It might not be my first rodeo, but that bull still looks pretty rough....
Now, I'm not nervous like I was nervous dropping Super Kindergartener off. That was a new place, with loads and loads of experienced moms, most of whom are a great deal more familiar with real school than I am. (I am 1 week in and I still Mr. Mom school drop-off.) This is something else entirely. This is preschool. Preschool is something I am familiar with; the newly minted Super Kindergartener was Super Preschooler for 2 solid years, in this very room. So no, I am not Kindergarten-level nervous, but I am still very much me. And Super Preschooler and Super Toddler are very much them; one sticks playdough in the other's hair the second we get here, both of them are a bit territorial about the trains, and inside voice, please apparently means shout as loud as you can. Thank goodness I have been through this before because I hear very little of the welcome talk. Which is just as well, it gives me time to size up my fellow preschool parents.
There are 6 of them; Late Mom is late and not here yet, Helicopter Mom is already crying into Helicopter Dad's shoulder, Healthy Mom (she is in short shorts, running shoes, a sports bra, and little else) is on her phone, the Au Pair is looking slightly freaked out, Normal Mom is chatting with her Mom, who is busting with Grandma pride and taking about a million pictures, and the sweet parents of the other Super Preschooler (Theirs and mine share a name. An actual name, not an alias; which is nutty for a class of 7 kids, but what you gonna do? At least their son is lovely and does the name proud.) are being their sweet selves and smile at me occasionally. Their oldest is in Kindergarten with Super K., so we already have a bond. It is an interesting group and the only red flags (only half-raised on the mast, mind) are Helicopter Mom and Healthy Mom. Helicopter Moms are usually very nice; they just have serious boundary issues, generally only with their children, but some branch out. It is worth keeping an eye on it. Healthy Mom gives me pause, but I might just be jealous. I wasn't able to button my pants this morning and they are currently held together with a hair tie.
During the pottying part of the welcome talk, I have to confess in front of the group that Super Preschooler is only sorta potty trained and sporting a pull-up. It appears he is the only one not fully potty trained. This earns me some pity from the Sweet Parents and Normal Mom. The Au Pair is staring at a spot on the wall above her charge's head, and Helicopter Mom is still crying. Late Mom continues to be late, and Normal Grandma is replacing the batteries in her camera. Healthy Mom looks slightly horrified with me, but I shake it off. I refuse to get worked up about pee.
Now food. Food, I will get worked up about. As the veteran in the room (imagine that!), I am encouraged to bring snack to the next class. I am totally fine with that, I can do food. I can do food in my sleep. The teacher informs me that there are no allergies in this class, so go crazy. I intend to. The teacher is distracted by the arrival of Late Mom, and that is when Healthy Mom comes over to me and the following happens:
Healthy Mom: Oh, you are bringing snack on Wednesday?
Healthy Mom: OK, well, Healthy Preschooler follows a particular diet.
Me: Oh, the teacher says that no one has an allergy. Is that wrong?
Healthy Mom: No, no. Nothing like that. But she is a vegetarian.
Me: Oh, OK. I don't usually bring meat anyway. I was thinking of a fruit and some crackers.
Healthy Mom: Right. But you are aware that marshmallows and jello and certain fruit snacks contain gelatin, right?
Me: ummmm...sure. Wasn't thinking of bringing any of those.
Healthy Mom: And I wouldn't want her to have any gelatin by mistake, you see.
Me: Yep, got it. I was thinking of fruit and some crackers. Sometimes I bring cheese, but she isn't a vegan, right?
Healthy Mom: She isn't a vegan.
Me: Well, that must make things easier for you. I would find it really tricky with no dairy in my house. (not to mention hellish, but I keep that to myself.)
Healthy Mom: Her father would like her to be vegan. We are in discussion about it.
Me: Oh, well. Lentils can be nice.
Healthy Mom: ..... (smiles vaguely and walks away)
Readers, I am serious. Lentils can be nice. I said it. I don't know what it was; her perfect tall self looming over me or her strangely formal way of talking, but I full on verbal-vomited on her shoes. Lentils can be nice.
I make my exit shortly after that. I snatch Super Toddler out of the dress-up corner and toss the hammer she is holding onto the workbench in one smooth move, while snaking behind Super Preschooler so he can't see me leave. (I may be awkward with vegetarian moms, but somethings I rock at. Like deceiving my children, apparently.) I wink at the teacher and all but run out the door. I don't look back, but the tears come anyway. I manage to keep them from flowing until all the way to the car and after strapping Super Toddler in her car seat. I settle into the driver's seat and just cry for awhile.
I don't bawl like I did when I dropped off Super Kindergartener and I don't lose it like Helicopter Mom is doing in the car to the left of me. I just turn on the car radio, cue my 70s folk CD to John Denver, and let it come. Soft steady tears that I think I may have been inwardly crying since Super Preschooler was born.
You see, Super K. is basically me as a child; needy, emotional, and wildly loyal. He wants friends and contact all the time: he hates being alone, especially at night. He has complicated feelings about pretty much everything, lots of fears (including a clown phobia that I totally get), and more neuroses than a Woody Allen movie. It is like looking in a mirror. Leaving him in that Kindergarten room was horrifying because I knew exactly what he was feeling. How scared and nervous and utterly alone he felt for those 5 minutes between my leaving and him making his first friend.
But Super Preschooler is who I want to be. As a child. As an adult. As a person. Super Preschooler is absolutely in the moment and he usually thinks it is pretty great. His emotions are huge and as fast as a roller-coaster; he bears no one a grudge but his left hook is lightening fast. He'll punch ya and then help ya up. His hugs are equally fast. Super Toddler plays alone for hours; join him if you want to, he will pass you some legos with a smile the size of Texas but he won't seek you out. He is completely self-contained and appears to float through life in a gorgeous multi-colored bubble. Nothing bothers him; nothing pops his bubble.
Can you understand why I have inwardly wept for this child his whole life? I am abundantly aware that I can't keep him. That I don't possess him. The first day I met and held that otherworldly fairy creature with the wild hair; I knew he is not really of this world. I knew our time would be so wonderful but oh too brief. He will spend his childhood tolerating my interference but he is totally set. He could probably go to college tomorrow; this preschool step is, frankly, unnecessary, but he humors us. I have a feeling he humors us in most things. He didn't need me to sneak out of the room behind him. He doesn't really need much. All Super Preschooler ever needs is someone to reach the higher of his Star Wars toys and the occasional band-aid. And I am sure he could charm those out of someone else if he needed to. No, I didn't sneak out of that room for his sake. I did it because if I had seen his wise and twinkling eyes while I was leaving and if his beautiful mile-wide smile had landed on me for one second more in that little preschool room, I would be the mess that Helicopter Mom is right now. As it is, the searing image I have of his angelic explosion of blond hair is enough to make me change the CD to some AC/DC just to make it out of the parking lot and over to the store. It is raining today, but that isn't why I am having trouble seeing out the windshield.
Awkward Mom got in and out of Aldi in 20 minutes this morning; shopping with 1 child is a revelation! When she returned to pick up Super Preschooler, she found Helicopter Mom peeking in the windows of the school room. She guiltily looked up and admitted she had been there for 15 minutes and felt like a stalker. Awkward Mom shared her umbrella, said all the right things, and lent her shoulder to Helicopter Mom for a little more crying. Yes, I think it is abundantly clear that Healthy Mom is the one to watch this year....