Thursday, February 28, 2008

Little Scholars Pre-school - Day 1

Having an extroverted kid is a blessing and a curse as a parent. Never was that lesson clearer than it was today when we took Bodie to his first day of school.

For a few days before the “big day”, Alfred and I very deliberately talked about school in those overly excited tones that parents use when the kid is about to get a shot in the leg. We talked about how much fun it would be and how many new toys he could play with. Wasted breath, really, because the kid didn’t need a pep talk. His parents did.

Before leaving the house, we filled his Thomas the Tank Engine backpack that Mirtha gave him with diapers, wipes, a bottle of water and snacks – cheese, crackers and an apple. We then experienced the rite of passage of all parents and labeled everything with his name. Unfortunately, we have very little provisions in the house so I had to get creative. I raided the First Aid kit in the kitchen and tore off bits of white medical tape to use as labels. Hopefully, there won’t be any major bleeding incidents before I can replenish our supply. While my instinct was to write his full name so there would be no mistaking the rightful owner, “Boden Tenzing Miller Wise” was more than I could fit on a strip of tape.

The registration form called for parents to send their children to school every day with a “hat or a pet”. Alfred and I thought this was an odd choice – surely they didn’t intend for us to send Bodie to school with a 145-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback – but we were hoping that it meant we could send Dexter to school a few days a week as well. We then decided that a “pet” must be a British or South African word for “baseball hat”. Begrudgingly, we grabbed Bodie’s orange sun hat and left Dexter at home.

Little Scholars Pre-School is on the corner of Haile Selassie, a main road that cuts the Msasani peninsula in half lengthwise, and Chole Road, which leads to Coco Beach and the Indian Ocean about half a mile away. In the morning, the intersection is pulsing with Landcruisers and Range Rovers with various logos of NGOs – and the donors who footed the bill for the vehicle – plastered on the side. On the corner, there is duka la dawa, which is a cross between a pharmacy, an African 7-11 and a witches market, where merchants hawk everything from Coca-Cola to magic potions.

We pulled up to gate in front of the school, which is painted bright yellow and blue. The “parking lot” is just a grassy area in front of the school with cars wedged between flame trees with their red buds in full bloom. The place was buzzing with parents dropping off their kids. Clearly, we were the only parents that day who were bringing their only child for the first day of school because all the other parents dropped their kids off and rushed off to work or home. Alfred and I walked Bodie in together slowly. He was immediately greeted warmly by the two Indian teachers that teach the 1.5 to 3-year-olds. Upon passing through the gate, Bodie saw a garden filled with bikes, sand boxes, swings and jungle gyms and he let go of our hands. Alfred and I hung around taking tons of pictures as Bodie bounced from toy to toy.

At 8:30, the teacher rang the bell. I explained to Bodie that the bell meant it was time to go inside with the other kids. He paused, saw the other kids running toward the classrooms, and merged into the stream like a sailfish. Once inside, the kids in his age group sat on the floor and started singing a counting song. Bodie hung back a little and watched from the side, but was quietly counting along – with his mom continuing to snap photos like a paparazzo. Alfred and I finally decided it was time to go but we made it as far as the window outside the classroom, where we continued to peer in. Suffice it to say that, at that point, one of us cried and it wasn’t his mother. By the time we left, Bodie was singing loudly and clapping along and never looked back.

When Alfred went to pick Bodie up at 11:30, the teacher told him that it was the first time in her experience that a child didn’t cry on his first day, which either means Bodie is really well adjusted or so repressed that we better increase our monthly contributions to the therapy fund. Like Dexter after a day at doggy day care, Bodie came home, inhaled a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (ok, in Dexter’s case, it’s a rawhide but you get my point), and immediately fell asleep. First day of school and he stuck the landing.


cindygmiller said...

Goodness, what a great story to share! Thank you so much ... and I'd like to say "first days" become routine, but after 15+ years of them, I must admit I teared up on every one. I remember sitting on the porch with your Dad while Joe and Erin left for a "first day" in high school, with, of course, tears in my eyes ... Love to all ... Cindy

mona said...

I am so happy to read your story. My mother is one of the wonderful women who run the school. I am proud of her accomplishments and dedication to the students there. It's a feat to help build the foundation of eager souls.