Friday, April 14, 2006

Fitting In

Throughout my kids’ lives, we have moved them in and out of several childcare settings. Harrison especially. About two months ago, we made yet another mid-year switch due to my dissatisfaction with the preschool they were in. It was called “Montessori blank blank”, but really it was a traditional day care with a few wooden manipulatives tossed around the room. The director was very loving and caring, but plagued with financial difficulties and health issues that kept her from fully teaching the Montessori philosophy. A TV/VCR was moved into the school a few months before we left and that was when I started to really question what my kids were doing all day (Harry only in the afternoon). Long story short – I made the difficult decision to uproot my babies from their comfort zone and friends and move them ten minutes further away.

The new school is truly run as Maria Montessori would have wanted it. The atmosphere is cheerful and bright and the teachers are caring and sensitive. The curriculum is well planned and there are even extracurriculars taught – dance, music and Spanish. Still, I have questioned how they were doing there.

Ella immediately seemed to enjoy it, but often mentioned a few of her friends back at her old school. It was a really small place and each individual was an integral part of the community. This new school is much larger. Two big classes of kids – about 40.

I worried most about Harry. The second afternoon he was there, a kid on the playground threw his hat over the fence. We have yet to find it. I wondered what kind of “big” kids were at this preschool. They have a whole group of full time Kindergarteners and I worried if they would accept him into the fold. He never complained. He never tattled on the boy who threw his hat. He seemed to take it all in stride only occasionally requesting that he be able to go back to his old school and see D – the boy from hell who would tattle on Harrison constantly and provoke him only to blame Harry for everything. This boy was whom Harry loved. Again, I think it was because the community was so small and Harry and this boy were two of three big boys at the school.

Since the new school is near Chris’ office, he does a lot of the pick up and drop off. Even though that makes my life a whole lot simpler, I miss the parent/teacher connection that you get with that duty. The little bits of information they throw you as you are getting their coats on. I just don’t feel any large connection with this new place. I still feel like we are outside of the clique looking in.

Thursday, though, it all changed.

Two things happened. One, I got to pick up the kids and as we were packing up several of their classmates started to spontaneously say “Bye Ella!” “Bye Harry!” My somewhat anti-social Harrison just ran out to the car, but people-oriented Ella basked in it and made it last as long as she could. “Bye A! Bye I!” And then, as we were going up the stairs I heard one girl yell, “I love you Ella!!” It was so sweet and made me feel that she really has fit in just fine.

The second thing was experiencing the school’s version of a spring recital of sorts that night. We almost didn’t go. Harrison didn’t want to sing or dance, and Ella is painfully self-conscious and didn’t want to be on stage. The location was pretty far away and we were supposed to bring a dessert or appetizer. I had about 60 minutes to feed them, get to the store and drive the 20 minute route. Getting in the door and preparing dinner took about 30 minutes. Calling a neighbor to steal her unopened Oreos took about 10 minutes and yet we were still 5 minutes late.

Neither of my children has been on a stage before and this was a real stage. The “big” kind in a gymnasium. There were lots of families in the audience and most of the kids were all dolled up for the big event. Not mine. Harrison had on a wrinkled garage sale shirt that I put on him in the car seat after I discovered a dried booger on the shirt he wore all day. Believe me – it was large enough that someone may have noticed it from the back row. His jeans had a large tear across the knee. I call it his Huck Finn look. Ella wore a long sleeved corduroy dress with sneakers. It was 77 for a high this day. She looked a tad out of place amongst all the shimmery, sleeveless Easter dresses that most of the other girls were wearing. However, they pranced out onto the stage and danced their hearts out. I even saw Harrison’s mouth moving, while swinging his hips, during BOTH songs they performed. Ella didn’t adjust too well after the dancing portion. Something about standing in front of a 150 or so people bothered her. The minute she found me and caught my eye, she lost it. She has a classic move. Her lip quivers and then she extends one of her arms straight out as if she’s making a right angle with her body. This then leaps into the whimper, full out cry and audible, “Maaaaammmmaaaa.” It was so pathetic that I almost ran onto the stage to save her from the unbearable pain she was in, but one of her teachers beat me to it. She kneeled behind her and hugged her. Ella calmed down immediately.

As I stood alone in the back waiting for Chris to arrive, I talked with one mother I just recently met who lives in the neighborhood. She has a girl that Ella loves and a son also in Kindergarten. After the show, I met another mother of one of Ella’s other good friend. Both sets of parents are originally from the Midwest and we had so much in common. It was easy conversation and the kids all got along. We are even trying to arrange playdates. This is big for me. I’m not much for lots of coordination – my life is complicated enough.

As I watched the dancing preschoolers and chatted with new comfortable people, I realized that I finally felt like we fit in. That our kids were not only welcome here, but accepted. The feeling is strong enough to erase the guilt of moving them from their old school and maybe even strong enough to erase the guilt of putting them in full day preschool to begin with! Well…maybe not that much, but I do really like this place.

P.S. I have set up a donation page for the Race for the Cure. I would be grateful to any of you who feel compelled to donate. I don’t exactly know how to direct to this page yet (I’m SO computer inept!!), but will get that info out as soon as I have my neighbor explain it to me!

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