Friday, December 22, 2017

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Decorating a Christmas tree is a Sisyphean task with two manic toddlers. As soon as we placed a decoration delicately on the tree, a small hand swiped it away and proceeded to characterize it as their aeroplane across the room until we rescued the ornament and returned it to its dendrological haven. In the end we dressed our tree with our children’s heights as the primary consideration for its design, so that it is all glammed up on top and indecently bare at the bottom where little hands could reach.

This is the first Christmas in which L, who recently 3, is really interested in. He has taken to shouting “Merry Christmas!” to all and sundry and is fan of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.  M seems to be a right fan of the holiday too, albeit he is mostly interested in attempting to manipulate the Christmas lights to our constant panic.

Unfortunately for L, he expects it to snow on Christmas. He cannot remember snow and is keen to see it. His first Christmas was back in New York and he seemed mesmerized by the snowfall that shrouded the whole city in silence. I informed him our climate does not allow for snow and he seemed rightly insulted by this fact as if the Earth had just slapped him in the face. We will go back to Lake Taco (as L terms it) soon so that he can enjoy in snow, but unfortunately for L, there will be no snow in SF this Christmas.

A few months ago, L learnt the concept of “zero”. I was overjoyed at the time. Months later, my excitement is subdued, to say the least. As our rearing consists of the provision of limited choices (Do you want the broccoli or the carrots first? Do you want 3 more spoons of yoghurt or 5 more spoons? Do you want 3 more minutes playing trains or 10 minutes playing trains before we pack up?) , L has taken up resistance against our regime with “zero” as his weapon of warfare. I want zero! Zero! He exclaims. The one salvation in these times continues to be the timer and L has begun to even ask for the timer. We understand he utilizes our own strategy against us, employing it to garner more time for his current endeavour, but we have little choice but to succumb to the tyranny of its toll. If we tell L it’s dinner and forgot to put the timer on, for instance, he insists that we do so and so we must scourge for our phones and set it, but thankfully, L continues to heed its herald.

I admittedly have slight emetophobia. I believe I was scarred when I was younger by a Plinian eruption from my long dormant stomach during a particularly vicious viral attack. This year my older son threw up for the first time as we weaved our way up the serpentine road to Lake Tahoe (the increased altitude combined with the turns was a perfect concoction for emitting his breakfast). I was surprised that I had no qualms cleaning him up and cuddling up to him, believing at first that I would inevitably throw up myself during the experience. I recently had the pleasure of seeing how far this extended when L woke me up during the middle of the night, informing me he was sick in one cracked sentence and before I had the time to react, throwing up in my mouth as I was rousing from my slumber. Oh, the cruel caprice of the cosmos! Sleeping soundly cuddling a little bear one minute, swallowing vomit the next. That moment encapsulates motherhood. Your children will throw up in your mouth and you will not care. Nobody else can get away with that.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Pookie Pookie Planet

My younger son, who is about to turn 17 months, is in to jamming big time. One of his favourite past times is to attack the piano and the drums, one hand lightening across the keys, the other thunder upon the drum. For a time, he exclusively devotes himself to one instrument in service to his constructed composition and then returns to the frenzy of concomitantly thundering out a tune as he batters through a beat. Invariably, he bursts into song. This is whether we are at home or out and about, to the amusement of passersby. His favourite rendition is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in a most stentorian, basso tone. 

This frenzied musical show is characteristic of his charge through life. He he an intrepid adventurer that climbs the shelves to our constant distress and directs his will about the house. He has a very emphatic “da” (yes) that is always accompanied by a vigorous nod and his “ne” (no) employs a very distinct finger shake which he finesses with a loud “ah-ha”. Even our chaotic cub has periods of quiet contemplation, leafing through a book, constructing a new Lego masterpiece or drawing. 

