April 30, 2016 by 8junebugs
Dear Grayson —
GOSH. There’s just so much to tell you, buddy.
We could start with the 6+ months we’ve gone without much or good sleep since you hit the toddler bed. I mean, I covered that last time, but it continues. Someday, that won’t seem worth noting, but today? Today, I’m still feeling the reality. We’ve been sick a lot in the last 6 months, buster, and the lack of sleep is a huge part of that.
Sometimes you have bad dreams. One time (that I know about), you managed to roll out of your bed, which must have been very confusing. Sometimes, though, you just want Mommy. There’s been a lot of Mommy Time lately.
You sometimes hate baths now, until you’re in one. I bribe you with Crayola bath color tabs. You get to choose what color you want to bathe in; when you push for gray or black, we run out of the tabs a lot faster. But you’ve gotten much better at color1 + color2 = color3, so I’ll get over it.
You still can’t be bothered to eat most foods. The list of Baby Kibble has grown almost imperceptibly, but it has grown. If you’re busy and in a good mood, you might eat as many as three baked chicken nuggets! Much like bathtime, you can be bribed with the foods you like the most. And you know what? You don’t eat enough of your not-so-occasional treat to make me worry about your overall health (you are a giant among toddlers), so if it takes the promise of a Dorito to put something substantial in your belly, I’ll take it.
We’re hopeful that peer pressure will influence your continuing Food Thing, which leads me to the latest, greatest thing in your life: Preschool! I mean, playschool. The place we found, toured, and loved is very deliberate in calling itself a playschool. It’s a small program, in-home, with experienced caregivers and so many wonderful things to do! There’s a terraced yard with both a sandbox and a gravel pit. There’s a playhouse and a swing and so many trucks and toys! They do have circle time, but with a light touch. They don’t bother with naptime and only work with 2- to 5-year-olds. They help with potty training but don’t require it. They serve a big morning snack and lunch, and they have a lot more experience with picky eaters than we do. Not one full week in, you were sitting with the kids and at least putting some peanut butter toast to your mouth, if not eating it.
One thing at a time!
We also love that they’re flexible. The thing is, kiddo, Daddy’s still going to be your main guy. What we were looking for, and what we found, was a licensed program that felt right but didn’t penalize us for only being able to afford two days a week. And when our schedule would benefit from an extra day at school (like when Mommy and Daddy went out of town for a regatta), it’s easy enough to set up.
I went with you for the first two transitional days, but I could have skipped the second one altogether. You ran in and made yourself at home and totally forgot I was there until you guys came through the sun room, where I was hanging out, to head outside. Even then, I was barely an afterthought, just someone you trusted to change your diaper more than you trusted the teachers (yet). And when we tried a departure to see how you’d react, you were a little unsure at first, then made a clear decision.
“Bye!” you said, heading back down to the sandbox. The head teacher walked out with me and wisely offered me a hug.
This won’t be a thing you really understand for a while, buddy. I’ve experienced such a range of emotions over this transition! Relief at finding the right kind of place. Worried, then thankful for a schedule and income that allowed us to find a way to make it work. Delight at the way you jump in with both feet, and delight with the kids who welcomed you. Anxiety about the few kids who were less welcoming. Pride at your ability to shrug that off, and at how you often know when you need to take a break and play alone for a bit, at your shy empathy for someone having a rough moment…
Hell, I’m full of pride, kid. Even before starting playschool, you already knew all the colors and shapes and your ABCs. You’re good with numbers 1-10 and totally understand the mechanics of counting, but you get a little turned around on the teens. You make up wonderful stories about what you’re playing and you invent and expand on new games. You are mostly kind to and curious about other kids. But practice makes permanent, and getting you more time around other kids (as well as other caring adults) was one of the main reasons to get this rolling.
But the reason your teacher offered me a hug was because I was choked up with gratitude for the kind of caregivers who embody, throughout the day, surrounded by kids, the kind of parenting I work hard to manage for one kid (albeit 24/7). I love how the teachers call you “my friend” and the gentle, respectful tone of voice they use. I love how they acknowledge emotions and redirect anger and frustration. I love how they use music and movement and honor the “ants in the pants” tendencies of toddlers. I love how they teach kids to be helpers; I saw the littlest one trip and fall into her chair, and the other kids went for the first aid kit while the teacher hugged the booboo’ed kid. I love that a 4yo classmate has decided to look out for you a little bit, and that there’s a boy who can teach you to count in Hindi.
I love that this school models the city and world we live in and teaches kids how to move through both.
Oh, and a full year after you first started showing interest, you’re basically potty training yourself. You just decide when it’s time to work on it and then drop trou for an afternoon. This also sparked public potty time; when we all stopped at Fresh Pond to go to the bathroom, you did, too, and then repeated the act at Tilden Park. We support you in all of this, but you are definitely leading the way. Little kids can use the potty, you say. You don’t see yourself as a big kid yet, which is okay.
“I am a little bit big,” you tell us, “and a little bit little.”
Which is just about right.