Tag Archives: preschool

Human worlds and Hello Kitties

One of Declan’s best friends at preschool is an extremely sweet little girl (I’ll call her Nora). The intensity of her smiles and happy bounces make it seem like she’s about to explode into a big, shimmering firework of pure joy when she tells me how much she likes my son.

She made him a gigantic valentine, replete with a big blue glass gemstone and a poem that she dictated to her mom about him. According to him, she wants to sit next to him every day at lunch. And he likes that. On the playground, they pretend they are Jack and Annie from the Magic Treehouse and go on adventures together.

The other day, her mom told me that Nora has been worried because when they grow up, Declan will no longer “live on the human world.” Declan’s affinity for space is known by pretty much anybody who knows him. She’s going to miss him a lot when he’s off on his galactic adventures, but she and another boy from their class will plan elaborate “welcome back to Earth” parties whenever he comes home for a visit.

Earlier this year, Dec started asking for Hello Kitty things. First he asked for band-aids, then stuffed Hello Kitties. He has one dressed in a lamb costume and another in a panda costume. They go most places with us, especially to his school. He feeds them at mealtimes. He puts them in the cupholders of his car booster to keep them safe. He tells me what they are thinking. He sleeps with them.

It’s been hard for me to figure what makes him so attached to them. Until I asked him one day in the car.

“I told you, it’s because all of the girls in my class love Hello Kitty so much,” he told me.

He loves the ladies, my boy. He wants to stay in their good graces. He’s a four-year-old that’s begun to unravel the mysteries of social currency with so little self-consciousness.

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As we drove home from school today, Declan told me that he knew nanodiamonds could keep our dog Arrow from dying. Now, Arrow is barely six years old and pretty robust, so I’m not sure why this was on his mind (other than the fact that a National Geographic special about spatial relationships in the universe schooled him on the nanodiamonds stuff), but he was insistent.

I told him that nothing could keep Arrow, or anyone, from dying sooner or later, but that Arrow seemed very healthy and happy to me right now. He was angry with me and pretended to sleep for a while. I let it be until the next question comes.

I’ve only watched the news after Declan is asleep or when he is elsewhere this week. It takes my breath away to watch the devastation, the human suffering, the chaos happening in Haiti. At this death-sensitive age, I can’t imagine him being able to process much about this, so I haven’t figured out what to tell him. Meanwhile, I feel helpless and grateful for every little thing I have here – fresh air, clean water, a roof, a car, family, schools for my son, food, music, books, love, jokes.

This afternoon, the father of one of his schoolmates passed away after a short battle with cancer. The boy Declan shared a class with last year was the older of two and their third child is due in less than a month. The preschool’s community and friends of the family have rallied to do everything from laundry to childcare to grocery shopping to help them during this tragic time, but this is just heartbreaking news. I wish him peace.

This is a loving and kind family. The mother is a young and passionate wife and parent. I can’t fathom the stress of being self-employed, almost nine months pregnant, parenting two young children and losing your spouse. So if you’re listening, and you’re feeling generous, you could help them out a little bit financially to help ease some of their material stress as they begin to grieve and await this new birth.

Take care. Breathe. Hug your loved ones tight.

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We went to a little boy’s birthday party at a park this weekend. Every kid got a cool Styrofoam sword that made sounds and flashed red lights for showing up. Declan hid under my shirt before accepting the gift, but once it was cast into his hands, he took off and began battling with two other boys like a samurai.

They whacked the Styrofoam until the plastic straws that held the lights inside cracked and fell out, and the blades got noodly. They laughed and yelled and then the smallest of the three got whacked in the face. They all lowered their weapons and took a step backwards.

“That was too rough!” The boy yelled, rubbing his cheek.

“I’m sorry,” the boy who landed the blow offered.

“Are you okay?” he and Declan chorused. “Do you still want to play?”

“I do. Just not so rough.”

They agreed, and resumed fighting with a little less edge. Soon, Declan started dying on the field instead, then gave up the battle all together before deciding that he’d rather eat fruit salad and chat with some of these new, four-year-old friends.

Honestly, my son is better at conflict resolution than I am.

I learn so much by watching the way he is in the world.

