It still feels strange to say this, but the Twins have started school.
While I have no doubt in my mind that my little geniuses could already slaughter Doogie Howser at Jeopardy (it would be legen–wait for it–dary), this first foray into the academic world is not related to their obviously high cognitive abilities, but instead an opportunity to begin their formal education early. You see, while they were still chillaxing in their mother’s uterine jacuzzi, we got them on the lengthy waiting list for a fairly exclusive toddler class conveniently held on my college’s campus, and we’d watched them slowly climb their way to the top ever since.
Thus, as the new school year approached, the all-important question as to whether they would be granted access to the program hung in the air like the faint, gaseous remnants of a diaper blowout. Our hopes high, we gathered with the other families in our District who had children on the waiting list for a public announcement of the class’s new students. As the odd, eccentric university spokeswoman took the stage, the tension was so thick that it needed to cut carbohydrates from its diet.
But as luck would have it, our progeny were both selected, punctuated by thumbs-up-shaped balloons falling from the rafters and commemorative t-shirts emblazoned with bow-wearing stick figures being shot into the masses. The Twins had been chosen!
I’d like to clarify that this is not a daycare (which we can’t afford anyway with me in school and twice the progeny). It’s a weekly, hour-and-a-half long toddler-parent class, which means Daddy gets to come along, too. However, the idea is for me to sort of fade into the background and let the Twins interact with the teachers, undergraduate student volunteers, and their fellow tiny people.
According to the class’s organizers, early childhood research shows that the strongest factors contributing to kids’ academic success later in life have nothing to do with when they learn the alphabet, or colors, or whether or not Han Solo shot first. The biggest predictors have to do with social skills, like knowing how to patiently wait their turn, to calmly ask for help instead of throwing a tantrum when problems arise, to not shoot first in the event of a disagreement. Thus, a significant part of the program involves social play with unfamiliar people (large and small) in order to develop those skills, while parents are primarily there in case of a meltdown or to break up impromptu toddler cage-fights, and for the occasional panicked glance around the room for a familiar face–essentially, “Whew! Okay, as long as Daddy’s still here, it’s all good.”
And if I say so myself, the Twins are kind of kicking their classmates’ asses at playing.
Okay, sure, I’m a little biased, but look at it this way. While most of the other kids are used to being the center of attention in their respective households, the Twins have gotten used to sharing EVERYTHING–toys, books, and even the spotlight. While many of their classmates who don’t have regular interaction with other toddlers are shy in class, my kids play together all day, every day. It took several weeks for a lot of the students to “play nice” and come out of their shells, but it only took mine about five seconds, and I can’t help feeling proud about that.
Although a part of me wanted them to do that thing you see on tv all the time where the kid clings to the parent on the first day of school and the parent says something inspiring as the orchestral score swells and the kid reluctantly slinks into class, it was such a trip to see them just bolt into the classroom and sit right down at The Painting Table as if to say, “Let’s do this!”
I have to admit, it’s sometimes hard in class to hang back–to let the teacher and warm, enthusiastic student volunteers play with the Twins and not jump in with my fantastically-executed plush animal voices–but I’ve found a new joy in observing them from across the room, watching them learning through new activities and being little social butterflies. They’ve come so far already, and this is just the beginning.
My wife and I have dubbed the class “Pre-Pre-School,” but before I know it, they’ll be in pre-school and then regular school, which won’t allow me the opportunity to be an enormous, human-shaped fly on the wall (kind of like Jeff Goldblum), and so I’m grateful to at least have it now.
You may have noticed I’ve been posting less, and that’s mostly due to my Ph.D. work really heating up as I approach the clusterf*ck that is dissertation writing on top of cussing out statistics problems, falling asleep on textbooks, and bumbling through research projects. But as high-octane as my life tends to feel, I make a concerted effort when I’m with my kids to take a deep breath, stop writing papers in my head, and slow the hell down. I know I’ve said this many times before (as has every parent ever), but they’re only this age once, and time passes whether I want it to or not.
So as I stand back at Pre-Pre-School, I could easily attend to the constant stream of responsibilities and to-do list items that are surely lighting up my pocketed iPhone, but if I were to do that, I’d miss my kids piling mounds of glitter onto construction-paper paintings, soaking themselves to the bone at the water table, squealing their way down the playground slide, and occasionally looking up to see if Daddy is still there–which, when they do find Daddy–invariably ends in tiny, squinty, elated smiles oozing with cuteness.
And those are the moments that make everything I do worth it.
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