Little J is already (already!) at an age that demands we begin seriously talking about preschools for the fall.
School is a sort of scary thing for me, which I’m sure is no surprise. I’ve faced each of his new phases with dubious resistance and blogpost navel-gazing. Why would school be any different?
Though I have my nights of sweaty terror, my real fears aren’t really Law and Order or Nightly News-based. Excluding a few panicky moments, I’m less worried about the dramatic and extreme, and more worried about just… life stuff. This is the beginning of a whole world full of things outside of my protective grip. Kids and their mean jokes, embarrassing mistakes in front of jeering classrooms, impatient teachers who maybe won’t fully understand just how sweet and special he is. All of the little quirks and ticks that are just his, things that I find so endearing- what if they’re just fodder for teasing and cruel nicknames?
The teacher encourages us to set aside a day to visit the school as a sort of test-run, making sure it’s a good fit, feeling out his little comfort levels. We pick a day, put him in some new pants, and pack a lunch.
I drop him off and linger in the doorway, watching as he runs to sit at a squat table full of other kids his size. I force a grin and wave goodbye, squelching worries that he won’t be understood, that he won’t fit in, or (maybe the worst), that he won’t fit in and won’t realize it. Of course I want my kid to march to the beat of his own drum and feel empowered to be his own person. But I also sort of hope that “own person” is just normal enough to scrape by without any traumatic taunting.
At the end of the day, we pick him up. He bounds out the front door, turning back to wave as all the kids on the playground call, “Bye Josh!” The teacher hands me a stack of construction paper projects still tacky with gluestick, and pulls me aside. She smiles, explaining that all of the kids were running a race in the grass and one little girl tripped and fell over. All of the other kids- small, oblivious, intent on their own place in the race- ran around her, or hopped over, or quickly sidestepped her. Just Little J stopped mid stride, bending to the girl to ask, “Are you okay?”
So, yeah, this story was partly a bald excuse to just brag about my son on the internet. But I also had a bit of a moment there, as I do when I’m in these navel-gazey modes. I’ve been so concerned that I need to protect my little son from outside unknowns, I never considered that maybe he could be the kind of kid who protects other kids. I worry about not being there to help him, and instead, he’s already helping others.
Maybe school won’t be so bad.
Besides, I survived being called Lizardbreath just fine. Hardly even think about it any more.