Here’s how my husband filled out a portion of Wombat’s getting-to-know-you survey for kindergarten.
He was mostly just being silly, and we all enjoyed a modest chuckle over it before moving on to more traditional concerns about starting a new school (will he get bullied? will he be able to tie his shoes? will he get suspended on sexual harassment charges for kissing the wrong girl? will he have so much fun he never wants to come home?), and then whaddya know, this is how he’s spent the last two days:
The kindergarteners get four (FOUR) recesses and also spend time outside for lunch, science, and gardening…except when they don’t because they’re pants-shittingly terrified of bees (figuratively! figuratively!) and end up spending that outside time inside with the awesome front office lady and a pile of books (score) or inside with the awesome kindergarten teacher and all the classroom toys (DUDE), which of course begs the question Why not be figuratively pants-shittingly afraid of bees? Being afraid of bees is great! Yesterday Wombat told me he had designs on the principal, who made the fatal mistake of telling the kids they were welcome to have lunch in her office once in a while, so here we are on the eleventh day of school and my kid’s trying to get himself sent to the principal’s office. *blink blink* Come on, now.
It’s been well documented that I’m no fan of shenanigans, and so my first reaction was to tell my dear, sweet, theatrical child simply and straight-forwardly to “Stop. Stop being afraid of bees.” Then, because I’m a tender, loving mother-goddess, I followed this firm directive with a list of facts and figures about pertinent topics, such as the naturally non-aggressive behavior of bees, the likelihood of being stung, and the likelihood of dying from a bee sting. (Facts: It could take as many as 500 bee stings to kill a non-allergic kid his size, and the average person is almost 300 times more likely to get murdered than die of bee stings, and that’s without including the non-insignificant factor of living in East Oakland. You’re way, way, way more likely to die from the flu or a lightning strike or a car accident. Welp! Sweet dreams, son!)
(I didn’t actually tell him all that.)
Even though I still suspect shenanigans are playing into this at least a little, he does seem legitimately terrified (his teacher told me he tried to climb into her shirt to get away from them), and I am definitely sympathetic to the situation, I really am. Our camping trip six weeks ago will go down in history as the one that went in with a wail and out with a whimper–the latter because Wombat insisted on reading while we drove on winding mountain roads and then got carsick and barfed up his PB&J into a plastic bag, poor muffin–because fifteen minutes after we pulled up to the campsite, the kids stuck a stick into a hole in the ground (sticks are for sticking; it’s right there in the name!) and were summarily enveloped in a swarm of offended wasps, who stung each of them once and then Wombat, the wielder of the stick, two more times for good measure.
I’ve never heard such screaming, and thank goodness that was not the time we found out any of the kids was allergic. (Science note: Bee stings are acidic, so use bases like baking soda to neutralize them. Wasp stings are alkaline, so use vinegar or lemon juice. We were in the vast pantry-less wilderness and ended up using ice, which worked well enough.)
I gave Wombat a nature journal earlier that day, intended for leaf rubbings and poetic musings on man’s place in the universe, and he basically turned it into an illustrated safety pamphlet. Page 1:
You’ve got your bees, your bears, your raccoons, your spiders, and your gravity. At least the kid knows a threat when he sees one.
Today we sent him to school with a peppermint tea bag in his pocket and instructed him to, should the need arise, KILL ALL THE BEES with a pleasant herbal beverage. For real, though, mint is supposed to repel bees, I guess, but I mostly just hope that giving him something that makes him feel protected will be as useful as actually protecting him. I don’t want him to spend his long career at this school as the kid encased in the Pigpen-esque plume of toxic insect repellant.
This is where I’d love some help from the hive mind (HAR). Short of directing the lunch ladies to allow my child to take his repast in a bee-free janitorial closet, what should I do? My ask is two-fold (not to be confused with my ass, which is also two-fold):
1. Do you have any tried and true methods for repelling bees? and
2. Do you have any tried and true methods for helping kids deal with fears that are disproportionate to the actual threat but aren’t completely irrational or imaginary and in fact have just enough actual danger involved that you feel compelled to address that risk truthfully while still trying to not totally freak them out? This is a child who believes the curiously water-like “monster spray” I keep under the kitchen sink truly wards off the beasts beneath his bed, so feel free to get creative.
Additionally, please consider helping me collect hard data to make him feel more at ease in a world with bees.
1. How many times in your life have you been stung by a bee?
2. Did you die from it?
I’m hoping for 100 percent on that last one. Don’t let me down.
Hello? Is this thing on? That was quite the surprise hiatus I took (longest in the history of my eighty-seven years of blogging, hashtag oldskool, hashtag noonecares), and although I’m 100 percent sure I missed blogging more than it missed me, it feels good to re-enter if not the [awkward air quotes] “scene” then at least the headspace where I’ve spent so much of my [awkward air quotes] “adult” life. (I say it feels good, but perhaps a better word is “right,” since, to be honest, I’m finding the entire prospect strangely intimidating. “Wait, you want me to write out some personal thoughts in long form and then post them onto the internet? Are you sure that’s a good idea? Oh, that way madness lies; let me shun that; no more of that.”)
Lear quote in evidence, I feel like I’ve aged an eon in the last three months, in part because one gigantic work project took fifteen years off my life *shakes fist, riffles Benjamins*, but also because Wombat graduated preschool wearing a paper mortarboard and went to summer camp on the bus and learned to cartwheel in gymnastics class and then started kindergarten like it was no big thing, like he’s been ready for it all his life. And Fox…Fox turned two (TWO!) and is Foxier and twoier than anyone who ever Foxed or twoed, but he can also suddenly say all the words and make little jokes and do nutty things like take off his shoes and socks and pants and run around the house with a foam crown on his head declaring “The king! The king!” We laugh with him now more than we make varied noises of frustration in his general direction, so that’s a nice change.
Meanwhile, I’ve become one of those women who grows her hair cartoonishly long yet only ever wears it in a bun. What’s up with that? I hate those women. The worst part is that when I don’t wear it in a bun, I wear it in a side braid a la a certain frosty Disney enchantress, and this close to Halloween, I can’t help but entertain thoughts of transforming myself into an approximation of a kiddie sensation except…other people’s children make me nervous. Can I be Elsa but also guarantee no small folks mob me or possibly even acknowledge my presence? Can’t I be admired but also somehow invisible? Hell, I should probably just cut my hair. (But how awesome would it be to dress Fox as Olaf? SO AWESOME.)
Lots to look forward to, lots to look forward to looking back on. Let’s not be strangers.
Today is Wombat’s last day of preschool, and I’m having one of those dumb moments where I know it’s the right time to move on yet it seems like he just got started and wait! I’m not ready! slow down! just give me a minute! I’m embarrassingly terrible (embarrible) at goodbyes, so I’ve been fogging up my sunglasses during drop-off and pick-up for a few days now, and at least in that way I’m really ready for it to just be over, by golly, so I can stop giving myself a migraine from trying to hold back tears.
(We all know well how I held it together when he left daycare: not at all, unless weeping for two weeks beforehand falls under your definition of “breezy.”)(I should not have just re-read that post because now I’m doing the ugly cry, even though Fox is there right now and I see Daycare Lady five days a week so it’s not like I miss it/her or anything.)(And there’s an interesting point: What am I sad about missing from preschool? The place? The people? Or moreso the person Wombat is/was in that place and with those people?)
Of course I’m going to miss all of it, and of course there’s a part of me that’s worried kindergarten will take some of the magic out of him, that it won’t give him the time and freedom to draw me too many pictures every day, that this is the beginning of the end of when he is mostly mine instead of completely his own. I’m usually wrong about that sort of thing, though, so let’s just skip right over that puddle and pay it no attention at all because I already have quite enough on my brain-plate, thank you.
(But, oh, my heart, I know for sure I won’t pull up to kindergarten on hot Indian summer days and find all the kids tearing through the playground in their tiny-butt underpants. That I will miss A LOT.)
When the big things feel scary, I find comfort in the little things, and today I find comfort in Wombat’s cubby full of sticks and rocks and pine needles and flowers and loquat seeds (no, pits! no, seeds!) and woodchips and sand (whyyyyyy???) and bits of string and gigantic tangly wads of string and stray marker caps and other assorted odds and ends that look like junk but turn out to be very important things like tickets to this evening’s performance and, oh!, MAGIC BEANS. (Better in his cubby than in his pockets, though, amirite?)(Dammit. Now I’m crying again.)
For sure, preschool has been great, and I hope Wombat remembers his time there as he grows older. It hasn’t been the wondrous fairytale land daycare was, where he learned concrete, useful, measurable, impressive-sounding-at-parties things that made my type-A parts spark and tingle, but the thing I was most worried about–the loosey-goosey structure at a play-based preschool–turned out to be fine, just fine. They didn’t focus on teaching him all the traditional things a kid might learn in a traditional preschool (and which he picked up anyway, as kids do), but the most valuable thing he learned there is the most valuable thing any of us can learn anywhere, I think: he learned himself.
Sure, he learned to cut and paste and tape and tie and build and make a kite out of paper and a string and binoculars out of TP tubes and a magic board that has wheels for land, a fin for water, and hover powers for the sky. (Don’t be fooled just because it looks like a ratty old rectangle of cardboard.) In his flat-out amazing pre-K class, he learned what to feed a walking stick and how lungs work and where wind comes from and what makes an outstanding teacher. But he also learned how to be the little kid and how to be the big kid and how it feels to help a friend and how it feels to love more than one pretty girl at a time and how it feels to love someone who drives you crazy and how it feels when two bossy people want to play different games but with each other and how it feels when someone says “I get you” and then shows you that they really, really do.
Maybe I’m mostly sad because I know I can’t possibly express to his teachers how lucky we’ve been to have them support our kid as he learns about the world and how he fits into it. A gift card is nice but…lacking.
I had to do a first day/last day photo comparison to convince me that it really has been almost two years because I can’t quite believe it. The problem with these two pictures is that he actually looks about the same size, if not smaller, in the one I took this morning. One part of that is probably that his backpack is still the size of a Galápagos tortoise shell, but the other part is purely perspective. I’m seeing him from above instead of below. He’s bigger by five inches and five million vocabulary words but he takes up less of the frame. He’s a big fish but in a pond that’s expanding every day.
As our kids get bigger, so does their world, the frame of view that surrounds them. A baby heavy who fills up your arms can feel so much larger than a four-foot-tall man-child who can scale the climbing structure like a jet on steep ascent and then shoot out into space on suddenly-feathered wings, dangling in the sky like a hummingbird for only a second before he swoops low to the ground and zooms off into the distance, never quite touching the ground, going, going, going until he’s just a speck. He’s a bird, he’s a plane, he’s super. Man, oh man.
Preschool: We’ll miss you like crazy, but we also know you’ve given us the best, most important parts to take with us.