It is interesting to see how your children reproduce your mannerisms. I didn’t know, until it was pointed out to me recently, that I tend to wisp away into a vacuous state now and again in which I become, apparently, oblivious to all around me. This was pointed out to me when I noted that both my sons tend to “zone out” and sit embroiled in a palpable ponder. My babysitter laughed when I asked her about this and said that they inherited this from me and that I inherited this from my dad (as she has noticed that he would also succumb to these solid stares into the ether). “You see!” my husband gleefully pointed out, “sometimes, we’re together and all three of you are zoned out” - we get drowned within our daydreams at times. 

We are now in the tumultuous temporal period of torrid tantrums. Both my sons started their “terrible twos” right after they turned 1, being their second year of life. I believe it’s because at this time they have formulated an understanding of language without being able to effectuate their communication of it, leading to intense frustration (just think of the times you speak in a foreign tongue and how difficult is may be to effect your intention). The fury of a toddler’s tantrums is ineffably astounding. Both my sons - during this period - snap in the slice of a second as a smile snaps into a snarl of which smite they strike upon themselves. My husband and I were startled into a panic when L would bite through his frustration, leaving a crimson ring upon his wrist. We were thankful when L’s tantrums subsided into shrewd negotiation and crying rather than self-hurt. M is now in that period where he effects his fury upon himself, banging his head against the wall or slapping his head until we pry his hands away from him and take him away from any wall. It is quite a distressing sight to see. These episodes subsided and then disappeared as soon as L garnered a vocabulary and could effect his intention and we hope the same occurs with M. Indeed every day he attempts new words and masters others, albeit the only ones we can discern, apart from yes/no and members of the family which he has down pat, including his brother, whom he affectionally calls “Lala” not being able to negotiate the consonants in his name; are "this" (his favourite word and first word, able to effect his dictatorial demands - this reminds of me of my father's supposition that Marshall Tito received his nom de guerre from directing people as in Serbian, "you, this" is "ti, to" but I digress), “done”, “da”, “ne”,  “um um” (food), “ mama” (synonym for milk), "ala" (water, probably due to the barrier presented by the consonants of "voda"), "gaga" (for "kaka" - accompanied by tapping the front of his diaper, a longtime signal that he desires a change - while he pees in the potty now, he hasn't yet mastered his mechanics for this task), "nana" (banana), “bop bop” (car, from the fact that they go “beep beep"), “plane”, “train” and “lego” and “woof woof” (dog) (one may note the pattern of what he is partial to). His partiality to the latter presents a problem at times. M has no fear - he simply approaches a dog, no matter the size or snarl, and we worry that even in this city of canines (not having a dog in SF is akin to missing an appendage), he will have an inopportune meeting with teeth. My husband took M to the beach the other day and he said that M approached a pit bull, snapped its stick form its mouth to the dog’s surprise and when the dog snarled at him, our son simply snarled back at him but in the next second felt sorry and tried to give the dog back his stick, with my husband whisking our son away in fear that the pit bull would not stand for his impudence, despite his owner’s attestation that he was “really good with children.” No owner in SF will admit that their dog is not “good with children” but as good as a dog is, in the end, they have teeth and we would rather our son is not in their path (having said that, we allow him to pat dogs together with us while we stand on guard).

Whomever came up with the term “threenager” knew what they were on about. Our three year old requests “alone” time in the dominion of his room which he at times defends with preemptive strikes against his younger brother’s deemed incursions. Brotherly brawls are becoming a daily occurrence. And yet as much as I have to separate them, they display increased affection for each other. L can’t wait to see M when he gets out preschool and M waits all day for L. Even when their imperial ambitions collide, they have garnered the shrewd realpolitik to understand that they must work together unless the bigger common threat of parental discipline conquers both their ambitions. My husband and I believe that the score card is somewhat skewed our way at the moment, but fear that this may be but a momentary gain as they grow up. 

