Friday, May 15, 2015

The Tale of an Upside Down Lion

Or why I'm really afraid of sending my child to preschool.

left: Nell's lion, right: Reid's lion, courtesy library story time

At our most recent trip to Library Story Time we found an unfamiliar face leading the rambunctious group of preschool-ish toddlers. Her hello song was more solemn and her picture books too modern. Now, this isn't a story complaining about the new librarian. As I observed her I couldn't hep but notice several of the regulars felt more comfortable in her presence, and my children were handling the change just fine.

She taught us sign language, which I loved. Instead of moving our bodies frequently, we only stood once and moved only upon specific instructions. Watching my children under more rigorous structure was interesting, and I was glad they could keep to the task, the task of sitting still and quietly much longer than usual.

Then it was craft time.

In the back of the room there were two tables with about eight spots each. Each spot had all the supplies needed to make the adorable lions pictured above. Once set loose, my two mobile children ran to the back of the room. They each picked a spot on separate tables, and I had to wrangle the two-year-old next to the four-year-old because the Librarian's only words when she set us loose were "parents will need to help their children with the glue."

She'd obviously never crafted with my kids. Because they do not need help with their glue. And sure enough, before any instructions were given Reid had already begun gluing his Lion's mane -- which was a mistake because the first step of this art project was to tape the ears to the back of lion's head. A step I quickly completed for him.

Why did I do that? I don't know, because I have crafted with my kids and I should know better. I have a pretty strict "hands off" approach to our craft time. But this craft had a set of instructions to follow, it had order, and I just really wanted to help my kids follow that order.

Nell was as clueless about the ears as Reid. She took her paper plate and immediately introduced it to her best friend, the marker. That girl loves markers, and not a day goes by that I'm not scrubbing some color off her elbows.

After I frantically taped the ears on both lions I began helping Nell glue her eyes and nose on, which was the proper step number two. I didn't have the time or attention (I was holding Coraline in one arm through out this entire ordeal, minor detail) to notice Reid had glued his eyes all by himself. He used waaaay too much glue and was about to put the nose on upside down, but he was so proud of his independence. And yet, I interrupted him to have a conversation about whether our noses are under or above our eyes -- something I really thought he shouldn't have to stop and think about. Confused, he glued his nose under the lion's eyes.

Next, it was time to draw the faces. Reid hadn't really left any room for a smile or whiskers, so I just secretly hoped he wouldn't notice the instruction given -- he hadn't noticed the first two (it was total chance he glued the eyes on at the same moment everyone else did). I knew he'd been most eager to glue on the mane, so I let him loose on that task and turned to help Nell.

By the time I'd returned to Reid he proudly showed me the face he'd drawn on his lion -- a totally upside down face. I asked him what the raised brow was and he assured me it was the lion's smile. I tried to have the whole, ears, eyes, nose, smile order conversation again and he clearly became frustrated. It's like he had no idea what I was talking about. Then he looked at his Lion and realized the nose (that I had placed under the eyes) was in the wrong spot. He tried problem solving on his own but when he realized it had already dried up he totally lost it.

I mean really, really lost it. He scanned the room and noticed all the other lion's looked different than his, and he wasn't sure he could fix it.

I whispered in his ear to calm down, and the librarian came over to check on things. She offered him a new nose and I quickly ripped off the old one. His lion's face was finally all put together, but the ears were 100% in the wrong spot.

And now he had no desire to finish the mane -- the part of the art project he'd been so excited about had lost its appeal. His desire for independence was gone. And to make matters worse he had glue all over his fingers because the outer ring of his lion was covered in a thick line of the gooey stuff. To try and stop the mess I threw a handful of tissue paper pieces on the  glue and quickly collected him and Nell and left the room.

On our way out of the library I reminded myself not be frustrated by this failed story time experience. I reminded myself the new librarian was wonderful and had beautiful moments with the kids.

I threw my children in the car and we headed off to preschool registration. Yes, I registered my dear sweet Reid for preschool today the day I wrote this (more than two weeks ago).

Come September he'll load that little yellow school bus and head off into the great big world. I'm not scared to have him live life without me by his side. The tale of the upside down lion only shows he'd be better off without me.

You see at bedtime, when I'd nearly forgotten about the entire experience, I spotted that little lion on the dining room table and I realized something. Reid approached that table with complete confidence. He saw the paper plate, he saw the tissue paper and he knew exactly how to make his lion. Unfortunately for him, there was a set of specific instructions that needed to be followed. Only, needed isn't the right word. It would not have mattered if he'd done the mane first, eyes second, face third, nose fourth, and ears last. Sometimes instructions and proper orders only serve to confuse and frustrate kids.

And that is why I'm terrified to send him to preschool. I've been a teacher. I know that the kids who don't follow the instructions quickly become the behavior problems. But I also know they're often the smartest kid in the room. 

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