August 11, 2008
My four-year-old started at day care. I was worried about his behavior, given his performance at the Doctor’s office when getting his shots up to date. He is a high strung little guy, he wants his way all the time. When the situation isn’t going the way he thinks it should go he lets you know. He has a short temper and a very long memory, I admit openly that he gets these traits from me. I am an unforgiving bastard. I was worried about many things, the plan was set in place, which means that nothing was going to go correctly. I was to see a specific person, pay the amount for the week, get a receipt, show him to class, and say my good-byes. I had it all worked out via phone the previous week.
He knew that school was coming up soon, we had talked about it and he was none to happy with what he was hearing. He constantly peppered me with questions about the fine details, another inherited trait. We both like to know exactly what’s coming. The day before he was to start I decided to let him know that the next morning was school. His face darkened and the tears began. He started using logic to make sense out of it. “We can just pretend that I will go to class, and when I’m ready I can call you and you can come get me…” then it was, “Just for a little bit, deal? deal? deal? I don’t want to be there all day, that’s just too long”. I hated to do it but I had to inform him that he would be there for the full day. My wife then came in the room with a backpack for him to take that contained extra clothes for school. She also had some pajamas for after his bath that evening. She showed him the backpack and explained that he could take a toy or two, plus his trusty rifle along. My mind then flashed on politically correct parents or administration frowning on that idea, and the ensuing discussion that would follow. She sat the bag down by the door and then she announced out loud that these were his pajamas…. His face twisted in terror, “I am not spending the night there!!!” The panic set in and he looked as if he would begin tipping furniture over that very second. I laughed a bit and told him that no, those were for after his bath later tonight. He shot me a sideways glance that clearly let me know he didn’t trust me at all since I told him the shots wouldn’t hurt… There was no more discussion of the pending morning’s upset to ritual that was to follow. I awoke earlier than usual, nervous about the next hour and a half. I went through the motions of getting ready and then went to wake him. The first thing he did was ask if he had to go to school, “Yep, today’s the first day, and I won’t have any fussing, you are a big guy now and you will have fun and make lots of new friends”
“But I don’t need any new friends dad…”
When he was ready I flashed on steve martin in the jerk carrying the lamp and such. As he came down the hallway “ready” to leave, he was loaded with all sorts of toys and guns. I told him that he could take just a couple of things with him and he proceeded to darken up again, to which I held up a finger and announced that guys as big as him don’t fuss about rules when they have to go to school. He gave me the mean stink eye and stared me down as he dropped each toy one at a time with a resounding thump onto the floor. When he had just two things, his beloved rifle & his plastic pistol, he announced, “OK, I’m ready to go now” He held the stink eye on me all the way to the car. I watched him in the rear view for any panic or anger all the way there, he looked out of the window and commented only once, to point out the heavy equipment that was clearing a spot for an upcoming grocery store. Once we arrived he looked nervous but was hanging on pretty well. I took his hand and we made our way across the parking lot, I kept waiting for the tug in the opposite direction, but that never came. He was silent as we went in and followed me to the office, no lights and locked doors…. The best laid plans of mice and men…. I took a deep breath, knowing that I was now going to have to find people. I ran down a small girl and explained who I was and what I was doing. She told me that his regular teacher wasn’t in today, of course not. The office lady hadn’t arrived yet, again, of course not. So she climbed through the window that you deal with the office through and unlocked the door so that I could pay her and pick up a receipt. She wrote it out and I handed over the money just as the regular office lady came in with a flurry of flying bags, apologetic lateness, bad hair, and copious amounts of perfume. Oh good, a meat sack. I prepared for the lecture about procedure that was sure to follow. She looked me up and down, obviously I had created my first error in actually standing within her domain, so I quietly backed out of the door and faced her through the window. She stared down at the receipt book and then picked up the moneybag for examination, seeing that all was in order she looked at me as the small girl led us away toward my kid’s room. I know there will be a confrontation, I just know there will…. She cast the same loathsome visual gauntlet down that all useless meat sacks toss out when you cross the imaginary boundaries of power they have set around themselves. She reeked of false confidence of over lord power, yes, yet another damned spider witch in my life. Juuuuuust great. I've got enough of that happiness as it is.
I followed the little girl on to the room, my four year old holding fast to my hand. There was a smaller kid crying at a table, several smaller kids were seated around it, must be breakfast time. The four-year-olds were watching a video on birds in some snow bound setting. My kid stood by, nervous but doing ok, I told him that it was time for me to go, I picked him up and gave him a good hug. I set him down and told him to be good, when I stepped away I couldn’t help but ask for a ‘round the leg hug in parting. He cut his eyes up at me and said, “No dad, I have to go over here”… So I knew then that he was going to be just fine. I held back the tears just long enough to get about a tenth of a mile from the place, but I think that I too am going to be just fine.