L is becoming very astute in translation. At times his father asks him to translate a Serbian word, at times I ask him the Greek and recently he’s becoming a specialist in M’s dialect. A few weeks ago, I jokingly asked L what M meant when he said “bop bop” recursively and L rolled his eyes and exclaimed “it’s a car, mum”. A moment later, as if not satisfied that he had sufficiently evidenced his disdain of my exposed ignorance, he added, “you silly goose” before erupting in a laugh that embraced me into its mirth. 

There is nothing better than waking up to the whisper of “I love you mama”. L and M are cuddle cubs in the morning (M allowing me the opportunity only while he nurses, otherwise he absconds to explore his environment and conquer its challenges). Unfortunately, my husband and I have somewhat skewed our sleeping situation so that we invariably each sleep with one boy or together with M. When L wakes up, he crawls into our bed now unless I’m already in his room, sometimes having fallen asleep putting him to bed (this is a most soporific venture). Our plan was to put M in L’s room, but L has taken ownership of his room of late and is fond of stating to all and sundry that he would like “alone time”. We were intensely curious what this “alone” time was for and then realized that L simply wants to play with his toys protected from his brother’s marauding missions. 

The other week, L had a most fascinating conversation with my father. He quizzed him on all his likes - Deka, do you like cars? Do you like trucks? Do you like blue? Do you like pasta? Noticing that L was emphatic as to how much he too liked whatever my dad professed a like for, I shrewdly decided to utilize this opportunity to have my son eat types of vegetables that he had eschewed, only to have my father answer truthfully that it was not to his palate! (this was soon corrected). L loves to share his favourite things with people and is very fond that we both have the same favourite colour, blue (it is after all the colour of our favourite planet, our home).

L and M are both fascinated by drawing at the moment. L is proud of his illustrations (a rocket recently was quite expertly done, fire and all) and requests that his walls are adorned with his creations (I suppose he takes after my megalomania, since our walls are adorned with my unsold abstract expressionist pieces). M’s chaotic colorful concoctions have to be expertly taken from him once finished as he will invariably utilize his art for a prop to his next drama and tatter it to pieces. L is proud of his brother’s pieces. “It’s beautiful” he comments with an affirming nod (L loves the word “beautiful” - when he likes something, it is “beautiful” - the other day he said “mama, you look beautiful today” and I vowed  henceforth to always brush my hair). 

L’s reading is admirably progressing. His longest words are “CALIFORNIA” and “CROCODILE”. His first compound word is, naturally, "FIRE TRUCK". I believe he’s ready to a read a simple sentence. I’m so excited! Nearly every day he requests I provide him a reading lessons and I happily oblige. L is also intensely interested in space (and to a lesser extent, trucks, cars and dinosaurs). His favourite planet is Earth. I believe that’s a good choice but may not in the future be so solid (I’ve explained to him that while Earth is hour home, we may have to find another because we have treated it terribly, which I’ve had to tone down as this has caused him some distress). He is not allied to next choice, which vacillates from being Mars (because it has the tallest mountain in the solar system, the volcano Olympus Mons, as he will readily inform any ear around him), to Jupiter (because it demands respect simply because of its size, albeit I am partial to the abstract expressionist aesthetic of its clouds), to Neptune (distance is always exotic). I should elaborate that L was fascinated when I explained that Netpune, named after the ancient Roman God of the sea (which in a Greek family you cannot state without the addition that he was merely a Romanized Poseidon) because of its vibrant blue colour from its methane atmosphere. When L questioned further, I pointed out that methane is akin to “pookie pookie” (our euphemism for flatulence) and he thought this hilarious. “The pookie pookie planet” he exclaims and when we direct our space trips to Neptune, we ensure that we have further protection form its malodorous miasma. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

To All Dump Trucks...

