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Somewhere in the large and cluttered main office of Shary Hyman, the Director of Keneseth Israel Preschool, I imagine a thick file folder marked “Whitworth, Simon”. If you were to peek inside, you would find a group of papers neatly clipped together. The top of the stack is comprised of the usual boring administrative stuff: emergency contact information, enrollment papers, Simon’s immunization record. But just below that you’d find Shary’s ever-growing dossier on us, Simon’s parents.

Note 1

“January 2008. Mother stopped by to ask about son’s registration. Not pre-registered according to my notes. Mother seemed agitated despite our having an opening to accommodate her. Still enroll? Could be trouble.”

Note 2

“August 14: Both parents arrive to drop off rather timid child. You can sure tell those older first-time parents! My son is currently driving from California to Guatemala! Child went home with school property (car).”

Note 3

“August 15. Both parents arrive again. Both parents also picked up child yesterday. Unemployed? Ask Billie in accounting for tuition check status. Child went home again with school property (car).”

Note 4

“August 18. Child wailed on entrance to school. Agitated mother arrived for pick-up at wrong time and spot, and then talked to 4 of child’s 6 teachers as they tried to help with school lunch. Total neurotic.”

It is, I tell you, painful to be the living, breathing embodiment of a stereotype. But here I am, exhausted after the emotional highs and lows that accompany being the neurotic, agitated, older first-time parent to a rather timid boy entering the Keneseth Israel Itsy Bitsy class. The drop-off today was pretty bad. By mid-morning, I was editing a Power-Point presentation for a big meeting Tuesday while simultaneously making plans for what to do if/when I am forced to disenroll Simon from school.

By 11:45, when it was time to go pick Simon up, I was in a complete lather and sped all the way to school while an array of images of Simon sobbing played in my head. I literally ran through the parking lot and the back door, where I was greeted by his head teacher, Lana, who told me that they weren’t sure when I was coming today, so Simon was eating lunch with the other kids in his room.

He was? Not huddled in a corner, too weak to cry any more, clutching his (er, the school’s) toy car for dear life? That was certainly unexpected good news.

Lana gave me a bit more information as we chatted. Despite the drop-off disaster, Simon actually did better today. But he is having a hard time adjusting-more so than the other kids. He’s also not participating much, and he doesn’t like being in the midst of a crowd. While the other kids worked on art at the big table, he was off in a corner with a teacher. When it was story time, he avoided the big circle and instead sat on a teacher’s lap away from the group and flipped through books on his own. When the kids played outside, he found a ball, found a quiet spot, and played on his own.

Lana even used the “o” word: Simon is an observer. “It’s OK,” she assured me, “he’s very sweet, and he’ll get used to it here. And he needs this, because we can tell he’s very smart. He needs the enrichment.” I listened to her without interruption, but once she finished, I’m afraid I launched into a neurotic barraged of questions. “Is he having the hardest time? Are any of the other kids having as hard a time? Is he sucking up an unfair portion of classroom resources?  How long does it usually take for timid kids to come around? How long do we have?” I even teared up a little.

Next I bumped into Fira and Laura outside the lunch room. Both added to the picture Lana painted. He’s not good at transitions. He doesn’t like being in a crowd. When the door opens, he thinks class is over and makes a run for it. But he’s very sweet, very social in a one-on-one setting, and very smart. Fira even leaned over to whisper in a conspiratorial voice “It’s always harder for the smart ones. They understand everything and are the most sensitive.” She then went on to tell me how they discovered today that Simon loves books, balls, cars, and cheese crackers.

Finally, on my way to the office to pick up an entry badge, I ran into Inessa. She smiled and told me how much better Simon did today, detailing his areas of improvement. This should have been reassuring, but some of his areas of improvement included items I hadn’t realized were problems. Then she, too, joined the chorus: “He’s such a sweet boy. And we can tell he’s smart.”

By now I’m beginning to suspect that “smart” is preschool code for “chicken.” Certainly the “s” word is pushing my buttons. On the one hand, I want to think he’s smart. On the other hand, they’ve seen him for nine hours. How can they know? And anyway, I have personally seen one 18-month-old who could work a puzzle of the United States and a 22-month-old who speaks in three-word sentences in Mandarin and English. He ain’t that smart!

Fifteen minutes and four interviews later, I finally mustered the courage to get up on my tip toes and watch Simon through the door. He was seated at the end of the table with his back to me, one of about eleven kids arranged in tiny little chairs. I could see him eating his sandwich, drinking from his cup, and talking to the other kids and teachers in the room. I could tell he was smiling by the divot in his cheek in profile. Once or twice he turned around and I could see his smiling face before I ducked down out of sight.

It may seem a small thing, but seeing him part of the group-even if were only for 15 minutes out of the entire day-made the rest seem worthwhile. I am shored up for another day.

4 Responses to “Preschool Day 3: The Follow-Up”

  1. Amanda says:

    Honey, Simon will be fine. Let Simon be Simon. And he is smart! You don’t need comparisons. If you started speaking Hebrew to him he’d pick it up too, they’re sponges at that age. Relax, everything will be fine, you are great parents and have a great kid!

  2. bethnbobinnc says:

    Thank you, Amanda….I struggled all morning with what to write to my dearest friend to calm her anxiety about all this without sounding like a “know-it-all been there, done that”, Mommy. Jessica, Simon is tougher than you think. He will survive this. If pre-school at Keneseth Israel is the worst thing you’ve done to him so far, you’re doing pretty well! :) Hang in there. This too shall pass.

  3. Amanda says:

    hey Beth:
    Yeah, Jess beats herself up too much! But at least she *knows* she’s neurotic, LOL! And having no kids, I am, of course, the expert! :-p Great to hear from you, how are your little ones? And love to Bob and y’all. Or is it all y’all? Jess, we love you. You are a *great* mom. So stop it!

  4. bethnbobinnc says:

    Hi Amanda. It’s just ya’ll (How to talk Southern 101). We’re all doing great. I’ll tell Bob you said, hi! Jess, sorry to use the blog to catch up! I think the last time I saw Amanda was at your wedding!!!! Kiss the boy for me. We’ll talk soon.

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