A Gronking To Remember

In 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio began the school year with more than double the amount of full-day pre-K slots for city toddlers the year before, serving nearly half of the city's pre-K population with a free full-day pre-K option. Our zoned school already provided free, full-day pre-K before that. On September 9, Mr. Kiddo started there.

Both Jen and I were kind of surprised — actually, very surprised — to learn that children enter pre-K in the calendar year they turn four. Which means that if a child is born on December 31, he or she will go to pre-K as a three-year-old. For me, a casual conversation at the playground turned into this weird realization that Mr. Monkey was entering the school system basically immediately. I gather that (focusing vast sociological powers) there exists a inequitable dynamic when families with means hold back children until they're very ready to kick ass at school. I was going to "cite" Malcolm Gladwell's hockey story, because I've heard it summarized over and over (or at least once), so I figured I'd look at it . . . and, oh well . . . but anyway, suffice it to say, there's this advantage for kids who are older and smarter when they start kindergarten.

All of which is to say, I've been in the company of Mr. Monkey for 99 percent, or probably well over 99 percent of his time on the earth (i.e., out of the womb, not to get prenatal about it). I don't say this to humblebrag or put myself in the running for a father-of-the-year prize or even to elicit sweet looks from elderly women around the neighborhood but rather to contextualize just how strange it is to not know what's going on with him. Also, this is what happens when you don't have budget for a babysitter or nanny or whatnot. Which also is to say, without me, I wouldn't be able to explain that those are not just books sitting sideways on top of other books but rather "pizzas" "cooking" in the "oven." It goes on like this; the smugly satisfying thrill of being able to interpret preschooler headspace. The first day or two I had grisly thoughts about what might happen when he was out of my sight; I sort of get how one can be an insane worrywart; it also passes very quickly, like probably the third day, but not before some other weird fantasies about how it'd probably be OK to homeschool children; that passes when you see actual homeschooled children — not that there's anything wrong with that, but the ones I see on cable just seem a little, I don't know, off or whatnot — like they've been at home with their parents too much.

Which also is to say, it is disconcerting, upsetting and disorienting — like you've blacked out or something and can't remember time — when you don't know or can't quickly figure out what he's been up to. Try figuring out, for example, what in God's name they ate; it's impossible. They have the menus online and nothing makes sense or lines up. It's hopeless. And that's stuff you can sort of factcheck: he came home that first full day and after hounding him for hours — literally, hours — about what they did at school, he finally allowed that the teacher talked about "applesauce." So I googled "applesauce saying" and pretty quickly discovered "criss cross applesauce."

"Do you mean 'criss cross applesauce'?" I asked. His eyes lit up.

"Yes! Yes, that's it: criss cross applesauce," he confirmed, and then proceeded to attempt to sit cross legged, except that he sat on one leg and then bent the other one awkwardly at a 90 degree angle over his knee. And I guess "Indian style" was excised somewhere along the way.

Later that weekend we googled it, and indeed, "Indian style" was ditched for "criss cross applesauce." For about 38 years I assumed that it had to do with Native Americans until I saw the image search for "criss cross applesauce" and saw a person doing some kind of yoga pose; duh, "Indian" meaning "India." I guess I don't understand the harm in "Indian style" except that it probably makes sense to just avoid ethnic anythings altogether. Thus, jaw harp or maybe even the police van. Fair enough. Then again, "sitting cross legged" or "cross your legs" seems pretty obvious, so . . .

Here's something: full-day pre-K in a public school is a great fucking deal and I don't totally understand why people who have the option to send their children to a full-day free public option would pay money — a lot of money — to opt for something that can't possibly be all that different. I actually feel guilty about it: they not only feed your kid lunch but breakfast, too; the only thing you have to do is deliver them there in the morning. (And you quickly get over the fact that they may or may not [not sure exactly what goes on yet] get stuff like skim chocolate milk or whatnot, and even though you've somehow convinced him that chocolate milk is for a special occasion he now knows this is total bullshit.) You go back to life with one child for two-thirds of the day and it feels luxurious and decadent and honestly a little lonely and disorienting — it's not so much that having one kiddo is "easy" but rather it's about relearning what it's like to relearn what it means to be present and parent-y and awesome with a one-and-a-half year-old. It's like rewinding time two years earlier: refreshing, strange, wonderful, lonely, guilty; like you blacked out and erased time.

Today there was mass hysteria at the dropoff — I don't say this lightly; heard from more than one person that the entire class was insane about being abandoned by their caregivers and parental figures. Mr. Monkey got caught up in it and began going on about not wanting to go back to school; we attribute it in part to figuring out that his lot in life now is to be a student. He says he wants me to be his teacher; I almost get sucked into the fiction (I can do this!) but then quickly recenter and come back with some platitudes that neither of us will remember. Ultimately, tomorrow's Friday and at the very, very least he now probably fully internalizes what "the weekend" means; son, don't tell me we never taught you anything.

Posted: September 18th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , ,