The reluctant kindergartener

Please welcome back our occasional guest blogger, Buster, aged 5.

I’ve been telling them, ever since the end of preschool, I didn’t want to go to kindergarten. Maybe they thought I was just trying to be cute. Whatever. I don’t have to try to be cute.

See, preschool was fine: three hours a day, then right back home to play.

This kindergarten is a whole new ball of wax. Did you know it goes all day, from like early in the morning until God-Knows-When in the afternoon? I’m not ready to make a commitment to that.

And then there’s all this pressure to learn tons of crazy stuff. I mean, I mostly know it already, but these people are sticklers for the details. A B C D E F G blah blah blah. I got the general gist of it. I don’t know why I have to be weighed down with minutia.

Counting? I can count to 20, give or take. If I leave out a number in the teens, big deal. Where I am is more important than how I got there.

Taking the leap into that great unknown called elementary school.

The worst part is they want you to talk . . . out loud . . . to other people. That’s just not my style. I made it through two years of preschool without having to open my mouth much, and that’s the way I like it. Give me some paper and a bunch of crayons and I’ll whip you up some top-notch art. Most of the coloring will be inside the lines too. But here’s the key part: I must not be disturbed. Don’t come around asking me questions about what I’m making. I’ve got no time for chit-chat; I’m creating.

Man, the teacher’s probably going to call on me and everything this year. What did I ever do to her?

Then there’s the whole lunch thing. They don’t even know what I’m in the mood for. The first day, they had pizza. I was totally ready to mow on some chicken nuggets. The second day, I was like, “All right, I’m down with your pizza.” Was there any pizza in sight? No. They had some kind of waffle thing. Didn’t anybody tell them I don’t like waffles?

Oh, but I had the option of getting the “fun lunch” which is like yogurt and celery or something. Fun lunch? False advertise much? Two hands full of M&Ms – now that would be a fun lunch. Let’s get that on the menu.

I haven’t had homework yet, but I bet they’re going to oppress my civil liberties with that any day now. I’ve seen my brother do homework before and it looks like torture. I’m just going on record right now as somebody who wants no part of that.

The first week is almost over and I’ve survived so far. I guess that’s a testament to my indomitable spirit. Isn’t that what they call it when your parents take you to school and make you stay there all day and you don’t even cry?


In 1975 backpacks were for hikers and all my school supplies fit in my pocket

Elementary school starts on Monday, which means we will be spending the weekend completing the scavenger hunt known as collecting the supplies on the school list. Big Brother is entering 3rd grade. I suppose that makes him an upperclassman in his school. I’m sure this will be reflected in his maturity level going forward.

Big Brother is expected to show up at 3rd grade with a veritable bounty of supplies. I showed up for my 3rd grade with a shirt, pants, and shoes. Everybody was fine with that. Eventually, I acquired a pencil, and after that, an eraser. They need a lot more stuff to write with now. Maybe they’re more furious writers; they probably press down harder on the pencils.

Our supply list consisted of the clothes on our backs and anything useful we could find in the woods. (Image: Lewis Wickes Hine)

Our supply list consisted of the clothes on our backs and anything useful we could find in the woods. (Image: Lewis Wickes Hine)

They need a bunch of sandwich bags too. If sandwich bags hadn’t become a staple school supply I believe the zip-lock people would be out of business. What American eats a sandwich small enough to fit in a sandwich bag anymore?

Buster starts preschool in a couple of weeks. This will be his last year there before Kindergarten. How can I be sure he’ll be ready to move on to Kindergarten next year? Because the public pays for Kindergarten, while I pay for preschool. So if Buster can’t read by this time next year, he’s officially a taxpayer liability.

Big Man will start preschool next fall, which is another reason Buster has to be out of the pipeline by then. Do you think Frank and Jesse James were allowed in the same preschool concurrently? Some things are just too much to ask of society.

I’m not sure Big Man will need two years of preschool, and my wallet tends to agree with me. I never went to preschool and I learned to read and write somewhere along the way. I’m mostly all caught up to the other readers in my age group by now.

My knowledge of letters and numbers was of little concern to my preschool teacher. It was more important that I have soft hands. (Image: Frances Benjamin Johnston)

My knowledge of letters and numbers was of little concern to my preschool teacher. It was more important that I have soft hands. (Image: Frances Benjamin Johnston)

My wife says she wants him to start preschool mostly for socialization reasons. He’s pretty good with other kids already, and sometimes I think she almost agrees he doesn’t need it. But then she takes a good, hard look at his social train wreck of a father and is reaffirmed in her conviction to spare no expense in preventing that tragedy from happening again.

It’s hard to argue with her when uses visual aids to convince me: like a mirror.