My son turned three the other day. It was the first birthday on which he was aware of the fact that he was celebrating his birthday and turning a year older. He had been excitedly awaiting his turning of age,  in which he assumed the role of a "kid"; no longer a mere baby (in his words), immediately fending off requests for aid getting off the bus and climbing up the stairs to our home because he assured us is he was now old enough and capable of doing it on his own. Some of his good friends had turned three a few weeks before him and might have impressed this new attitude of independence upon him, for he couldn't wait to join the club. He was also enthusiastically immersed in the planning of his birthday party, choosing the location and the decorations, including a grandiose number three electric blue balloon that he anthropomorphized into a sycophant that paraded to all and sundry his ascension into his next year, requesting with somewhat rabid intent that we retain Three's service in our apartment after the party. We were recalcitrant, but acquiesced none the less. The blue balloon continued to be in his service, increasingly deflated and despondent. Earlier in the week, on Halloween night, no less, I was getting a glass of water in the kitchen when I felt a looming presence above me. I turned on the cusp of a scream to see Three swaying above me, downturned, as if he were asking for release from his moored misery. It was time to release this swaying supplicant from his dutiful service. Fortunately, L was immersed in other adventures, most importantly, his travel plans, one to San Diego to return to Lego Land, the other, a little farther and more problematic, Mars (his favourite planet however remains Earth - I deem it a good choice).

My birthday is a few days after L's. He woke me up with a gentle birthday kiss and a happy birthday which left me stoked. Then he asked when we were coming in to celebrate my birthday at this preschool before proceeding to sing happy birthday to each member of our family. It was a beautiful serenade! It's a few days after my birthday, but he still insists on wishing me happy birthday with a kiss and I am loath to correct him...

L was all about Halloween this year. He insisted that he would be a blue dump truck and had a concrete view of the entire family's costumes. M was going to be a red crane truck. Dad was going to be a rainbow cement mixer. I was going to be a purple excavator. As L's birthday celebrations and his "All About Me" scrap book was due the same week (since we've put our son in preschool, we've received a bunch of homework that we've undertaken in the late night with a glass of wine - they've been loads of fun but also a tad stressful as they warrant time and ours is quite constricted - hence we stole it from our sleep), we ran out of time to make all the costumes, but a blue dump truck he was. I recovered L's old ninja costume (despite the incorrect kanji that irked me to no end), which suited M perfectly (save for the fact that he is the loudest ninja you would ever meet). I donned feline ears and a tail. My husband hastily made himself into a crane truck at the scrape of the last moment. He had earlier taken on L's costume direction with fervour, using cardboard boxes, recycling bags, backpack straps and construction paper to construct an impressive wearable dump truck. Its functionality, which allowed L to control his open-box back for easier insertion of candy (later confiscated) and consequent "dumping" of the treats, turned out to be a little avant-garde with people somewhat perplexed to see a toddler backing up for candy insertion rather than grabbing their treats with gusto. It was interesting to note that people's gendered assumptions resulted in compliments directed at me rather than my husband. I may be the artsy one, but he's definitely the craftsy one, I explained.

We enjoyed treating (where is the trick? ) with the preschoolers and met up with our buds for an evening candy prowl. I had not grown up with Halloween and dismissed it as a commercial holiday to increase sales, most importantly of confectionary, which also had the attendant ill consequence of directing children to unhealthy eating habits and thus never partook in its pandemonium.  Now I see that you can confiscate most of the confectionary booty and perceived how much fun my toddler had running around as a dump truck. Halloween, just like any experience, is what you make of it. Next year M will have an impression of what he wants to be and I can't wait to (help my husband) make their costumes next year.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Menace Miasmic

When you become a parent, there is no more decorum. Your clothes will invariably be stained with some of your offspring's excrement, which you will indubitably discover right before a meeting and a few seconds after you've checked yourself out in the mirror and adjudged your sleep deprived aspect somewhat decent. Forget savouring the sweet sapour of your meals, your eating habits will be perfect training for Coney Island hot dog competitions. Your alarm will be shrill and will repeatedly pounce on you and pull at your hair (the "sun camed up!" "the sun came up" (grumble, turn) "OK! the sun CAME up mama! Get up!"(bellyflop, hair pull). Concerts, galleries and films will be swiftly colonized by swim classes, music lessons and soccer/football games. You will become extremely adept at undertaking one-armed activities while holding thirty squirming pounds in the other.You will spend so much time in the local park (at least for us urbanites) that you will start to wonder whether you should just pitch a tent and save on rent (or taxes). If you have multiple offspring, you will spend hours in conflict resolution, negotiating the boundaries of toys and games. You will be scolded by your own offspring for indiscretions of your sanctioned etiquette and routine, with a calculating but forgiving eye. Your children's view of the world will seep into yours just as your vision will instruct them, enriching your joint mosaic with an incandescent glint and weaving vibrancy into its colours.