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Twinkle, twinkle

The last couple of weeks have been rough. With camp long since over and another three weeks before the preschool year begins, there’s been no consistent social diversion for my son. The adults of the household are grouchy, mostly because we have some work, but not enough, and projects that we thought were sure to pan out for us are currently stuck in the mud. I’ve been mired in that overwhelming, ultimate incompetent parent feeling. I’m so worried over providing both emotionally and materially that neither effort seems to be going all that well.

At this time last year, it became clear that Declan is as deeply social as he is intensely curious – or, at least that when he gets the opportunity to be social, it seems to offset some of his intensity. By the time we got him into his first classroom, I was desperate for him to have that new place to explore, new people to ask questions of, new things to become curious about. I spent entire days answering esoteric questions about space and anatomy. And I had to look up most of those answers because I don’t know what’s inside of a brain cell or what a neutron star is off the top of my head. I am one of two primary decoders for his universe, and while that’s mostly a thing of beauty and honor, it can also be exhausting, especially since I can’t afford not to work for a living as well as my work as a mom. When I was distracted or unable to answer those questions, it often made him mad. The opening of his social world made his demands on me less intense.

Last Saturday, we took him to COSI, where they had a special space day in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy. We lucked out and got a personal tour of an exhibit of deep space images taken by various telescopes from an OSU astronomy professor. Declan didn’t hold back a thought about any image, 99 percent of which he could identify on sight, prefacing nearly every sentence with “scientists think” or “scientists believe…” His dad and I reminded him that our tour guide was, in fact, a scientist a couple of times, to which the patient and amiable scholar said “it’s okay, your son is really quite a scientist himself.” One of the young women who ran the day’s demonstrations talked to him about eclipses and the life cycle of a star at length, asked to shake his hand and told him that she hoped he gets to do whatever he wants to in life and science.

On the same morning, he spent several minutes afraid of the live, fuzzy costumed character from Zula Patrol that he had especially hoped to see. He orbited him at a distance, worked up his courage, then suddenly ran to hug him and have his picture taken. He played happily in a litter box full of flour and cocoa, throwing rocks to get the idea of a meteor strike. (We now have a bin full of flour, cocoa and fling-worthy marbles at home.) Because above all else, he is four.

He hit me the other day because he was angry that I wouldn’t let him have a third popsicle. Then we talked about things, made up and he told me about feelings he’s had about classmates and new situations that he’s never shared before. He loves to watch Calliou. He’s obsessed over which stars are big enough to become black holes and whether they would impact our solar system. He does pratfalls around the house and asks me to film them so we can submit them to America’s Funniest Videos.

This morning he snuggled me and bounced around the bed while his dad talked about letting me sleep a little while longer. Then Declan pressed the top of his forehead to mine, stroked my hair and face and sang all of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in his sweetest and quietest voice before letting me be for a while.

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Declan, hearts, preschool

Mountains of pink Play-Doh and heart-shaped cookie cutters filled an entire table in the classroom. It was Valentine’s Day.

Eyes bright, Declan went straight to the mound, tore off a small clump and rolled it into a ballish shape. He took his creation to a neighboring table, which was strewn with blocks. After carefully placing five or six of them on end like a miniature skyline, he gingerly set the pink tadpole on the tallest one. Then he went back to the other table, grabbed another clump, rolled it in his palm and set it on top of the next block. He did the same thing to another, then the next one, until his city was adequately crowned with squashy spheres of pink goop.

One of the teachers, who had been helping a student rinse purple paint off of her forearms and hands, did a slight double take when she saw what Declan was doing. She smiled.

“What are you making?” She asked him.

“Planets!” He told her. She smiled again and leaned in to examine his creation more carefully.

Where I half-expected admonishment that Play-Doh and blocks had to be kept separate, instead I found curiosity about, and respect for, Declan’s mind.

The operative word in the classroom seemed to be “yes.” And when it wasn’t, there were conversations about choices and consequences, not lectures. Kids simultaneously experimented in a sandbox, rode an indoor swing, sprinkled glitter onto heart-shaped construction paper. One girl toured the room in a princess costume. Moments later, she paraded through as a fuzzy brown bear. Declan made his way through the classroom and joined in as many things as he could find to do.

“That was a nice day for Declan,” he told me after we left.

A couple of people with older children told us that they had yet to match the consistently positive educational experience they found in this place. It’s not convenient to our home, but the simple lovingness toward children that I witnessed there told me that it will be worth the drive.

I was so relieved to find out today that there will be room for him in the fall.

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