So I just had to go and broadcast to the entire Interwebs about how Isaac was trotting off so happily to junior kindergarten and preschool. Just had to, didn’t I? And now God has smited me. Smote me? Watever. God is punishing me in the form of a four-year-old who has reverted to weeping and leg-clinging each school-day morning. (My friend Vikki —whom, not coincidentally, I met on the Internet — says that God ignores the Internet, but we all know that that’s simply not true. God watches the Internet, all zillion pages of it, intensely, looking for reasons to smite people.  Because, of course, the Internet is pure evil. If you’re on the Internet right now, GET OFF. Your eternal salvation depends on it.)

(Still here? Don’t come crying to me when you get smoted.)

We don’t know why – my punitive God theory aside, of course – Isaac has so suddenly reverted, but it may also have to do with the fact that Rachel, hideously, had the nerve to go to a conference in Toronto the week before last, in the process utterly derailing Isaac’s life. Of course, we made the tactical error of telling him about her departure in the morning IMMEDIATELY BEFORE PRESCHOOL, thereby creating (or, perhaps, reactivating) a negative preschool association. Next time, assuming Rachel is ever allowed to leave town again, we’ll time that one a bit better.

The only upside to the situation is that Isaac has become slightly more enamoured of me. It’ll fade fast (GOD: See? I know.), but for the moment I’m soaking it up: the little boy who bounces, meowing, into the bedroom in the morning to climb in next to me: “Mama, can we still play the game where you’re the princess and I’m the kitten who hurt his foot? Because an evil wizard did a  magic spell on your knife and it cut me? And then it cut off all my fur so I’m cold?” The little boy who nestles into my lap while I write early in the morning, my arm snaking around him to reach the page, not minding the inconvenience, the loss of a few minutes’ sleep.

The teachers smile and gently take his hands as we peel him off us in the mornings. They’ve seen it before. He’s not the only one. (“Ah, JK mornings,” one of the teachers remarked to Rachel as she stood, surrounded by wailing kindergartners in the courtyard, “all those tears.”) We’ve seen it  before. But still, it smarts.


Giveaway: Monday Is One Day

“I not going to cry any more when I go to preschool,” Isaac announced from the backseat a couple of months ago. “I just going to be happy.” And that, my friends, was it: the abrupt, anticlimactic — although entirely welcome — end to the months of outsize emotions, the awfulizing, the vales of tears and the puffy eyes and the Kübler-Ross–esque stages of grief around day care. Turns out I was right all along: he does like preschool! I would say I told you so, but what’s the point? Being a parent essentially means giving up your right to say I told you so. I’m going to put that on a T-shirt.

It’s like that, isn’t it, with children? So little is linear. They don’t progress slowly, gradually, consistently, from one stage to another. Instead, it’s all passionate declarations and unexpected leaps, so abrupt that you don’t realize that they’re the results of months of, until now, invisible progress, practice. Rowan had training wheels, and — blink — now he doesn’t. Isaac cried about preschool, and now — hey presto! — he doesn’t. Now, when I arrive to pick him up at the end of the day, he sends me away, because he’s not ready to leave. Sometimes I watch him through the windows, see how he hangs up his coat on his hook and pours his own water from those little pitchers and shakes maracas at music time and tidies up his modelling clay as a matter of course, all the while chatting up a happy little storm to his teachers.

Still, he’s still very into the ritual of going through the days of the week: there are preschool days and babysitter days and family days, and almost every morning we do a little recital of the order of the week until we get to the weekend, when he gets to revel in his family: his two moms and his brother and his cats and the various aunties and friends and other central folks — like donor/dad/Rob — who make up our constellation. They’re still his favourite, the family days, but now at least he gets to enjoy them without obsessing over the fact that the week ahead will contain some preschool.