The other night, my elder son sitting happily criss-cross apple sauce in his PJs on his bed, before book time, began to gargle out a story with a gregarious tone than ensnared me and my husband into its picaresque plot. There were dump trucks. Tow trucks. Rockets. Money. You need money for the tow truck (otherwise it won't come - for some reason this logic did not follow with respect to dump trucks nor for that matter rockets - if only someone told Space X that they were free! D'uh). There was Uranus. And there was his injury. We inquired further. You were hurt? We asked. Where is your boo boo? No, he clarified and clutched his heart. We all have an injury, close to our heart and we must keep our injuries safe so they don't crack, he explained with a sombre tone. Everyone has an injury? We asked. Yes, he asserted with the glint of a glare that expressed his irritation at having to explain something twice that was so rudimentary.

The next morning, I asked his teacher if she could discern what "injury" was, my husband and I concluding from its use that L was mispronouncing a concept he must have learnt at school (possibly during a Kimochi instruction). She started at me flabbergasted for a second and then said she had explained she had a chest injury to the kids a few days ago. Could that be it?

I couldn't help but ruminate on this concept. We all have injuries close to our heart. L may not have known how true that testament was. We become who we are because of our injuries, our emotional experiences, from which we learn - learning the most from those that have produced conflict, apprehension, melancholy. We are all walking, breathing injuries in search of healing. A line from Pasolini struck me, l'anima malata, santa - are we not all souls, saintly and sick? We must keep them safe, my son had declared. Was he speaking about life? Is life not a fatal injury? A chronic illness pronounced upon our first breath, as our constructed piece of the cosmos experiences separation and pain from the whole?

The Bay Area was plagued by a miasmic menace this week. On Sunday night, I was convinced our building was on fire as the smoke was so patent and pungent that when it was discovered it had drifted to the city from Napa, we remained somewhat incredulous. Migraines, sore throats and nausea affected the whole family. I was too late in seeking filtration masks - the more diligent had already bought the lot when I sought them out and we lacked any for a few days. I made a makeshift mask from my scarves and told L that we were travelling in masquerade home from preschool.

M, our intrepid adventurer, was dismayed that he could not run out on the grass and hurriedly walked to the door when anyone was bracing to leave as if gearing for an escape to the park. On Friday, he stole my keys and made for the door, as if he had calculated his previous failed attempts were due to their absence. I watched him in stupefied fascination as he tried to uncover the lock to no avail. Dejected, he accepted defeat and languidly retreated into the living room, where he climbed up on the armchair and resumed his watch over the traffic below. Every so often he would catch sight of a plane and erupt in excitement. "Plane!" "Plane!" he would shout (apart from members of the family and the ubiquitous chameleon "this", this is M's first word - L's was "car")and then jump down and run around the room in circles pretending to be one, mimicking the whirr of its engines (the Blue Angels had mesmerized both boys last week).

L's reading is progressing exponentially. Our one hindrance is the fact that I had foolishly not taught him lowercase until a few weeks ago - albeit, he is picking it up fast - as most words are of course, in lowercase. Learning from my mistake, I am teaching M both concomitantly.

M is using the potty! He has been notifying us for weeks now of needed diaper changes by clear gesticulations and for the last week has been using the potty a few times a day. After every potty triumph, he emanates an ebullient, victorious smile. Soon, soon, I will be free of diapers... I cannot wait! Woohoo! Invariably at this first stage of potty training, the Persian rugs, which cause us no harm, are cruelly disgraced. They appear to be forgiving.

