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Sep 22 2011

Schoolhouse Rock

By at 3:29 pm

Now we officially have a kid in school. She has a backpack and a notebook and a pencil case. She has a dress code. (She also has “her Didi,” the doll that she’s been surgically attached to since she was born–the sole blond-haired, blue-eyed doll among the massive geniza of dolls, stuffed animals, Wild Things, and other assorted non-Aryan companions that she could have chosen–which she brings to school with her every day, stuffed inside her shirt like she’s pregnant, a sort of reverse security blanket.)

But: She’s in school. And our lives will never be the same.

I mean, I’m happy for her. I’m happy. It’s good that she gets to spend more time around kids her age than she does around me and her mother, who listen to music that she suddenly Does Not Like (“What’s wrong with Rage Against the Machine?” I demand. “I want UNCLE MOISHY,” she protests) and teach her how to say such dramatically un-kidlike things as “Excuse me, what did you say?” when she didn’t understand what was just said (so cute! Such a great party trick!). All these things and more make her a stellar human being. But, admittedly, they ain’t gonna help in the preschool cycle of schmoozing and swapping lunches.

So, it’s good that she’s exposed to this. She’s happy, and I’m happy. But it also means that we don’t control her path of thoughts: How long until “Excuse me, what did you say” turns into “what the $#!%?” We need to be prepared. Last year when she started playgroup, the bathroom-alert “I have to pishy” turned into “I need to make.” To make? Who made my daughter ashamed of her natural bodily functions? Was she going to start calling her vagina down there? And what new mannerisms and phenomena would she be exposed to at this new, strange, dark hole of a kindergarten? There are three teachers. Their names are Morah Chaya, Morah Mushkie, and Morah Mussie. Aliens. I mean, they’re probably the nicest people ever, but their names still remind me of space aliens. And they’re with my daughter more than I am.

So here is what I do to compensate: I take her and pick her up when I can. I ask her every day about what she does there (which I realize {a} can turn quickly into grilling and {b} is exactly what my parents always did to me, to which I responded, every day for 12 consecutive years, “nothing”).

And I value the time we have together even more. When she comes home, showing us art projects, explaining in elaborate detail this game they play every day called (as far as I can tell) Squishy Squishy Applesauce, which does not appear to have any rules and which nobody actually wins but involves a big red circle and sitting in a row, I listen, riveted and spellbound. I thought I’d have to fake interest in her kinder stories, but there’s no need–everything is so damn loaded, from the snacks they get to her choice of activity partners (mostly it’s Mayanie, whose mom I’m developing a movie with, but I try not to pressure her). Okay, watching too much Doctor Who and cop dramas and reality TV, we become conditioned to think that only a certain kind of drama is really dramatic–shootouts, million-dollar corporate mergers, affairs. But hearing these life-and-death stories from the front lines of nursery school, I remember what real drama is. It’s when there’s one strawberry left and three kids ahead of you, and you really, really hope they all choose the other kind of snack.

And, in the meantime, we cope. We get to spend a little more time with the baby, who has become delighted with the extra hours in the day that are no longer a competition for our attention. My wife is taking more hours at her personal chef job (and now for the shameless plug–WholesomeShabbos.com!) Her challah will blow you away, guaranteed!). And me? I’m glad you asked. I’ve regained unopposed control of the stereo. And I’m bouncing on the bed with the baby and listening to Rage Against the Machine.


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