Wednesday, May 09, 2018

someone needs to make my kid sit in a circle

Yesterday my friend Holly took a tour of Dash's preschool; she got a new job recently and needs to make a childcare change. She liked a lot of the same things that I like about the school, namely that teachers encourage play, meet kids where they're at developmentally, and take a constructive approach to discipline. But ultimately (and with more apology than was necessary) she said that it wasn't for them.

I had these as a kid. I remember chewing on Cookie Monster's eyeball.
Approximately 3% of me was like What?! It's a great school! Another 12% was like Uh-oh, maybe it's not a great school and I've been fooled for three years! But one of the factors on the "meh" side of Holly's pros and cons list was that the school has a fair amount of structured learning, i.e. lining up, sitting in a circle, and doing specific activities at specific times.

This might seem ironic, because I think of Holly and her husband Joel's parenting style as pretty structured. They cook at home and eat dinner together almost every night. They have a solid bedtime routine, after which W goes to sleep by himself in a dark room, usually no later than 7:30.

Last night was typically atypical at our house, meaning that Dash ate handfuls of grapes and goldfish crackers for "dinner" while he and I did a weird toddler exercise video from the '90s.

Maybe W needs a school where he can be a Wild Thing as a counterpoint to his orderly home life. And while there a few routines I would like to cement more firmly into our home life, I also kind of love the low-grade chaos of our household. If school for Dash is less like a cutting-edge fun-splosion of project-based forest learning and more like, well, school, then I can rest assured that someone in his life is teaching him to sit in a circle.

Circle time! White kids!
I texted Holly as much; I think we were both trying extra hard to value each other's parenting choices even when making different ones.

I am thinking right now about my senior year of high school, when I saw a row of four freshman girls walking down the hall and noticed that they all wore the same baggy corduroy pants and white V-neck T-shirts (because 1994). I was only a couple of years older than them, but I had friends who dressed like skater girls and friends who veered hip-hop. I was proud that we were mature enough to be friends despite listening to different radio stations.

This is not a revelation, but the older and more confident in my decisions I become, the less I need other people to mirror and validate them.

(That said, there's a particular brand of over-achieving helicopter parent who pushes my buttons, as do most upwardly mobile, unblemished specimens of humanity who have never had a nervous breakdown. They are not my people. Maybe someday I'll be mature enough to let them back in, but I'm not there yet.)

Rotary: not just a club that gives scholarships!
School is such a necessary supplement to home life. I know that parents decide to homeschool for all kinds of reasons--some excellent, some disturbing, IMO--but a through-line seems to be a desire to control the influences in their children's lives. I get the appeal--my default settings are to control everything--but I am so grateful that I have opted out of control on that front. It is nothing short of awesome that Dash's school is teaching him things I can't, things I'm too lazy to, and things it would never occur to me to teach him. If the price to pay is that they occasionally teach him something I dislike, well, I'll fight speech with speech, I suppose.

That is one part of Teacher Appreciation. The other part is the teachers themselves. I want to give a retroactive shout-out to Teacher Kelly, the lead teacher in the Infant Room when Dash was a baby. Fr. Greg always talked about the importance of receiving people, which I didn't understand for a long time. Like, just say a friendly hello? Isn't that kind of shallow? But for people who are still developing (or in the case of homies, rebuilding) attachment styles, there's no substitute for communicating You're important. I want you to be here. Kelly receives people like no one else I know, except maybe Fr. Greg. Her whole being exudes peace and warmth. She talks clearly and respectfully to each kid and lets them know she sees them. My friend Sawyer is sharing his Play-Doh with my friend Ari! 

Basically a Vespa for babies.
In a different universe, as many articles would be written about Kelly as about Fr. Greg. One day I heard Kelly chatting with another teacher; she mentioned something about expecting to braid someone's hair until midnight, despite working an opening shift the next day. "You know I go to work after work," Kelly told her coworker. She wasn't grouchy about it, but she probably should have been. In a different universe, we would pay preschool teachers a living wage.

I can't say that the other teachers at Dash's school have Kelly's beatific vibe, but they have qualities that make them Enough for Dash in the same way that I am (because lord knows I don't have anything beatific going on either). Yesenia taught babies to be independent with the calmest kind of sternness, while gossiping happily with parents (she's the main reason AK and I ever knew what was going on at the school).

The good old days when toys were made of tin and painted with lead.
His current teachers, Belva and Alfredo, are an enjoyable odd couple--an older East Coaster who gripes lovingly at the kids, and a chill Texas Millennial who told AK that he was going to redecorate the classroom to make it more bangin'.

I'm glad they're in Dash's life. I appreciate them truly; we pay them more than we can afford and much less than they need and deserve. I want to live in a different economic universe, but they help make our existing universe pretty bangin'.

P.S. I've been blogging a bit less here because I've been writing a monthly column for MUTHA. But I'll still blog here, my six loyal readers!

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