Saturday, November 29, 2008

Forever Three

Why can't they stay little? I think that's the motto for a brand of baby clothing and it definitely crosses the minds of parents and grandparents everywhere

Admittedly, babies are pretty darn cute. Who else gets stopped at the grocery store just so a stranger can ooh and ahh over him and offer his mother unwanted advice.

I know it bugs young mothers, but I think it shows the importance humans place on babies when our elders think, "I don't give a damn how rude it is, I think that baby should be wearing a hat and I'm going to give his mother hell for it."

I have to admit, though, each year the boys get older, I like that age better. It's just so fun when they start talking about the world around them.

For instance, we were watching Lord of the Rings last night and I was like: "Wait a second. I thought elves were short."

Johnny answered matter of factly, "That's a myth, mom. Elves are actually normal height."

But there is one age I'd like to last an extra year: three.

Granted, it's a challenge. They're at the height of their terrible twos. They're supposed to be potty trained. They're starting preschool. It's the perfect storm. You're guaranteed a major disaster at some point during the year.

In other ways, though, three year olds are just beyond hilarious. For one thing, they'll believe anything.

For instance, I'm not condoning this, but Richie was eating a popcycle the other day, and J.J. said, "Where'd you get that?"

And Richie goes, "Oh, this? I got it out of the toilet. There's more in there if you want one."

When I walked in, the boys were cracking up because J.J. had, in fact, checked the toilet for a popcycle and was really disappointed when they weren't in there.

Also, three year olds are always up for anything. They're going swimming this weekend, so I got out J.J.'s lifejacket. I said, "I want you to wear this at the swimming pool."

He was like, "Why wait? I'll wear it right now. Heck, I'll wear it everyday of my life." And he put it on for the rest of the day.

Another thing that cracks me up is the bossiness. If I scold one of the boys, J.J. gets right on the bandwagon. "You know better, Johnny," he'll say, even though he has no idea what we're talking about. He loves when his brothers get in trouble. For him, its the best show in town.

Other times, he'll put his toys in time out. There'll be ten of them in there.

"What'd they do?" I'll ask

"They're in trouble," he'll say, as if that's reason enough.

In the park is the funniest. Some five year olds were giggling and saying he looked like a teddybear, which, frankly, is not the meanest thing you could say about a person. But to J.J., them's fighting words. He started pointing his finger and saying, "I'm not a teddybear! I'm J.J.!"

I think it tickled their funny bone to see somebody who, to them, looked like an angry teddybear, so they kept giggling. Then Richie stepped in and said, "Leave my brother alone!"

And they called him a teddybear, too.

And he called them chicken nuggets. And boy, it was ugly. I'm just glad I wasn't involved in the whole thing.

But the best part about three year olds is their laughter. If you laugh. They laugh. If you laugh louder, they laugh louder. And I've even found that if you do an evil laugh, they'll do an evil laugh, too. It has to be the happiest age ever.

Then they turn four and become very nice children, not bossy at all or tempermental or unreasonable. I always feel a little relieved, but a little nostalgic, too. There's just nothing like a three year old.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kindergarten Boardroom

Every week, I volunteer in Richie's kindergarten classroom, and my favorite part is circle time.

Circle time is essentially an employee meeting, with the teacher playing the role of boss. She tells them what work they need to do that day, and they ask important questions such as, "Can I go to the bathroom?" and make insightful comments such as, "I'm hungry."

They're always getting up during circle time, and it's never to do something normal, like blow their noses. For instance, they wear uniforms, and one time, a girl went into the cloakroom wearing her white shirt and plaid jumper and came out wearing leggings and a Hannah Montana T-shirt. Then she came back to circle time like nothing happened.

The teacher was like, "Why aren't you wearing your uniform?"

The girl looked totally confused, as if wondering, "Why would I be wearing my uniform? It's not like I'm at school...or am I? Where am I? What day is it?"

Sometimes during circle time, the picture lady comes. She shows the kids fine art and tells them about the artist. Then she asks questions. Since she is a visitor and doesn't know the kids' names, she points. It always happens that two kids sitting next to each other think she's pointing at them. They engage in a death stare, and I'm not sure how the winner is determined, but eventually that kid answers the question.

Then, for the remainder of circle time, the other kid looks at her like, "How DARE you steal my thunder?"

After a while, a boy usually walks over to his backpack, gets out a toy car, and hides it in his lap. Then another boy says, "So and so has a toy." The teacher tells him to put it away.

