Photo: My collaboration with Ursa Major at preschool yesterday. I call the left “Exploration in Autumnal Hues” (school paint on poster board) and the right “Interpretation of Colonial Autumn” (school paint on poster board).
Both of my boys are taking one of them good naps. I knew that it was going to be a good nap day when we got to noon and both of the boys were ready to leave the playground. We got to the playground at 10 and they really did play consistently and well for 2 hours. As pleasant as a beautiful autumn morning on the playground is, those two hours were not totally relaxing for me. I was managing toy squabbles or helping the boys navigate the obstacles on the playground. There was the good 20 minutes of marathon swinging, too. We’ll get to more about the playground in a bit.
I really want to talk about yesterday, because yesterday was my first “parent helper” day at Ursa Major’s preschool. I spent my Monday night baking pumpkin oatmeal cookies (which were the bomb! No seriously, you must make those. Delicious!) and preparing fruit for the day. Then I set out clothes and set up The Husband for taking care of Ursa Minor for the morning. Ursa Major was really surprised that it was just he and I for the morning. He was extra surprised that I stayed with him at school!
Being the “parent helper” meant nothing more than hanging out. I started out in “teacher” mode–arms folded, watching the room. Eventually, I was put on set-up duty, doll-house duty, play food duty, and magic sand duty. Ursa Major and I even collaborated on two paintings!
What I noticed most, though, which I’m trying not to let bother me, is that Ursa Major spent a lot of his time playing alone. The other kids sort of played as a herd. One child would go to the sand table and the rest of them would join in. One kid would take interest in the big bear and then the rest of them would jump in on that, too. Ursa Major would be playing over at the train table, perfectly content the entire time. Every once in a while, he’d go over to the group and see what they were doing, watch for a few minutes, and then go back to his own thing. His two teachers would check in from time to time, asking him what he was doing, expanding on his field of play, encouraging him to do this or that. He was totally responsive, happy to include anyone who wanted to join him–he would ask questions and answer them. He was perfectly content the entirety of the day.
I am so torn about how I feel about this. On one hand, it is totally age appropriate for him to behave this way. He’s not anti-social in any way, he is just interested in cars and trains while the rest of the children want to do other stuff. I want to say that I’m frustrated with the teachers for making such an unbalanced group (5 girls, 2 boys), but then again, he doesn’t really engage with the other boy in class, and I’ve never seen him show a gender preference when it comes to play. I guess I’m frustrated because we made all of this effort and are spending this money for him to socialize with other children…so, you know, socialize, dude!
He’s only attended 3 sessions…I’ve got to calm down, I know. And he is certainly happy, so I’m turning myself over to backing off a little bit.
I was pretty hungry when we left preschool, so I called The Husband and told him that I’d pick up sandwiches from our favorite little seafood joint on the way home. It is right next to the commuter rail station on our side of town, and as soon as we drove by, Ursa Major wanted, needed to see a train.
“I don’t have control over the train schedule,” I told him as we walked into the seafood store. I put my order in with the very salty old New Englander at the counter (augh, ya’ll are killing me with the rudeness), and tried to placate my son by looking at the lobster tank while we were waiting. He was cool for a few minutes, but then his eyes went toward the station. Eventually, he parked himself next to a window and watched the cars drive over the tracks.
When the order was ready, Salty gave me my bag full of food and I took Ursa Major’s hand to leave.
“Can you say thank you to the gentleman for our lunch?”
“Yeah, you’re welcome!” the guy practically spat. I really have to reevaluate if I’m going there any more…but that grilled tuna sandwich is kind of delicious….
anyway, we step outside. There it is, the train station.
“Can we see a train? We need to see a train!”
“Baby, I don’t know if a train is going to come, sweetie…I can’t control the train.”
Disappointed, he lets me tug him toward the car. I’m feeling really bad. I know how much he has missed being able to see the train all day every day. It used to make him so happy to be able to stop and see the train whenever he wanted. And here we are, so close, but I have no idea if a train is going to be coming by anytime soon.
We take three steps.
and the ding ding ding ding of the crossing signal turns on.
Ursa Major is so happy. He knows exactly what it means. “A TRAIN IS COMING, MAMA!!! A TRAIN IS COMING!!!!!”
Yup, a train is coming. We get a prime place to watch it go by.
