Henry started preschool last week, and it’s been a tough transition.
Not for him. For me.
We’re still in “phase-in” mode--the classes are only half the size and half the length, and the parents are in the next room enjoying bad cake and insanely bad coffee while the children warm up to the idea of school. For the first couple of days, I sat there chatting with the other parents while one kid after another was escorted into the room for a few minutes of reassurance from his or her parent. I dreaded the moment when Henry emerged, weeping, from his classroom.
Then I waited.
Then I was wondered why they were keeping him in there.
When he probably needed me.
Time passed. I couldn’t hear any crying. I had already been admonished by the teacher for entering the classroom, so I held off. I wasn’t happy about it.
“What do you think they’re doing in there?” I asked one of the parents, who looked at me like, what do you think they’re doing? Getting facial tattoos? Being forced to consume the still-quivering brains of a dying rhesus monkey?
The faint strains of “The Wheels on the Bus” could be heard from their room. “I’ll just bet they’re singing,” she said slowly, patting me on the arm. If I had at that moment opened my mouth and drooled coffee cake all over my chin, I don’t think it would have surprised her one bit.
One of the parents had to enter the classroom to deal with her heartbroken child, who apparently loves her mother more than my son loves me. She came back to tell me, “I heard your son telling two girls that he’s a ‘puzzle master’?”
“That’s my boy,” I said.
“It’s great that he’s doing so well in there,” she said.
“Yes,” I agreed, choking down more coffee cake.
By the third day the teacher told me I didn’t have to stick around the school. “He’s doing so well,” she said. “We’ll call you if there’s a problem.”
The school is two blocks from my home. I could have gone there. But I was sure there was going to be a problem—I was so sure! So I went to the library and tried to look at books and wondered why my stomach hurt. I checked my cell phone 27 times or so. It seemed to be working, but it never rang, so I worried. And returned to the school.
“I just can’t get enough of this cake!” I said to the two puzzled babysitters in the room with me.
When he finally came out he seemed so happy that I was of course suspicious. “How’d he do?” I asked the teacher. My eyes pleaded for a full and detailed report of his every move and thought, but she was deftly avoiding eye contact. “He was great!” she said. “See you next time, Henry!”
“Did you have fun?” I asked him, “What did you do? Did you make friends? TELL ME EVERYTHING.”
And he said, “They called Malcolm a rubber boy and he was bouncing and Lizzie said you’re a rubber boy and he was bounced and then the little bear went up into the cave and had a nap without the big bear.”
“Wha--?” I said.
“I want lunch,” he concluded.
Tomorrow he’s going back, and I might go home, maybe. But I’ll have on my running shoes, you know, just in case.