Inevitably, the boy who tattled on the other boy goes to his backpack and gets out a toy car.

Another kid says, "So and so is hiding a toy car."

The teacher tells him to put it away.

Then, I kid you not, the second tattle tale gets a car out of his backpack, too.

And, as if she hasn't the same thing 10 billion times, the teachers says calmly, but disappointedly, "Boys and girls, we do not bring toys to circle time. You know better than that."

As a Catholic, this is why I think the saint program is too strict: no kindergarten teachers, to my knowledge, have been canonized. I think all of them should be. You want a miracle: Try teaching a kid who still picks his nose and eats the boogers how to read. I think the pope should just canonize a St. Kindergarten Teacher and if you make it through the year: Boom. You're in.

Back to circle time.

Here's one difference between it and an employee meeting: a table. The kids sit on the floor, so there's a lot of crawling and squirming around. I don't know what would happen if adult meetings were held on the floor. But I'm pretty sure the grownups wouldn't grab their toes and roll onto their backs, like a rocking horse. I also don't think they would get up on their knees and secretly inch forward so that they could be the closest person to the boss. But who knows? Every grownup meeting I've ever been to, there was a table involved.

I'd really like to see, though, what would happen if kindergarteners did attend a company meeting. Like, say they magically became employees at a bank because, I don't know, all the grownups had been beemed into outerspace. What would that be like? Well, you'll soon find out because its the working concept for my 1980s sitcom "Kindergarten Boardroom," which airs on Fridays after Small Wonder. Along with all the other lame shows that reminded adolescents like me the full repurcussions of not having a social life.

Anyway, I don't think the boardroom situation would be as disastrous as you'd think. After circle time, amazingly, 19 out of 20 kids do their work the right way. So obviously, they're listening to directions. Whereas grownups can put on a big show of listening intently while in reality they're thinking, "When was the last time Carla got her hair done. 1982? Ha ha."

So maybe kids would do all right running a bank, as long as their teacher was at the helm. Even if they got out of line, she'd reel them in. I can just hear her now, "Boys and girls we do not give housing loans to people who can't afford them. You know better than that."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Teacher Conferences...Oldest Son vs. Youngest Son

People say there's a real difference between oldest and youngest children, the former being type-A and the latter being more laid back. I'd have to say those "differences" have a name: mom and dad.

If you don't believe me, here's a little experiment you can do. Listen to a mother and father's conversation after their oldest child's preschool teacher conference. Then, several years later, listen to the conversation after their youngest kid's teacher conference.

So that you don't have to eavesdrop, here is a convenient transcript:

Conversation between Husband and Wife after Oldest Child's Preschool Teacher Conference

Wife: (Sobbing.) His teachers said he (sob sob sob sob) doesn't listen to them. He just does whatever he wants. I think he might be (sob sob sob) deaf!

Husband: Maybe we should have his hearing checked.

Wife: She said he runs around wild, wrestling and roughhousing. I think we should have him tested for ADD, too.

Husband: Maybe so.

Wife: And blindness, while we're at it.

Husband: (Rubs back.)

Wife: I can't believe our son is deaf, hyper and blind!!!!! (Wahhh)

Husband: Let's eat dinner and talk about it later.

Wife: I couldn't possibly eat at a moment like this.

Husband: (Brow furrows. Looks worriedly at son.)

Conversation after Youngest Child's Preschool Conference

Wife: (With sarcasm.) Wow. I was suprised to learn that our three year old is the ringleader of all the roughhousing in the classroom. It's shocking.

Husband: (Laughter)

Wife: He's so perfect at home.

Husband: My favorite part was when the teacher said he put that older kid in a headlock.

Wife: Really? I enjoyed the dogpile in the lunchroom.

Husband: What are we going to do with him?

Wife: Reform school, probably.

Husband: (Laughter) What are we going to do about dinner?

Wife: Sausage sandwiches.

Husband: That sausage is too gamey. Let's order pizza.

Wife: (Shrugs.) Pizza it is.

Now, I hope you don't think these parents have become less caring as time goes by. That they're satified to let their youngest be a brute. Rather, they know that the amazing thing about three-year-old boys is not that they act their age but that they eventually grow up.

As their son gets older, the conferences become predictable: "He is a nice boy, but sometimes gets a little wild when he's around his friends. He has a good speaking voice. However, he needs to work on not using it so much during class." That kind of thing.

Basically, the teacher no longer sounds like a WWF announcer. And you realize that your worrying didn't change anything. Time did.