So I was very happy to read an early copy of Arthur A. Levine’s new kids’ book, Monday Is One Day. “The hardest part of going to work is being apart from you,” it begins: “Let’s count the days till we’re both at home with a special thing to do.” What follows is a rhyme for each day of the week: Monday is one day; Tuesday is blue shoes day; and so on, filled with dinosaurs, and cuddles and raspberries on the nose and tractors and guitars and the like. Levine, whose imprint at Scholastic is possibly best known as the publisher of the American editions of the Harry Potter series, wrote the book, he says, as he contemplated what it would be like to be apart from his then-infant son. What’s particularly lovely is the range of family types depicted in the illustrations: single parents (male and female), two dads, an older couple that looks as though they could be grandparents, and — so radical, and kudos to Levine, himself a gay dad, for including them — what looks to be a heterosexual couple. I can’t tell for sure, though, because there’s no footnote to explain each family structure: you just have to take each household at face value and assume that the intimacy between children and adults — “a kiss and cuddle, a dance in a puddle, a dinosaur huddle, a sweet family a muddle!” — is the result of years of not-so-invisible love.

Scholastic has offered three copies of Monday Is One Day to me to giveaway to YOU: readers of this blog. To win, leave a comment on this post with the name of a book you love to read with your kids, or detailing your own family’s story of weekly rituals. Or something else somewhat on-topic; I’m not too fussy. On Monday, April 25, I’ll randomly select two of those comments to win books; I’m reserving the third copy for new Facebook friends of this blog: click on the link to the right in order to become a fan (and yes, that is a brazen grab for more friendship, and that’s all I have to say about that). Good luck!

For the record, Isaac ...

… you come from a long line of people who ENJOYED PRESCHOOL. See?

Right there? That’s my mother, your Bubbie Ruthi (I was going to write “your maternal grandmother,” but in our household that wouldn’t really clarify anything now, would it?) in May of 1951, surrounded by a trio of stripy-shirted little boys, having what can only be described as a blast — A BLAST — at a lovely little preschool somewhere in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


And who wouldn’t have a blast, really, with her minions surrounding her, hard at work? I love the composition of this photo (photographer unknown. Here, for the record, is a photograph of the young Elizabeth Taylor). Maybe what you need is minions — would you like some minions? If you think that would get you over the hump, I’m sure we could find some.

“Is it getting any better?” a fellow mom — who has witnessed your histrionics as she drops her own kids off — asked me yesterday at your music class. “Because he’s breaking my heart.”

Mine too. Mine too. But things are getting better. They really are. You no longer cry the night before you’re scheduled to go to preschool, nor for the entire morning leading up to it. And when the tears begin — usually about the time you’re supposed to get dressed and leave — we can sometimes distract you from them, although both Rachel and I have had the honour of towing a wailing three-year-old through the streets in the bike trailer. It’s a distinct feeling, that, saying good morning to neighbours and other parents while an air raid signal of sadness emanates from the trailer behind you. People can hear us coming, that’s for sure, and they smile sadly and shake their heads.

But it’s getting better. Now, you walk into the classroom on your own, and, often, the tears have stopped before I leave the room. You have started to leave your security blanket in your locker, which frees up both your hands for playing. A friend of yours had his first day last week and when he arrived, teary himself, you told your teacher, “I’m not going to cry today. I’m going to help.” And you did, rubbing his back and showing him the ropes.

It’s getting better, because before I pick you up I watch you through the windows, and you are smiling and skipping and picking carrots from the vegetable garden. Your teachers tell me that each day you talk more, do more, play more — that you have great days. Your eyes aren’t puffy like they used to be when I pick you up, and you talk about going back. You eat the food. Sometimes you even nap.

So, Isaac, here’s what I’m wondering: is it really that you dislike preschool so much, or is that you are committed to disliking the idea of preschool? Because I’m kind of inclined to think the latter, that the tears are at this point a habit rather than, say, a sign of actual, immediate, misery. I realize there’s a fine line — or, depending on your viewpoint, a vast chasm — between perception and reality, but I’m starting to think that you might just be okay.

Either that, or I’m an insensitive oaf of a parent. You say tomato, I say to-mah-to.

Still, as much as you tell me you’d like to, we’re not calling off the whole preschool thing just yet.

I will work on the minions, though.