love that mine just laugh themselves silly, usually for no good reason.
I liked the school. The kids were engaged, happy, (minus Freak Face and Plastic Toy Horder), learning, excited but not out of control. Busy.
Mine jumped right in.
Milestones. What’s next? That’s something I ask around this time in the rehearsal process, as we circle in on the opening night and nothing else is in the hopper. What’s next? What if it’s nothing?
What’s next in the parenting world as other adults join me in molding these young minds and hearts? What’s next? Shows are all about letting go, and when they are done, they are done. Don’t get too attached. Enjoy where you are, work hard, get everything you can out of it, build relationships. Move on. Developmental stages are like that.
Fortunately, I will always be able to be Mama to my boys in this lifelong production. It goes so quickly. Time bends and twists and I ride on it like some fantastic Dali slide. An impossible ride. A fascinating ride. A beloved ride.
No one will ever be as happy to see them as I am, at least until they fall in love the first or tenth or a hundredth times in their lives. I just want to keep them in my bubble for awhile longer, where J’s quirks and daydreaming nature are endearing. I love that L. doesn’t ever use his physicality to hurt anyone, and I want to keep it that way a little longer. I want to hear them laughing their lives through. I brace for the tears. I don’t want to play the role of smother. I keep telling myself that they came through me, not from me, and that my job from day one is to start to let them go, that the tether to my heart is strong but must stretch infinite. They are not me. Their pain is not my pain. Their lives are not mine.
It’s just Nursery School, for God’s sake.
The two-year-old class is called Separation Class. My guess is that on the first day, of the three of us, I’ll be the one with tears in her eyes.