We’re standing there, and the train has pulled up to the station. Ursa Major is pointing and yelling and jumping. He’s so freaking excited. I’m holding his hand just to keep him from doing something crazy like run into the street. Cars have pulled up to the intersection to wait for the train, but he still has a pretty great view, though if any more cars pull up, his view would be blocked. A woman in a white SUV pulled up to the intersection, noticed us, and left a crazy amount of space just so that Ursa Major’s view wouldn’t be blocked. My heart just swelled a little bit. It was so considerate and nice of her.
But then it got better.
Because as the train pulled slowly out of the station, one of the engineers noticed us standing there and watching. He tooted the horn a few times, slowed down so that Ursa Major could get a good look, opened up the windows and practically fell out of the train so as to give my son the biggest wave possible. Just the biggest, happiest wave from the train that he could possibly give. And then the train rolled off, tooting a few more times on the way out. My toddler was the single happiest kid in the entirety of Massachusetts at that moment.
And I could only shake my head in wonder and hold back a tear. Childhood is magic.
I bowed my head and said thank you to the woman in the SUV. She waved at Ursa Major before heading off on her way. We got to our car to head off when another train came by in the opposite direction. No theatrics for that one, but it didn’t matter to my little boy. He was just happy to see a train up close. Finally, he asked if we could go over the train tracks on our way home. It wasn’t out of the way, so I told him yes. Bump, bump, we went… he squealed in delight.
When we got home, he didn’t want to tell daddy about school, he wanted to tell him about the train.
He was even talking about it today as we went to the park.
Childhood is magic, but suburban motherhood is isolating. There were many mothers, fathers, grandparents and caregivers on the playground today, but I might as well have been the only one there. It really isn’t a race/class thing–though I was the only person of color there–it’s really a “I’m not that outgoing” thing. I hate the shallow nature of the playground interaction. It’s always “you’re sons are so cute. How old are they?” and then we talk about that. Or commiserating over some toddler-behavior that we don’t like… it’s never anything of substance or interest. It’s always the weather and poopie diapers. You shake a hand and a repeat a name and then you forget about it as soon as you get into the car.
Preschool, unfortunately, seems to be no better. At least two of the families send their au pairs with their kids, one sends their kid with a grandparent, one mom does seem to be kind of cool, but then the other two… I don’t know… I just don’t think any of us are going to be sharing coffee in the near future. Again, not a race/class thing. I actually think this might be an age thing? Or a “we’ve been here longer than you have” thing? I don’t know… I’m certainly not in with this group.
I had one of those moments today when I reached for my cell phone to send a text to somebody and then couldn’t come up with anyone to send it to. I had a falling-out with my best friend over a year ago and, despite attempts to rekindle, couldn’t seem to make it work. I know that I’ve been missing that “best friend” element of my life lately, especially in these high-stress times, but today was one of those days when it would have been nice to exchange snarky texts with someone and feel a little less alone. I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to get that back. It would seem, anyway, that I won’t be getting that back any time in the near future. I really thought that I’d stop being the odd duck by now…
I’ve been thinking more about this diversity stuff, and I’ve been disappointed by my cursory searches. First off, there isn’t a lot of discussion about diversity in early childhood out there, and when I do find anything, it’s very shallow stuff. I haven’t found anything targeting adults that talks about the importance of diversity in the lives of young children and the importance of creating diverse learning/play spaces for young children. I’ve seen the studies about segregated learning communities and the impact on test scores, critical thinking and other learning categories (for all races. White children are impacted in different ways, but there is still potential negative impact). I’m just surprised that there is nothing targeted toward parents and caregivers regarding seeking integrated early-childhood play opportunities… I’m not convinced that there is nothing out there. I suspect that I’m going to have to head to a library to find out more.
…. I haven’t been to a library in ages… when I was in school, I rarely found myself in the freaking library…I’m wondering if I’m asking the wrong questions. I need to focus and narrow the scope of what I want and need.
I haven’t done a lot of writing this week, but I will. New television is really killing me! How I Met Your Mother came back on Monday and I was like gotta watch it! My DVR is filling up with all sorts of new shows. Gotta stay focused! I haven’t even gotten to my “higher quality” Friday post. It’s already Wednesday!!! Trying not to panic…trying not to panic…
I’ll leave you with some pictures from today. Even if I’m not always enjoying it, the boys are really loving life in the ‘burbs. It really was a beautiful day today. I look forward to taking advantage of as many of these beautiful days as I can! Winter is coming!!