Ready for School, Take Two / Action!

24 May

My sweet little baby is going to school. And she only sort of speaks the language! But Lucia is an adventurous little soul, and I’m pretty sure I had more nerves about it than she did.
Granted, it’s not officially even preschool, the mandatory schooling which starts at age three (so her official preschool will start this fall). But she has to wear a uniform and everything! She gets to take her backpack, the little purple Dora one we bought her in Oaxaca City the other day (which she settled for since we couldn’t find a nice yellow one in her size like she’d been talking about for weeks). Her backpack only carries her lunch, water bottle, and a toy, but she gets to carry a backpack! (“And Map,” I’m sure she’d correct me. “My backpack’s got map!” she says whenever she compares it to anyone else’s backpack. I just hope she’s as excited about real maps someday.)

Dora backpack, complete with Map.

Dora backpack, complete with Map.

The thing is, she’s been dreaming about going to school for months now, talking it up all the time. As I mentioned before, ever since she decided to be potty trained (months ago now), she’s been telling us she’s ready for school. Telling us about how she’s gonna go with her yellow backpack, and give Mommy a bye-bye kiss (and she makes a smoochy sound) and give Papi a bye-bye kiss (another smoochy sound). And she’s gonna play with the other kids. And it’s gonna be no Mommy or Papi, just Lucia, and the kids and the teacher. And then the other day we saw the school- the place where I want to send her for real elementary school. And- be still her heart- there’s a playground! With a swing and a slide! I think she almost peed herself when her Papi told her she was gonna go to school there.
Not that I was really planning on sending my kid to a private school, not yet at least. I definitely thought it’d be crazy to pay a bunch of money for preschool, of all things. I mean, the point is to go get socialized, right? How much difference can it make where you go? But there’s no public school before the preschool level. We were going to send her to a daycare down the street and call it school, but when we talked to our neighbors who had sent their kids there for a little while they warned us against it. I thought we would just wait until preschool. It’s only a few more months, after all. But a few months, when you’re not quite three, is FOREVER. And with the brand new baby brother, her amount of time spent outside of our house diminished to almost nil. And- hooray- my mama stepped up to sponsor her so she could go to school right now. So we had to go for it.
But my baby! My nena! She’s not ready! It can’t be! The funny thing is, I didn’t think I’d feel like that at all; I thought I was as ready as she was for her to go to school. Conan and I kept foolishly trying to prep her for it. “And I’m gonna tell the teacher, ‘me pegó’” she told my mom over the phone the day before school. I had to remind her that she doesn’t need to say that someone hit her unless they do actually hit her, which they probably won’t, I tell her. Oooh except they surely will. But I don’t want her to focus on hitting as her expectations for school. But I want her to be prepared. Yikes! What is the right thing to do? I finally decide to quit trying to tell her what it’s going to be like, quit trying to teach her phrases in Spanish that I think she might need. Just breathe and let her make it up. Tell me again about the bye-bye kisses, which is way better than kids hitting her.

It’s hard not to worry that your kid won’t be understand as well as they are at home, especially when their language skills in the teacher’s language aren’t nearly as clear as they are in her other language. Then I remembered that lots of kids who go to school or daycare at this age or younger can’t communicate well in any language. And they get by. They figure it out. They do what they’re supposed to do at school- they learn. And it’s not even like she doesn’t know any Spanish- she just has less vocabulary than she does in English. She can’t yet rattle on nonstop for hours in Spanish. But I’m sure any day now she will be able to. As evidenced by her new obsession in asking me, “What’s Spanish say, red? What’s Spanish say, dog? What’s Spanish say, the dragon is breathing fire?” Meanwhile, she knows how to communicate her most important needs. The rest will come. She’ll be okay.
We tried to over-prep her for this whole no Mommy or Papi at school thing, too. I was worried because she’s never really been anywhere for very long without one of us. And when she’s been in other places without us, it’s almost always been with a grandparent or other person she knows well. And I remember one of my (adult, mother) English students in the U.S. trying to leave her daughter in the preschool classroom that was part of our program. It was a little girl who’d never been to daycare, never had to be away from her mom, and who wailed and screamed and cried and threw herself on the ground and turned blue in the face. But that was that little girl. That’s totally not Lucia. My kid was dying to get away from us!
Her first day of school we hadn’t yet bought her uniform, so she got to pick her own clothes. “What’s Spanish say, tutu?” she asked after she picked it out. (Not a clue about that word in Spanish, by the way.) I packed her a yummy lunch- she agreed to a tuna sandwich, apple, and yogurt. I decided it was worth it to be late to work so Conan and I could drop her off together on her first day, at least fulfilling her expectation of a bye-bye kiss for each of us. We got there at quarter till 9 so she could play on the playground for a bit before class time (although they have recess time outside later anyway). We finished the registration process and passed by the classroom to receive our anticipated kisses. I almost cried on the way to work, although I wasn’t even sure why.

