Things were going fine on Boo’s first day of school until the blood.
Sure, there was the usual craziness of introductions. Meeting a dozen new people (most of whom I’ll know for the next two or twenty years) was a tough memory game even for me. For three-year old Boo, all the names and faces were over-frikkin’-whelming. So, true to her nature, Boo hopped into a getaway kiddie car to escape (she’s totally going on a road trip in college) and promptly scraped up her unshod toe against the pavement. Write off the next twenty minutes to the selection and application of the appropriate Band-Aid.
And then there was the well-meaning directiveness. Every parent we met suggested something else for Boo to start with. Any one of their ideas would have been great, but no one realized that a previous parent had just pushed Boo in exactly the opposite direction. “Try the dolls!” said one. But the next would say, “Want to read a book?” or “Let’s go outside!” or “We have paint!” The net effect was confusion, and Boo basically shut down until after drop-off time.
The best way for Boo to get comfortable in a new situation is if everyone just leaves her alone. Isn’t every kid like that? Back when I was teaching outdoor ed, one of my favorite tricks with stubborn non-participating kids was to do something interesting in their general vicinity, but with an air of complete disinterest. “Oh, you want to know what I’m finding in this owl pellet?” I would say as a neck craned over my shoulder. “Well, I guess I could show you…"
Just in time, the director led us outside and wisely put a bucket and a shovel in front of Boo — and even more wisely, gave me a chore to do nearby — and then just let her be. Within a few minutes Boo was baking a cake with her buddy and stomping insensibly through the boys’ sand castles. Just as it should be.
School was pretty tough on me. It tore at my heart to see Boo painting all alone while the other kids played. Maybe they were just well-trained, but her classmates really stepped up. Completely unprompted, they broke up their game of Princess Pink and the Ballerina Gang to join my lonely girl at the painting wall. Boo drifted away fairly quickly, but not before making the first tentative steps toward establishing some friendships.
And then, of course, there was The Boy. For most of an hour, The Boy followed Boo around and did everything she did. At one point, the director gave me a funny look and asked if Boo and The Boy knew each other. And though it’s true that we’ve met a couple of times on the playground, it’s certainly not enough to explain the bizarre slavish adoration. For her part, Boo was pretending to be annoyed but kids that age are pathetic at hiding their real feelings: clearly, she liked the attention.
So, to tally our results: Blood 1, Crush 1, Panic-That-Dad-Is-Leaving 5, Cute Art Project 1. Tears 0, but then again, I haven’t left yet.
And that wraps up Day 1 of Boo’s educational career. Only 2,669 or so to go.