The boys have been having fun with felt projectiles. They were learning to aim. I had what I thought was the bright idea of utilizing their aiming to enhance their alphabetic and then geographical knowledge. After each letter had been targeted, we began on the continents. Australia was an easy hit, North America not so much. The more my elder son missed a continent, the more he repeated it and remembered where it was. I was thoroughly pleased with my endeavour, until I later reminisced on my ill advised cartographic exercise, in which I encouraged my young Americans to plague the planet with their projectiles.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Deluge of Thoughts Disconnected

Our pediatrician had calmly warned us that in the first preschool year, kids will contract around 9 viral infections. It's been three weeks and we've ticked off two, with M unsurprisingly contracting all the communicable diseases that L brings home. Their immune systems have been unwittingly enrolled in an intensive course. 

L is enjoying his preschool (if intermittently, interrupted by viral woes) but he seems to be much more socially developed than other kids his age and prefers the grade above him. I think this is due to the fact that he was in full time care with my friend’s son since he was 9 months old. Both the boys are quite colorful conversationalists and strikingly precocious (says the mother). Some children in his grade however, have been home with their mother and without older siblings and have not had the ability to build the same rapport with their peers. They do not yet know how to play with other kids and this was confirmed by the Director of the preschool, who notified us that kids L’s age engaged in “parallel play” and didn’t form friendships. Not all of them! 

 L and W have a solid friendship and go to different preschools. My son informed me that he missed W and that he wanted to see him. We met up with W, his big sis (and my son’s Venere) and their mum, one of my best friends, at the park the other day. They hugged each other, screaming each other’s name out with glee and then started to run around holding hands, before they attacked the playground with a shrewd strategy which ensured that they had ample time at each contraption whilst we were there. 

Before I had kids, I didn’t have much of an interaction with toddlers and stand surprised by the breadth of their knowledge. L has a voracious appetite to learn. He can read a few words now (car, bus, dog, cat, cow, pig, bee, sun, home) and wants to learn more. He asked me to spell “rocket” and “robot” the other day and concentrated on remembering them, albeit I had wanted a progression from three letter words to four (if you are wondering why I didn’t start with two, I wouldn’t have an answer, “dog” for some reason seemed the most natural word to start with, possibly because it was one of L’s first words). Last week we started learning about the solar system and began modeling it with available balls at home (albeit my husband was concerned that the proportions were far from correct). Utilizing music to jolt memory, we started scouring for solar system songs and after dismissing some confusingly tragic tones, we found an upbeat animation which made L burst into laughter. “The sun has eyes and a mouth!” “Earth has hands!” L thought the anthropomorphism of the celestial bodies was a real hoot. L quickly remembered the position of the planets and some of their properties. The hottest planet is not the nearest, the coldest is not the farthest and the biggest mountain in the solar system is not on the biggest planet - just to make it all the more fun. Now that he learnt about planets, we started to connect it all together.
L now knows he was born in New York, lives in San Francisco, that this city is located in California across the country from New York but within the same country, America, which is part of the North American continent, on the Pacific Ocean, that his grandfather lives across the ocean in a city called Sydney in a country called Australia, and that all of us live on a planet called Earth, which has one moon and revolves around the sun, our closest star, just like the other planets in our solar system. He remembers it all, but how much of that does he truly understood, I wonder?

Teaching L about dinosaurs, the world and the planets is exciting and also nostalgic. Countries that existed when I was his age no longer exist and borders have been redefined across the world (including the country I was born in), dinosaurs that existed are no longer recognized and the solar system either nixes poor Pluto or includes a bunch of dwarf planets and asteroid belts that are frankly hard to rhyme (if you’re ever having an insufferable day, just bear a thought for poor old Bronte or Pluto and their existential tumult).

