Thursday, September 29, 2005

School Daze

After much summer ballyhoo and brouhaha, September came upon us, and with it, the dawn of a new era: The Age of Preschool.

It's so hard for me to verbalize what it feels to take Hazel to school - my sweet, demanding, smart, shy Mama's girl - and leave her there. I mean, it's just never been done. It's awful and wonderful and liberating and frustrating all at the same time. It's very hard for Hazel to say goodbye to me, because, even as she stands on the edge of her third birthday, she's had very little experience doing so. We never really did the babysitter thing, or the daycare thing, or even much of the "Hazel, go play at your friend's house for a few hours today" thing. So I was expecting some pretty hardcore resistance to the preschool thing, which is basically me taking Hazel to a strange place (she'd only been there twice before the first day of school), full of strange kids and a teacher she'd only just met, and ditching her for three hours. But, always one to prove her mother wrong, Hazel acclimated wonderfully, after a few mornings full of drama, and is starting to get the hang of saying goodbye and trusting that she will have fun, and that I will come back for her. I worry about her spending all of her time there just counting the minutes until I return, but her teachers assure me that she turns on the waterworks mostly for my benefit, and that within two minutes of my departure, she's playing happily with her friends.

What she does at school for those three hours is pretty much a mystery. She's surprisingly mum about her day, and if I press her for details, she'll simply say "I don't want to talk about that, Mama." When I ask her who she played with she always has the same answer: "My best friend Molly, of course." She is starting to talk about some of the kids there, though, besides Maddy and Molly, who she's known forever. We hear a lot about a little girl named Kate ("Kate got blooooooonde hair!"), a little boy named Dylan, whose hearing aides Hazel really digs, and Annica, a little girl who speaks mostly German. I know she does a lot of painting, because her cubby is always full of glittery, swirly masterpieces. I know she steers clear of anything messy - she won't use the glue or participate in making designs on the tables with shaving cream. I know she never eats the snack that the teachers leave out all morning, for the kids to help themselves to; she's got a nervous stomach, just like her Mama. I know she really loves Meeting Time, when everyone sits in a circle on the carpet and they read stories, sing songs and learn the days of the week and months of the year. I know that at school she's one of "the quiet ones." No, for real. I'm enjoying six hours of quiet time a week, and she's enjoying six hours of play, art and dress-up time, while forging new friendships completely on her own. The thought is mindboggling. Preschool provides Hazel and I with wonderful break from each other that we both didn't realize we needed, until we got it.

Getting up, dressed, fed and out the door by 8:40 a.m. is proving to be an insane juggling act, comprised mostly of me rushing everyone around and barking out orders, but we're getting better at it. And when 12:00 rolls around (all too quickly - *sigh*) and Hazel sees Violet and I at the door of her classroom, her face lights up like a Christmas tree, and she runs, shrieking towards us with arms outstretched. When I see her in her school environment, with the little tables and chairs, the kid scissors and dixie cups full of juice, it really hits me what a dichotomy she is at this age; she's so big, at almost 3, but still such a tiny, new person. Her world is starting to expand beyond her parents and her playgroup, and it's just such an awesome thing to see.


Blogger Stefania Pomponi Butler aka CityMama said...

Oh, how I can relate. Coupla things that make getting out the door a little easier for us: Bunny sleeps in her preschool clothes. (Her choice, not ours, and who are we to argue with a 3yo?). And Krusteaz frozen mini-pancakes and Morningstar Farms sausage. Breakfast is ready in 2 minutes.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Debbi said...

You captured it perfectly. Hannah does the same shrieking thing when I show up to get her too. So funny!!! You are so lucky to be able to spend so much time with her. I'm not designed to be a stay home mom. It would drive me batty. I am not very domesticated. Okay. I'm not domesticated at all. Who told you? But, I do miss the extra time to just watch them nap, snuggle, and play. I try to fit stuff in on the weekend to make up for it, but you miss alot when you work. I missed first walk, first word, and first wave bye-bye. I got to see and hear everything, but not the first time and there is alot to be said for experiencing those firsts. Cherish it. Hugs to all -- Cousin Deedee.

6:42 AM  
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