Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Two-Year-Old Stuff

We’ve just wrapped up our second week of school and things are already looking up. Zoe still clings to me as we go into the school, but we’ve started this ritual where she will stand at the front window and we will make funny faces at each other as I leave. This of course means that I have to walk away as she watches me with her big, sad puppy eyes (because I’m really the only one making funny faces). It tears at my heart so much I can barely bring myself to sit peacefully at the coffee shop and catch up on my reading. I’ve been told that after I leave she no longer cries, and seems to have fun. I, of course, imagine her sitting despondent in a corner, quietly waiting for my return. If I discover that she is actually having fun while I worry I really will be very annoyed.

I’ve noticed a couple of details that I believe are going to define the next umpteen years of my life as both the kids weave their way through school. The first is crust on sandwiches. Already Zoe has declared (“Zoe no like.”) that she does not like the crust. So now when I make her sandwich in the morning I have to cut off the crust. (And she doesn’t like the skin on fruit, so I’m peeling peaches and plums for her, although I draw the line at grapes.) Another thing I have noticed is that no matter how early I am up, no matter how prepared I am, no matter how cooperative Zoe is, every day I have to tell Zoe to hurry up because we’re late. I mentioned in a recent post that Zoe just does not understand urgency. If a herd of elephants were bearing down on us she would stop to examine some gum stuck to the sidewalk.

Although Zoe is a ‘big girl’ now, going to school and sleeping in a real bed, she is only two and a half, and sometimes (okay, most times) she acts exactly her age. Usually it’s irritating, but it can be really sweet and cute as well (which is important, otherwise there would be a lot more child abuse out there). For instance, she had a bowl of cereal the other day, and while she ate Cheerios out of the bowl with her right hand, she was swinging her spoon in the air like a conductors wand with her left, oblivious to the milk running down her arm. There is also the cute obstinacy.
  Dad: “Zoe, don’t forget to put the cover on the marker.”
  Zoe: “Okay.”
  Dad: “Did you cover the marker?”
  Zoe: “No,” and walks away.
There is also her ability to completely ignore us. I could ask her a question a dozen times and she won’t even twitch. I think it takes amazing control and focus to ignore us so utterly completely. Zoe definitely has what my mother called selective hearing. And my favorite, her complete oblivion to my use of sarcasm, such as, “Zoe, what a great job cleaning up.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

100th Post / Zoe Starts Preschool

With this entry celebrates its 100th post.

Looking back through this blog at the milestones in Zoe’s life (and I expect you to read back over the previous ninety nine blog entries to catch up) Zoe’s starting preschool–last week–has to rank way, way up there. Preschool has occupied a good chunk of our time and mental space (is there such a thing?) over the last year. It started last September/October with the frenzied search and the sending of registration fees. Then there was the waiting, the rejections, the comparisons, and finally the choice. We then started preparing Zoe. This included the creation of an online Group of fellow parents, picnics and weekly play dates with other students, and an almost constant discussion with her about school and what to expect. But we too had to prepare. Here we are sending our child off to school when it was not that long ago that we were teaching her how to sit and walk, and getting excited because she had learned how to say Mama and Dada. She’s two and a half years old and we could count on one hand the occasions that Zoe was left in the care of someone other than Alison or myself. And now four days a week we are leaving her in someone else’s care.

Monday the 14th of September (2009) was the first day of school. Zoe’s schedule is Tuesday through Friday, but the school had a special short session today to acclimate both student and parent to the routine. We learned about name tags, cubbies, food sharing, allergies, sign-in sheets, sign-out sheets, drop-off time, pick-up time, snack time, circle time, outside time, inside time, a fish named Gloria, a rabbit named Sparkie, where to hang coats, where to put diapers,where to put a change of cloths, where to pick up our children’s art, and most important, where to leave our monthly payments. All the parents mingled about, hovering over our children and taking an active role in their enthusiasm over the collection of toys (“Play is the work of the child.” Jean Piaget). We (us parents) were all hyper attentive, trying to prove, to the teachers, that we all take an extraordinary active role in our children’s interests. At the same time, we (again, us parents) wanted to make sure we knew the drill. No one wanted to be the parent whose child failed cubbyhole.

The rest of the week did not go too well. Zoe was ‘sad’ about me leaving her (sad being the schools gentle way of saying that the child was inconsolable). There were tears every day. I was called back one day because she was sad. Another day I never left. And every day Zoe would plea with me not to leave. At home our months of sleep training evaporated in one night. She cried when we said goodnight, would wake in the middle of the night, and she would show up at our bedroom door at early morning hours. She would frequently tell me, “No Gay Austin,” meaning that she did not want to go back. As I said, the week did not go well.

Tuesday the 22nd, the start of Zoe’s second week, started off with some tears, but overall went better, and although she was crying when I left I was told that she calmed down very quickly and had no problems the rest of the day. (By ‘rest of the day’ I actually mean the total of two hours forty-five minutes that she is at the school, making this the shortest preschool day in recorded history.) I expect that we will have many days of tears and sleepless nights ahead of us, but today gave me some hope that Zoe will eventually adapt and perhaps even come to enjoy and look forward to going to school. I hope to write a blog sometime down the road that tells about Zoe’s tears on a Saturday because there is no school.

In discussions with other parents, we are of the consensus that starting preschool is probably the biggest transition thus far in their lives. Many of the kids have had nannies and babysitters or grandparents, but at school they are often on their own and though I have no doubts that at Zoe’s school a lot of attention is paid to the children, they are no longer the one-on-one center of attention that they are used to. As parents we want our children to be well balanced, socially adept, and stress free as possible, and ironically preschool, a step toward achieving those goals, is probably the most stressful thing they have encountered. I suppose home schooling would help reduce that stress, but I am altogether too lazy and definitely not bright enough to achieve any modicum of success. Besides, I want the kids out of the house so I can continue my tennis lessons.

For my 100th blog I had planned a big retrospective of previous posts, sort of a best of the best, a little trip down memory lane, musings of first steps, first words, and perhaps a sampling of some of my wittier lines from posts past. But it’s been a long week and a half and perhaps Zoe’s starting school is a good jumping off place for the next one hundred blogs. Take a look at the photos of Zoe’s first day of school, and check back here at the end of the week for an update on how the rest of the week went. Then we’re off to a big family reunion on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which will surely set our school and sleep progress back to square one.

Zoe’s first day of school: