Segundo has a clothes problem at preschool. This manifests itself in a number of ways from getting his regular clothes wet or dirty, to struggling with his pants during emergencies. Lately he has managed to keep most of the clothes on that he shows up to school in. Most but not all. When I show up at 3 to pick him up he is usually missing his shirt and socks. “I get hot daddy, and I need to get some freeze on me!” His teachers have been keeping track of when his shirt comes off and the nicer the day the earlier it happens. Here is one of the many reasons I love Trillium Preschool, their willingness to let Segundo be himself. They make sure he is safe but allow tons of space for him to navigate safety and danger on his own terms.
Yesterday when I rounded the corner into the school grounds I could see in the window of the preschool where the kids were getting one last story before heading home. there was Segundo in his bright yellow pants, no shirt, no socks, and covered in dirt. His pants were rolled up just below his knee and he looked like some hipster hillbilly wild man. A modern-day lord of the flies in skinny jeans. I just smiled as I walked past to pick Primo up first. I knew that this was a great day, that there was a story written in all that dirt on his chest and back. I knew I would get versions from each of the teachers and some impromptu reenactment from Segundo and his friends. He is the Oscar to Primo’s Felix and I am so thankful that he has the space to himself.
The sound is what you notice first, well that and the cold but we’ll come back to the cold. The sound, a cacophony of noise that ebbs and flows to seemingly random rhythm. There is a din of activity and yelling that is punctuated by high pitch screams and almost constant movement. I watched a couple of kindergartener re-enact the entire dance from the Gangnam Style video, and do a pretty great job too. Some of the hip thrusting was troubling but both boys had better dance moves than I ever managed. There was also a group of girls lineup in rows like a choir singing pop songs in harmony. They had printed out lyrics and while I recognized the songs I couldn’t tell if they had changes the words or not. They sounded lovely when I could make out the tune through the screams.
Kids pulsed through the space like one big living organism with comets shooting out of the central mass. I watched, taking my new job as recess monitor very seriously. For the next two weeks I will be on the playground monitoring the situation. Mediating conflict, keeping kids safe, giving the teachers a break. That’s my job, well that and bathroom, drinking fountain and coat monitor. That is actually the job I do, answer requests for one of the those three things on a constant basis. It’s like one of those SAT questions, or the count in the Black jack. I expect the principal to come up to me and ask how many kids are in the school at any given time and I will need to give him the count.
I enjoyed my first day but quickly realized that I need a few more layers of clothes to stand out in the cold. The kids are running around like crazy but I’m manning a specific zone most of the time and the gloves and hoodie were not sufficient to keep the cold at bay. Hours later as I type this my fingers are still cold. I will bundle up and get back out there in the chaos and beauty of grade school recess, but I need to check on that taser I was promised!
Punk Rock Preschool
Yesterday when I went to pick Segundo up from preschool his teacher pulled me aside to tell me a story. They had a fire drill that day but when it started Segundo was busy on the toilette. Since he likes his freedom while sitting on the throne he as sans pants and chonies. Just a t-shirt and socks and singing songs while the bell went off. Fast forward to the kids lined up outside and Segundo’s teacher came up because it looked like he needed a little help. He was holding his pants up as she came over to help him button up but she noticed he needed to pull up his chonies. Problem was he didn’t have them, he got right out of the building like he was taught to and didn’t have time to load the boys back up. He just grabbed his pants and hopped out of the classroom. When they got back in she went to help him get dressed but ran into another problem, he hadn’t wiped. She was fighting back laughter as she told him to wipe, wash his hands, put on his underwear, put his pants back on, and come out so she could help button up. The great take away here is that he knows what to do in an emergency situation, but we may need to work on his bathroom routine a little more.
After a long wonderful summer the rains have come in force, just in time for all the trips to the pumpkin patch. First we had Segundo’s pre-school class where my back ground check hadn’t come through yet so I was only able to drive my kid. We called it the daddy rule since we all know men are not as capable with kids. We played in the hay maze, learned how corn and pumpkins were grown and got to take home a little gourd of our own. I played the monster in the hay maze and chased the kids around until the kid that made me the monster got so scared that I was really a monster that she screamed and cried. I had to reassure her that I was just pretending but it didn’t go a long way towards convincing the other parents that my background check would come back clean.
A week later it was Primo’s class that braved the rain and splashed around in the mud at the pumpkin patch. This time I was all clear and had two other kids to drive out to Sauvie Island. All three boys sat in the way back and whispered secrets to each other while I tried my best not to embarrass my six-year-old. On the hay ride out to the muddy field where the pumpkins were kept I convinced the boys that there were field gnomes that came out this time of year and we would know they were close when flocks of birds would go overhead. The mostly knew I was joking but flirted with the fear that it might actually be true and had a blast running through the vine tangled rows back to the barn.
I came home from both trips soaked and muddy but so happy that I have a job that affords me the time away. Getting to meet the other kids in my boys class helps me picture their days. I can ask questions about the kids in the lineup of “How was school?” and “What did you learn?” Plus as a native Cascadian I love getting poured on, the second trip was even shorts weather back when I was a kid.
The older kid, Primo, has been sick the last couple of days. Super sick too, not just the feeling the blues but throwing up on daddy multiple times. I feel bad for him but come on. Getting thrown up on once is part of the deal with being a parent but he seemed to wait for me to comfort him and then let it loose. Grammie and mommy were here and they got no chunks hurled on them, but me, I got a multitude. Monday was evacuation day in Primo’s little body and then Tuesday and Wednesday were sleep it off days. The kid was like his papa back in the day sleeping off a weekend of revelry. He woke up and looked at breakfast before going back to sleep on the couch for 3 hours. Then would be awake for a minute to get some water before taking a 5 hour nap. The rest was good and by Wednesday night the kid was back to pissing off his brother and eating food.
Thursday morning I had to wake the boys up for school and get them dressed, fed, and in the car rather quickly. Luckily I am a world class dad with gathering skills and we made it to school in plenty of time. Segundo had a trip to the pumpkin patch so it was important to get Primo dropped off and get on our way. Only thing was Primo wasn’t in on the plan. That or he was deliberately sabotaging it to tarnish my world class dad image. Either way we did not get the kid dropped off at school because he was not emotionally or physically ready to get back into the learning fray. he latched onto my leg and used all manner of crying, whimpering, and coercion to get me to take him back home. The problem was we weren’t going home, we were going to the pumpkin patch, and had I known he wasn’t going to school today we had a sitter for him. But I canceled that when we left for school and now I was in a pickle. I knew he wasn’t really that sick anymore but that he was not ready for school. I didn’t want him to take over Segundo’s class trip by being the cool big kid that can jump from the high hay bale to the ground. Little brother needs to be his own man at his school so I felt bad. I also didn’t want to reward skipping school for the pumpkin fun land either but thought it better to error on the side of nurture. Going home and skipping the patch was also a terrible idea since Segundo would get punished for big brothers issues.
So we went to the pumpkin patch and let Primo know that he would not being joining in any of the reindeer games. We walked to the pumpkins while the rest of the class rode in the trailer behind the tractor. We carried Segundo’s pumpkin back to the hay maze and watched as he maneuvered the rows with his friends. We sat to the side and ate our own apples while the pre-school kids sat in their circle and counted apples and corn stalks. When it came time to climb the hay pyramid I let Primo loose to play. He was magically healed when we arrived at the pumpkin patch but I let him know that I was frustrated with his actions early in the morning. He will go to school tomorrow, we have talked about it. But today he played hooky without stepping on his brothers game.
Now that I am on the board at the preschool and trying to take a more active role in the boys education I figured it was time to take the fund raising part a little more serious. Last year there was zero participation until the auction and we came well short of our fundraising goals as a family. Well this year is going to be different and it’s already off to a great start. The first racket is selling local coupons called chinook books. These are all over the place with coupons to all the local restaurants and stores and have a good margin for fund raising. We sell the books for $20 and the school gets $10 off of each sale.
So when we got our books this year I got started hitting up all the right family members in the area and they came through. Then we sent Primo door to door in the neighborhood hitting up all the neighbors with kids. He knocked on the door and asked “Would you like to buy a Chinook Book for $20 to help keep me off drugs?” It was amazing the success rate he had with that line and I knew he would. I fancy myself a master seller who just never had a chance to flex his muscles. Some of the neighbors thought it was funny and bought a book, and others thought he was dead serious and bought two. Anything they could do to keep that cute little kid of the smack, they were going to do it. Everyone in the neighborhood knows that I am a stay at home dad so the boys get knowing nods whenever they pull stuff like this. “It’s that unemployed fellow, their dad, that makes them do this!” Just like letting them dress crazy, this is part of the fun of being a stay at home dad, and the fun we are having has us meeting our fundraising goal with the first offering. I should probably keep this up to help the school prosper but I’m goal oriented and once we meet our goal it’s on to new ways of terrorizing the neighborhood with my bad parenting. What would they have to talk about if I didn’t?
We have Wednesday Playgroups at the playground for the pre-school and now that I am on the board and the incoming Junior Class Rep it is now my job to engage parents in conversation even though some of them still assume I’m there to kidnap their kids. I’m getting better at, the conversation stuff. I find school choice to be a good jumping off point and then I wait to see where they are in the process. Having been through that, changed our minds two or three times, and settled on our imperfect neighborhood school I feel like a some things to add to that conversation. I know that the moms are getting a little more comfortable with me when they are OK with me pushing their kids on the swing. Since Segundo is addicted to swinging like some X-game athlete all hopped up on Mountain Dew and uppers, the other kids want me to underdog them and pretend to punch them in the face as they go by. I can work a 3-5 year old room like Dean Martin at The Sands.
I think I’m OK at the conversations but Beautiful would kill in this environment. She can immediately connect and engage with people on a level I need months, if ever, to get to. When we were at the graduation BBQ in the park I had multiple moms coming up to me to tell me how great my wife is, all of them I’m sure wondering what she was doing with me. I’m learning the dance of conversation from her and fumbling through the steps. I am clunky and awkward at times but the practice is paying off and I can see choreography coming together. The play dates give me plenty of practice time and soon the acceptance of the swings will outnumber the moms creeped out at a dude at the playground in middle of the day.