M has started to speak! We weren’t surprised that his first word, other than family members, was a directive, an earnest aid in achieving his goal - the grand adapter, “this” - oh, yes, this. L had used it to his advantage too in his early vocal steps. M's ability to communicate has been greatly enhanced. M is quite dexterous in the versatility of his gesticulations, which he amplifies with animated expressions to propel his will upon his parental servants. He has been signing “no” , in which he flagellates the air before him with both arms with an admirable vigor, for months. The past month, he started to point at the objects of his desire and has now escalated his mission in service of his interests by pointing, gesticulating “no" and screaming “this!”  - a fascinating display if you were not the subject of its command, earnestly trying to effect his wishes as quickly as possible to avoid the ire of his imperium. 

M may be small, but he is fierce. The other day he stood up to three six year olds in the playground and has a persistence, perseverance and intrepidity that is as admirable as fearful. The world will not be enough for this little dude and hell hath fury for anyone who should stand in his way. Fortunately, his disposition is usually cordial and he enjoys charming a crowd. It’s only if his defense mechanism should be triggered, such as when three six year old boys decided to drown him in a deluge of their decibels, that the cyclone cascades its chaos. 

L is of a much more sensitive demeanor and while the disparity may be genetic, it is most likely due to the contingency of their birth order and environment  - M after all was in a nanny share with his brother and another boy his age and had to consequently be bellicose in order to protect his environs from their rampage. L, conversely, never had to worry about his defenses, is a cuddler, a creator and a clown. He loves to make jokes. The other day we asked what he wanted for dinner and he laughed and said “boogers!” We laughed too. “Booger pizza!” “Booger sandwich!” - not satisfied, he pinched his lips together and furrowed his brow as if on the cusp of a thought and raucously yelled “booger burger!” - and there you go, his first attempt to punch out a pun. I was delighted. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Preschool Pandemonium!

This week my elder son, shy of three, started preschool. I had been prepping him by reading him various books on preschool a couple of weeks before he started. He seemed excited but I wasn't sure whether he understood that it would be a new daily routine in which I would not be present, for while he would exclaim he was going to preschool through an amplified smile he added "and you come too" as if it were an epithet.

Finding the right preschool was a travail, admittedly because we were a tad (or more) tardy in our approach. San Francisco has long waiting lists and anxious parents and I had made the novice mistake of searching for preschools the same calendar year as I wanted my child to begin. Even though it was the beginning of the year, most schools had already closed their admittance for the 2017-2018 school year. I knew grovelling before their Admission Directors in which I would beg them to forgive my indiscretion and take my money, wasn't going to get me anywhere so I ventured on a new plan in which I veiled the truth.

I called up each school I was interested in and explained that even though I understood admissions were closed, we had recently moved and was wondering whether there was a waiting list. Empathy may render rigid rules elastic and one would have more empathy for one that found themselves in an unavoidable conundrum than someone that admitted carelessness. The intercourse of a conversation is much more than the mere exchange of words (hence why I prefer face to face encounters and failing that, over the phone in our electronic age where we mediate most of our communication through bytes). When we meet, our integrated intercourse is comprised of words, gesticulation, expressions, eye movement, tone and pauses. Every pause is pregnant with narrative. From our primeval existence we survived based on our ability to form patterns and deduce conclusions therefrom and when we encounter a new person, our minds instinctively and methodically interpret te gaps. Did you jst notice the two typos I wrote or did your mind simply read the previous two sentences and fill in the letters? Our words are patched into a tapestry that other people weave for us as they subconsciously fill in our narrative.

In my particular case, I flexed the adjective “recently” in order to obtain an interview. What’s recent is relative but if you attest your urgency, the other party will most likely impress their own understanding of what temporal period that is. I attested that we recently moved from New York and invariably was interrupted by an eruption of emphatics. Most likely the person on the other end of the line didn’t assume that “recently” was nearly two years ago, but assured of their own impression, they never asked for me to quantify. If they weren’t so pliable, I added that I recently gave birth. I also did this to seed in their mind that I had two potential students and attendant tuitions.

