Saturday, November 12, 2011

A day of kindergarten

Image via KTVee
Yesterday we experienced another blip in our new divergent calendar: four of us had the day off in the form of offices and daycare closed, and E had to go to kindergarten. Her school cleverly manages the Veterans Day holiday in this government town by remaining open, but making it a day-long open house. That way, all the mamas and daddies whose gov and gov-affiliated offices are closed can check out the classroom goings-on without skipping out of work. And the sisters and brothers whose gov-housed childcare facilities close down, too, come along for the adventure.

I brought E to school at the beginning of the day and stayed. The lovely husband brought L and G an hour or so later, giving them the chance to have a lazier morning start. Parents came in and out of the classroom all day; some staying for a few hours, some dodging from one class to another to accommodate multiple kids in the building, and some ducking out quickly for a rare child-free day of quiet.

There was a special ice cream snack to correspond with the letter of the week, and that was about when L decided that she liked kindergarten and no, she wouldn't be going back home with Daddy. We had had this plan (silly grown-ups) that the lovely husband would take the younger two back home after an hour or so; G would need his nap and L could benefit from a little individual Daddy attention and run of the house. I would run some errands and come back for E at the end of the day.

But kindergarten has ice cream and dancing and music and coloring and a baking project and a turkey placemat to color and L appointed herself the 18th member of a 17-kid class. It was clear she wasn't leaving. Who needs Daddy time when she could be in kindergarten?

And so it was that only the boys went home, and all three girls stayed.

All day.

To E's credit, she generously shared her school life with her sister, including her friends, her friends' attention, her locker, and her very lunch, since I had only packed lunch for one girl. To E's teachers' credit, they pulled out extra placemat assembly components, extra ice cream sprinkles, and an extra chair to E's table.

One of E's teachers made me a cup of coffee in the back of the room and insisted I share her fruit salad and yogurt for lunch, since I had no accommodations for myself, either, and that's when I decided that L might be right -- maybe we should just stay forever.

(You really do win my heart if you press a freshly-brewed cup of coffee, unbidden, into my hands. Especially if it's one minute before telling 17 18 kids to line up for some time on the cold playground.)

The day was a fantastic experience for E, who played proud big sister admirably to what happens to be a class of mostly youngest children, who in turn found L exceedingly adorable and "cute." It was so much fun for L, who inserted herself seamlessly into the classroom's structure and culture. One of the teachers said to me, "when it comes time for L's kindergarten screening, let us know and we'll write a note saying she already completed it with flying colors." L isn't even yet four, so I couldn't help but feel a little mama-proud at the observation, which, while said half-jokingly, certainly contained an element of truth. And although it was completely not how I had envisioned my day, it was very gratifying to see E's school day unfold from opening to close.

At the end of the day, as E was coloring with one of her friends and L was playing at the dollhouse with another of E's friends and I was cutting out white felt ovals for the class's Thanksgiving table centerpiece craft that they'll complete next week, I said to one of the teachers, "thank you so much for hosting us for the entire day. It certainly wasn't what we had planned." I hadn't seen another parent in about two hours. It had been about three hours since the class had still held another tag-along sibling.

She looked over at E and smiled at me. "You know we think the world of your daughter," she said. "But thank you for staying. Because that was actually way easier for us than dealing with the fallout that would have ensued if you had left."

Touché. Have I told you how much I love those teachers?

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