too cool for school!

too cool for school!

maybe a wee bit nervous, too.

maybe a wee bit nervous, too.

Conan picked her up a little before the school day was over at 1PM, since he had to get Khalil to me for nursing by the time I got off work at one. Lucia was exhausted, but happy. When Conan asked her what she did at school, she said, “I washed my hands!” As if that were something new and exciting. She did tell me that she played on the swing and the slide. And that she cried. Something about toys and how she wanted to play with it and not the other little girl. The first several days she reported crying and a lack of desire to share the school’s toys, but she was unphased by it. “Do you want to go to school again tomorrow?” I asked her after the first day, and she gave a resounding yes.

ready with her uniform

ready with her uniform

older and wiser, too

older and wiser, too

Her second week of school she got sent home with a fever that somehow escaped our attention when we sent her off to school that morning. (Yep, we are already those parents! Sending their kid to school with a fever.) It was some kind of random passing virus, though, so she was back at school by Thursday. Less than two whole weeks in, she’s already a veteran. She’s telling me every day that she didn’t cry. She’s telling me that sometimes she shares the toys. She tells me when a kid hits her- but she doesn’t cry. She remembers a couple of the other kids’ names. She says, “I think the teacher says Spanish and English,” although the teacher says she doesn’t speak English. I suppose that’s a sign that Lucia’s making herself understood, at least. She’s getting out of the house, getting into the routine. Feeling important and big. She’s especially pleased that my work is also a school- a school for grown-ups, I tell her- and “my work is a school, too!” she says. I try to tell her she doesn’t work until she gets a paycheck, but it falls on deaf ears. She’s thrilled that she and her mommy both go to work/school everyday.
I am thrilled for her. I’m so glad she wants to go to school, and is enjoying it. I’m proud of my independent little big-girl. But apparently some part of me is just a little sad that she doesn’t need us all the time anymore, even though I’m equally grateful for that. Some part of me is a little sad that, before I know it, her ability in Spanish is liable to surpass her ability in English. And part of me is not sad or happy, just awed, totally awed, that my little bitty baby is already so big. Part of me just wants to savor this moment more and more and more- but of course it can’t last forever. So I savor it, make a very conscious, strong memory, and let it go. Let Lucia go off to school, to keep growing, to navigate her way, with her little purple backpack and map.

3 Responses to “Ready for School, Take Two / Action!”

  1. fml221 May 24, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    Oh, there are so many things about this that I love. I love that she was so ready to go and that we were able to make it happen, that the times she cried at school didn’t deter her from wanting to go, that she thinks of it as her work – love that!! What a great kid.

    • exiletomexico May 25, 2015 at 9:13 am #

      I know- she’s so funny! Her logic goes, “you’re gonna go to work? and your work is a school? and I’m gonna go to school? And my work is a school, too!”
      And I super love how she says “What’s Spanish say” as if Spanish were a person. And how she say wash-disher instead of dish-washer when referring to her kitchen dishwasher- not that that has anything to do with school, but it’s more of her funny language.

  2. blueskywoman May 25, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

    When KC was little he drew me a picture (that will become a tattoo at some point). Under it he wrote “to my starmom who works hard like I do”…and indeed, school…and play..and learning to interact with others *is* work. Kids work hard all the time…and sometimes we adults forget that.

    It is poignant when they no longer appear to need you (and of course she *does*)…I’m with my kids all day so I’ve not had to do that with my two youngest. I think I’d just bawl my head off when they go away…(like camping with Lee)…but we get through it. It’s such a strange dichotomy–we WANT them to be independent after all–but we want them to stay our little snugglebugs too!

    Parenting is SO stressfully wonderful, isn’t it?!

    Kirsty

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