Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Suspect Story of Santa and M's First Day at Preschool


M started preschool at the beginning of this year, before he turned two and a half (M is very aware that he is "two and a half" now and proudly attest to his age to all and sundry lest they suspect he is only two). My mother was taking care of M throughout the work week and was quite recalcitrant for M to spend half a day out of her care, but M vociferously requested that he start. We thought he was ready for the social interaction as well as thought it fit that he be immersed in the Reggio method and the Kimochi-inspired emotional learning of our preschool.

Unlike L's first day at preschool, I declined to stay and thought it best to leave after drop off, calculating that my stay may cause disruption to L's routine and consequently, to M's day. I also didn't want to impress upon M that I was going to stay as a routine. We spoke about him going to preschool and that I would leave and come back, but admittedly didn't read the numerous books and watch numerous shows about preschool as I did for Luca's prep. I had mistakingly thought that M, having picked up L with his grandmother daily, would already have a certain sense of comfort about L's preschool that he may have been confused by a general impression.

The morning of M's big day, L, M and I had circle time. I instructed the boys to sit "criss cross apple sauce" while we discussed preschool. I had L inform M about the day and drew what L said. Then we went over the drawings. M would be dropped off, "push us out", go the potty and wash his hands, do "free play", have "circle time", go to the park, have more "circle time", eat lunch and his grandmother would come pick him up. M was excited. I thought I had everything under control, but I had neglected to mention that his brother was on a different schedule to him. Big mistake.

M proudly walked carrying his lunchbox and shouting that he was now a big kid going to school. When we entered preschool, he scuttled inside the gate before we came through and for a few moments we lost sight of him. L eventually found him in an "experience tent" where he had happily inserted himself in a group of children, playing with tiles and sand. L immediately took charge and pulled M away, instructing him that the first thing to do was to go potty and wash his hands and that then he could have free play before circle time after that was done. M happily complied and they walked hand in hand to the bathroom. When they returned, they "pushed" us out the door, laughing and ran off before we finished pronouncing our farewell.

The morning having succeeded my expectations, I was surprised to hear that M's first day was rather difficult. He had an accident (and in fact reverted to having accidents throughout the first week), cried incessantly when he was taken to the park and sternly told me that I abandoned him and that if I did so again he would cry.  All day. "You left me, mama. You left me and I cried and cried and cried for you." That battered the beats of my heart. The following morning M informed me that if I left him at preschool, he would cry "all day" for me. For a moment, I wavered and thought that we had made a mistake sending him off so young, but I resolved to continue. During our route to preschool, I asked M why he didn't like going to the park, when he loved the park. He informed me that he was afraid of holding the rope, because he couldn't hold an adult's hand and he feared being hit by cars. The following day, I informed the teachers of his fear and they were appreciative of this new information which they immediately resolved. That day, while M continued to admonish me for abandoning him, he also informed me proudly that he "held the rope."

By the end of the first week, M stopped having accidents and stopped crying. The teachers figured out that M was put into a panic when he went to the park because he was physically separated from his brother. This was my mistake. I had prepped M that L was in the grade above and would undertake different projects and be with a different teacher, but I had declined to impress that M would also be physically separated from his brother and would go to the park at a different time. The teachers figured how to solve this problem too. They printed out a photo of our family and put it around M's neck, telling him that no matter where he went, his family went with him and that if he missed our family, he could look at his picture. This did the trick. M now is excited for "go" days when he and his brother go to school. M is so comfortable in preschool now that his gushing teacher informed me that M made her day by going up to her, hugging her and professing his love for her. Well done teacher! I stand impressed. M no longer cries, is excited for school and has made friends. M's teacher told me that he now comforts his friend, J, who cries for his parents, by telling J not to worry and that his mummy and daddy will pick him up after lunch. When J stops crying, M heralds this new ebulliently to all and sundry. M was ready!

One of my friends, a mother of boys, had informed me when I was pregnant with L and found out I was having a boy, that I would experience a deluge of love from my boy, which was unlike any other experience. She was right. Our boys love to profess their love for our family members, but L has entered into a phase in which he emphasizes his love for me. "Mama, you have the most beautiful eyes and you teach me so much and I will dream about you all night, about all my loves for you, which go to the end of the universe and back." Ineffable. "Oh, and I love you too daddy" he says if my husband is around.

Despite his professions of love, L at 4, is beginning to recognize my failures as a human being. I am forgetful. That is, I have a keen long term memory, but my short term memory, respecting objects such as my keys, phone and wallet, is functioning at a below average rate. I too frequently employ technology to help me find these items. L rolls his eyes, "mum lost her keys again". The other day, when M asked me to write his name on his pillow, just like L has, L said "you better do it now mum or you will forget again." L has picked up my wallet and phone that I have misplaced throughout the house, numerous times now. They keep me in line.

