12 September 2013

Kindergarten Confidential

The Doozer started kindergarten. He is officially a kindergartner. We were not prepared.

I mean, we just hand over our kid to strangers for an entire day and have no idea what he’s doing or who he’s with unless he deigns to tell us when we bring him home? And it’s all okay because he’s got a new backpack and a lunch bag and a Darth Vader water bottle? And because we call it “school”? We’re just supposed to place blind trust in the universe that everything will work out for the best? Screw that.

There’s just all kinds of stress. Would he like it? How would he handle it? Is he eating his lunch? Does he like the other kids? Do the other kids like him? I mean, kids are jerks. Other kids, especially.

Reports from the first week were very sporadic. We knew he’d been somewhere, we knew he’d done stuff, that he’d been around other kids. That he had a teacher. But there was also fatigue. Almost instantly. It’s like he wasn’t in kindergarten, but rather had started high school and most afternoons came home as a sullen teenager offering nothing more than one-word responses and vague hostility, preferring solitude and distance, seemingly annoyed by all the eager questioning.

And then out of the blue, an enthusiastic announcement: “We did yoga!” Or when he informed us that there was a girl named “Hyper” in his class and he met his music teacher, “Crabcheeks.” How I wish these were really actual names.

When we attended a thing called curriculum night after that first week of school, we learned a whole slew of things about the school day that we knew nothing about. “He’s not telling us anything,” my wife whispered to me during the proceedings.

Hearing about things from his teacher was like gaining entrance into a difference place. His secret world. The missing pieces of the day, a way for us to fill in the gaps of what was going on with him when we were not around.

And one thing that stood out to me was about writing. Apparently, there’s a whole portion of the school day devoted to writing. They encourage the kids to write in a variety of forms and mediums. To tell their own stories and just make stuff up. And this was a part of his day he definitely hadn’t mentioned. And maybe if he knew something that I know, he might have brought it up.

I’m a writer. That’s how I define myself. That’s who I am. And yet, this is something my son doesn’t actually know. Who am I? What do I do all day when I go to that office? I write. And after he goes to bed? I write. But he doesn’t know anything about this.

My secret world.

Is this our chance? For our spheres to intertwine? To connect over creating art. For me to explain to my kid who I am and for him to actually, maybe, kind of understand it?

I can hear the NPR interview where the Doozer talks about his father’s influence on his own work. But he never turns to me for editorial advice or anything like that. We are very different. But inescapably the same. We are storytellers.

In fact, just recently, he made up a whole story, a fake movie, called Justice 1, a bizarre, epic tale of aliens and zombies, which Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and others, watch when they have movie night aboard the Millennium Falcon. I am not making this up. He quickly went on to describe the plot of Justice 2 and then told us Justice 3 was also coming up—in about a month or so.

And while it wasn’t exactly Wuthering Heights, I’ll take it. 

We all start somewhere.

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