Sunday, August 23, 7:14A.M. “I DON’WANNA GO TO KINDERGARTEN.”
Caleb is standing next to my pillow, bellowing into my ear.
I am awake.
Public school in NYC doesn’t start until September 9, almost three weeks away, but Caleb has twigged to the fact that after he turns five (which he does on Monday), kindergarten follows close behind, and he wants to make absolutely clear his resistance to entering the educational pipeline.
I opened one sleepy eye at my still-four-year-old son and offer this really supportive comment: “Don’t start the day complaining, please. Go somewhere else. Mommy’s sleeping.”
Good thing I’ve started therapy savings accounts for both my children, in lieu of college accounts. I figure they’re bright, they’ll get into colleges with scholarships (or else Daddy can’t ever, ever quit his job at the university, so that we can have get that big-time tuition discount). But there aren’t scholarships for therapy (merit-based? need-based? oh-my-god-your-parents-did-such-a-number-on-you-I-will-pay-you-to-start-therapy-based) so I figured we should start socking away the dineros now.
In an effort to alleviate Caleb’s anxieties about kindergarten–and because I’m not really the world’s worst mommy, I just play one on TV–when Caleb finished nursery school this June, we tried a little summer day camp program for a few weeks, figuring he could start getting used to new stuff. It seemed to work: he loved his teacher (“Rita is the best teacher in the world!”), made a few new friends, delighted in carrying his own backpack (“I can do it, Mommy!”). Yeah, okay, so Rita said he was a Luca Brasi in training, but other than that, the experiment seemed to be a success.
Plus that, we’ve read all those going-to-kindergarten picture books: Froggy Goes to School, Franklin goes to School, Yoko…all of ’em. Read so many of them that when I told Caleb that our next-door-neighbor had a new book for him about kindergarten, he said, throwing his arms over his head, “NO! Not another kindergarten book!” Of course, thirty seconds later, he was all can we go next door and get my book? Patsy offered him a classic called Will I Have A Friend (first published in 1969) and we’ve read it a gazillion times.
He liked the books, he liked the day camp, he likes to make friends.
But he’s not going to kindergarten.
I said–trying that clever reverse psychology that never works the way you want it to–that he could go back to nursery school, but that all his friends were going to kindergarten, so they wouldn’t be there.
He didn’t like that idea. So no, no, no he wasn’t going back to nursery school. But he wasn’t going to kindergarten.
I feel his pain, even though Caleb’s temper tantrums are exasperating, to say the least. My semester starts tomorrow, and the idea of going back to classrooms and uninspired (and uninspiring) students in what feels like mid-August makes me seriously crabby.
It’s hard to assuage the anxiety of a five-year old: all those “long-term” consolations (you’ll make friends, you want to learn to read, you liked the school when we visited it last spring) carry absolutely no weight whatsoever. And then there’s the part where a small piece of me can’t help thinking that he’s right: kindergarten is going to suck, compared to nursery school; and for that matter, aging ain’t no picnic either. So maybe he’s right to insist that he is not going to turn five but will just remain four, in perpetuity.
Do any of us really rush out to embrace change for its own sake? Don’t most of us cling to our little cow-paths of habit for as long as we possibly can, until forced by circumstance into another direction?
Caleb knows that change is coming and he doesn’t like it.
I just wish he’d wait until after I’ve had my coffee to tell me so.