L was a champ at getting his vaccines. I had informed him about what they were for and discussed the etymology of the word "vaccine" being from vache while telling him of the grand tale of Edward Jenner's discovery, minus the risk he took with the eight year old boy. L was happy that he was going to be inoculated against numerous diseases. Yet when he saw the needle, he became very scared. The nurse was fantastic. She had previously given L and M their vaccines and I knew she was the best on the roster as well as the kindest and was thankful when she came out with L's forms. She focused on L's reward, upping the ante to three stickers and pricked him quickly. L was a champ and even the nurse was impressed - he didn't cry and thanked her. However, in a couple of hours, he had a slight fever and the pain in his arm was intense. I went through our breathing exercises with him and our mindfulness exercise of saying goodbye to our pain, as the waves washed it away. L was not convinced. "That's just my imagination" he countered. "This is real pain." I asked him where he thought pain came from. L pointed to his arm. I pointed to his head. "All pain comes from the brain" I told him. "Hence, if you can control your mind, you can control your pain." L digested this for a moment, and as he calculated his response, he stopped crying. "What's a brain?" he asked, interested. I told him it's where all our thoughts came from. I also told him it's where unconscious directives occurred, such as for instance, when we need to swallow our food, which we don't actively think of, our brain is nevertheless directing the action. L seemed satisfied with that explanation and patted Jumpy, his stuffed toy orca's  (his "stuffy") head. "Do orcas have brains?" I nodded. "Even bigger brains than ours." L clutched his arm. "But why the pain?" I explained a skeletal structure of the nervous system, noting the reason for pain. "Pain is good, it tells us when things go wrong - for instance, the pain of something being hot, before it burns us." L was following, nursing his arm, his breathing deeper and slower as he processed this new information and thought less about the pain. "However, as this is a very important function to keep us safe, sometimes it is overused. Our brain doesn't know this pain should not be a warning, so it keeps sending the signal. We need to tell your brain not to worry. We need to tell your brain we've heard it, that we know of the pain and that it's OK. Are you ready to tell your brain it's OK?" L nodded and we went through the mindfulness exercise of saying goodbye to his pain, visualizing the waves taking it away. The following morning, L, who had before his mindfulness exercise tendered such a tumult in the tub that he had a standing bath with his shirt and jumper still on, thanked me for helping take his pain away.

M is an amazing drawer. When he was barely 18 months, he proudly drew a fish and I saw a distinct fish shape on the page. M continues to be an enthusiastic figurative drawer. L is also interested in drawing, but he is a far better sculptor. L creates fantastic and realistic creatures from lego, blocs and tiles, while M has mastered the pen better. Several months ago, however, L started coming home with amazing drawings. "That's you, mama, and that's me and were are happy together" he would say. I saw distinct, happy figures. L's hand had immeasurably improved. L started coming home with more and more drawings, telling me he loved to draw for me and enjoying my praise. One day, my husband had a pile of drawings in hand when he picked up L from preschool and informed me that L's girlfriend, who loved to draw, was fond of drawing for him in school. I looked at the drawings and noticed the mark of the same hand. "L, who did his drawing?" I asked. "N" he responded. I pointed to the fridge. "And who did that drawing?" He didn't blink. "Me." I squatted down to his level. "I love your drawings and I love that you love to draw. May you please draw this for me now?" L hesitated. "It's difficult" he said. "Very tricky" he related. "How about we do it together?" After that, L stopped taking credit for N's work.

We don't keep up the Santa tradition at home. All the presents last Christmas were from us. Perhaps this is denying our kids a part of our their childhood. However, L and M don't seem to favor Santa. When they saw a person pretending to be Santa, they were afraid. If we deconstruct the Santa story, it's not as appealing as it's readily sold. Firstly, all the toys are made by elves under Santa's direction. There is no mention of payment and no mention of Santa chipping in to do the work. Essentially, an old, fat, white man is in charge of directing "little people" that slave for him. Not only is he mistreating elves, but Santa somehow has taken it upon himself to measure our morality and pronounce whether our behaviour for the past year was good enough. To that measure, he has apparently violated our privacy, because he knows what we are thinking. Then, violating customs laws and infringing upon numerous trademarks, Santa breaks and enters into our homes and takes our food (lest we forget to leave out his treat). One can only imagine what abuse the poor reindeer endure to circumnavigate the globe in one night. L also finds this story suspect : Why does Santa only wear one outfit? Aren't cookies unhealthy for you? Do reindeer really fly? If so, where are their wings? How can so many toys fit in one sled? And why are they called reindeer and not snowdeer? 

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