Friday was preschool orientation and I was more nervous than any child in that room, I think. Just stepping over the threshold to the school made my stomach clutch up a little. I didn’t really have any awful school experiences, but I consistently suffered from First Day Syndrome. And now, at 31, I was feeling all those same overwhelming emotions again, while Chooch bounded excitedly ahead of Henry and me.
The teacher greeted us as soon as we walked into the room, and I was obliged to explain immediately that Chooch had had an accident. His lip and the gums above his front teeth were still swollen and bloody; he looked a mess. And of course this bothered me like it was my own face. Chooch immediately ran over to the rug and began helping a boy put together a puzzle.
Henry and I stood awkwardly by the door. It was un-air conditioned and pushing 100 degrees. I had flashbacks to watching a video of the Bishop in one of those same classrooms when Henry and I were there four years ago for Baptism class.
So now not only was I trying not to pass out, I was trying not to laugh as well.
I was happy Henry wore jeans and not his hem-shredded shorts. The other dads in the room (there were only three) looked very blue-collar too, so I didn’t feel so bad having the Faygo King next to me.
While the kids played, the parents were instructed to sit around a table, where we got to follow along as the teacher read aloud from the information packet. It was utterly boring, and of course I was sitting in the teacher’s line of sight so she saw me every time I failed at stifling a yawn.
I tried not to look around and judge the other parents, but come on. It’s me! Erin! There was one older broad who I actually thought was the teacher’s aid but apparently she’s just a know-it-all with older kids so she’s quite seasoned at this preschool thing. She kept interrupting the teacher as we all sat around a U-shaped table in little miniature plastic chairs that weren’t wide enough to support an Olson’s ass, let alone my double-wide.
Chooch mostly played by himself while we sat at the table, but I noticed there were other solo players too so I didn’t feel too bad. Chooch told us later that he didn’t want to play with the group of kids who were playing together because they were playing with girl shit. I noticed that Chooch was the only kid, aside from a girl, who cleaned up on his own before pulling a new toy off the shelf.
At one point, I turned around and he had just dumped over a bucket of REAL Fisher Price Little People! The kinds that were discontinued because kids had to be assholes and choke on them! I LOVED those toys when I was little and there was an entire mound of them (plus the HOUSE! The one with the DOORBELL!) right near my feet but I was stuck sitting at that table with the other parents, learning about how I’m responsible for raising $83748478907057 by the end of the school year. Actually, I didn’t learn that. Henry did. I wasn’t listening. But apparently in the folder we brought home that I haven’t gone through yet, there are a whole bunch of fundraising options, so this is going to be a fantastic year. I can’t even sell my art, and now I’m expected to sell wrapping paper? Can’t I find my own (semi-legal) way to raise the money?
Toward the end of the hour, all the kids got to replace at us at the table (I couldn’t stand straight after being hunched over for 45 minutes) and the teacher introduced them to some lame frog puppet that will be helping them learn their letters throughout the year. She walked around and let everyone shake his hand. 75% of the kids wanted no part of that whatsoever. One girl went so far as to hug her mom’s legs when it was her turn to meet the frog. What a loser. There’s one kid who I know I’m going to have a problem with. He has shaggy red hair and is the smallest kid in the glass. He makes up for that by showing off EVERY FUCKING SECOND. So of course, instead of shaking the frog’s hand, he lunged for it and gave it a huge hug.
On cue, all the parents belted out a collective, “Aw!”
ALL THE PARENTS BUT ME. I’m onto this kid.
When the teacher returned the frog to its home on the shelf, some of the kids whined. Chooch turned around and said loudly to me, “It’s just a puppet.” He looked (and sounded) so disgusted and confused as to why these kids would care that much. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing.
There’s another kid I hate. He’s the dorky kid whose extreme lack of social cues makes him look like an extrovert. He had something nerdy and robotic to say about everything, causing all the parents to laugh. I didn’t laugh because to me, he was just really fucking annoying.
There is a girl with blond curls and glasses who is so adorable and it pains me to admit that because her mom is the older know-it-all broad.
The teacher had a bunch of animal cut-outs and each child got to choose which one they wanted. I guess they’re going to be name tags eventually, I wasn’t really comprehending. Chooch chose a sheep. All the other kids began coloring diligently, so Chooch grabbed a black Crayon and began grinding it into the sheep, up and down, side to side, without even watching what he was doing.
I glanced around the table. All the other kids were really into it, making pigs pretty with a rainbow of colors, or meticulously coloring inside the lines with realistic shades.
Chooch was turning his sheep into a deleted scene from The Ring.
I noticed other moms were helping their kids, so I whispered, “Hey, why don’t you add some color to it?” So he grabbed the brown Crayon. I finally got him to add a yellow streak down the middle of the sheep, but he was completely over it by that point.
While he was mauling the paper sheep with black wax, I had to “interview” him. Each parent was given a paper with three questions on it to ask the kid. I guess they’re going to be hung up around the room or something. Again, this is where my listening skills (or lack thereof) get me in jams. For twenty years I’ve been telling myself I need to pay better attention.
Anyway, the first sentence said: I like ________________________.
“Chooch,” I began. “What are some things you like?”
“OK, well I’m not putting that because you’re going to school IN A CHURCH. And you’re FOUR.”
“Michael Myers. Zombies.”
Finally, I just wrote “putting together puzzles, swimming*, and going to the Halloween store.” (*I guess I don’t know my child as well as I thought.)
Later, Henry was all, “You should have just put Jason and zombies!” and was all critical of me. If this wasn’t some goddamn Catholic school, I would have. But the last thing I need is some teacher thinking there’s something “wrong” with Chooch and trying to coax us all into attending church. And maybe things would be OK, but still – I’m not taking any chances.
There was another coloring project after that but he had peaced out by then. I got him to half-color it and then handed it off to the teacher’s aid, at which point we were dismissed into the fresh air, of which I took a huge gulp.
Did I mention I signed up to volunteer for the class Halloween party? WHAT THE FUCK WAS I THINKING.