Once I get over the adjustments required by the new school year, I will settle down to the knowledge that Buster goes to a very fine preschool and Big Brother’s elementary is equally good.  The tuition and the supply hunting are a small price to pay to cement my children’s futures – though Big Brother is about to find out his future can be cemented just as well with a 24 pack of crayons as with a 64 pack.

There’s nothing you can do with antique fuchsia you can’t do with heliotrope.

This too is an important lesson in his education.


It will be quiet someday; meanwhile, let’s have some noise

Someday they’ll stop calling me Daddy. My name will change to Dad. I won’t mourn that day. There will be, I hope, benefits to them becoming self-sufficient. Maybe I’ll even catch up on my reading.

In the next few weeks, Buster and Big Man will turn four and two, respectively. There are no more babies in the house. I’m happy I haven’t had to heat a bottle in a year, and I look forward to the day the last one says goodbye to diapers. Maybe we’ll take a vacation with the diaper money.

I appreciate all the things Big Brother can do for himself, from making a snack to going to the bathroom without me having to know about it, although sometimes he still likes to announce his intentions. I’m sure I’ll enjoy feeling less like a servant in my own home when the little boys can do things for themselves. I may even gain weight from all the sitting down for more than two minutes in a row I plan on doing.

I imagine being able to go places without someone falling asleep in the car, or what really blows my mind: going places by myself. The really fine thing will be spending time with each individually, free of the competition that comes so naturally between them and turns them into a raucous mob. I’m looking forward to talking instead of shouting over the din.

The raucous mob does settle down from time to time, but always in Daddy's chair.

The raucous mob does settle down from time to time, but always in Daddy’s chair.

I look forward to many good things that will come with my boys getting older, yet I am old enough to know I can wait for those things. They will come whether I appreciate the days preceding them or not. It’s best to appreciate all the days; they never come around again.

There are days when keeping on top of all these boys’ needs runs both parents ragged. In spite of this, my wife would go on having babies forever if that were possible. I’m too feeble for that, but I will concede that nobody hugs quite as good as toddler. I will further admit that nobody’s mind matches the waterfall of discovery of a preschooler’s. And while I’m at it, nobody’s imagination is more entertaining than a grade schooler’s.

As much as I look forward to more peace, I’m in no hurry to say goodbye to toddler giggles or preschool jokes or grade school stories. I can’t hold onto them forever, and I have no desire to. I only want to enjoy them to their fullest while they are all around me. I want to experience the things yet to come, but I can be patient for those seasons to have their place.

Time doesn’t need my help. It moves too quickly already. Sometimes it’s easy to anticipate the future at the expense of the present. I hope to catch myself when I fall toward this trap; though I will not mourn the day I become just Dad, I will, a little bit, mourn the loss of the day when I was Daddy.

Dad: the unauthorized biography

Second graders today are doing work in school that was unimaginable when I was seven. It’s not only the complexity of some of the things they are asked to learn that is responsible for this, but also the fact that the tools they have to work with were simply beyond our imaginations 40 years ago.

At our most recent parent/teacher conference, we were asked to bring our second grader along with us. This change in protocol had an ominous color to it; we imagined them wanting us all together when they explained why we would be asked to leave the school district. Once we discovered we were not the only parents instructed to bring their child, we felt better about it.

Midway through the conference, our son retrieved a notebook computer from the corner of the classroom, logged onto his account and showed us a PowerPoint presentation he had been working on.  The kids were assigned a biographical presentation. My son chose as his subject a “famous” author. A few of the slides follow.


Biography’s don’t usually bring me to tears, but I found this one especially touching.

He found all the images on the Internet and incorporated them into his project. He is not bothered by distortion as far as I can tell. Some of the images got a little pixellated in the transition, but the most prominent distortion is the fame of his subject. Yet, we all have to make our own artistic decisions.

Speaking of distortion, some of his facts are a little off. His recollection of why he put a Christmas ornament into my mouth is incorrect: we never run out of cookies.


Also, though apparently born there, I’m not sure where Mohalkvill is. I’m pretty sure he means the Mohawk Valley, but the New York part is right, so why quibble over details.

On the other hand, the part about having been born in 19 something is absolutely correct. That’s exactly when I was born. The age is correct, and I was relieved to learn that I am still alive, a fact that is sometimes in doubt but I hope he got right.


He was not finished with the project at this time, so I’m not sure if he meant to remove the book covers from my face or do the more appropriate thing and completely paste over my head. For now, we’ll have to be content that a good portion of the unsightliness lies hidden.

Being the subject of a biography is a sobering responsibility. I have to work hard to prove I was a worthy subject. This will be difficult, as my natural inclination will be to let my new fame go to my head and to begin putting on airs.