We were thus fortunate to have received interviews. It may seem a tad laughable that toddlers have to interview for preschool and have supervised playdates in which their suitability is assessed, but one crude chord may compromise a composition.Thankfully, my affable, extroverted son easily won over his potential peers and teachers.

We were on the fence between two preschools and decided to entreat both so that we would be the ones to decide which offer to take rather than have the schools make the decision for us. Fortunately one sent over a draconian agreement that allowed me to question some of its terms and the manner of writing while we played out all the pros and cons. A bunch of our friends told us to pick a preschool based primarily on scheduling. When can you drop off and pick up? How close is it? All very good considerations.

However, my husband and I were determined to find the very best curriculum for our son because we are of the opinion that these early, impressionable years are the most important. You can learn at any time, but learning to learn, which is a predicate to learning anything, occurs at a young age. At the least, it is easier to mould these fundamental characteristics at a young age.

Before we looked at preschools, I decided to study the Waldorf-Steiner, Montessori and Reggio Emilia approaches and decided that the holistic, community focused Reggio approach in which children learn through explorative and cooperative projects was most aligned with our philosophies. I had also read Positive Discipline which I continue to re-read and adopt this approach with my children at home. Serendipitously, a Reggio inspired positive discipline school was a short walk away and we got in!


We were given the option of accompanying our son for the first half of the day. I decided to go, if only to be able to witness his routine. The other parents mostly kept by their kids and played with them, but I was determined to keep away as I didn’t want L to include me in his understanding of what preschool entailed.

It was easy to do because as soon as we entered, he ran off to play! I was surprised to see how my son reacted in a new social environment  - he was the class clown! Slightly disruptive, he was overall pretty obedient but certainly intent on attention. He made loud jokes in a clownish voice, once even interrupting a song about monkeys jumping on the bed to state they were jumping on poop and then to ensure everyone was on the right page, he exclaimed “that’s funny!”  - indeed. Thankfully the teachers understood his behavior as a means to endear friendships and found him more hilarious than disruptive. I decided not to intervene and leave them to discipline if need be, for I didn’t want to undermine their authority.

At first he ran to the trains, which he remembered from his playdate months ago and then rocked to the sandpit where he stumbled upon a penguin which he began to play with and after a while my little copacetic carnivore proudly proclaimed he was cooking him! A teacher nearby nervously laughed and betrayed her surprise by the enlarged circumference of her eyes.

After free playtime, the kids rounded into circle time where they discussed their feelings and the activities of the day. Next, armed with orange vests and holding a rope, they trudged up to the park. It was Tuesday, so park time was free play. Other days they have structured activities – Wednesdays is Playball, for instance (which L loved). On return to the school, there was story time, lunch time, nap time and then project time. L made friends with a boy, S, the first day and he seems to still be his best mate there (interestingly, I note that S was born on the very same day as L’s best bud, W).

L didn’t cry the first day but I did. He seemed so grown up! His life away from our nest was beginning. It was a bittersweet bite of a moment when L, who was having trouble donning his orange traffic vest, went to his teacher for help. I had not wanted to intervene because I wanted him to do exactly what he did, and yet, when he showed the independence and aptitude I had hoped for, in a shatter of a second I turned triste as I digested my demotion. Ah, the calamity of change!

Only one other kid cried that first day, her mother with her. I assumed that the girl had never before been at preschool or had any other carer but her mother and shot her mother what I thought would be understood as a supportive look. Later, when we were talking and I said it seemed really difficult for both of them, her mother sighed in agreement and related her story which was pretty much the exact opposite of what I assumed (hence the problem of filling in gaps as I explained above – which you can use of course to your advantage). Her daughter had been in day care for a long time but had developed very strong friendships and didn’t want to leave for preschool.

L's school is very proud of its curriculum and the teachers are constantly being trained to finesse their pedagogical programme. Tonight we have a two hour presentation on their method so we can apply it at home. And I thought it was a meet and greet!