Preschool starts next week for Annie, and at parent orientation the school administrator made a point of emphasizing that the kids need to be relatively self-sufficient. This means, among other things, that the kids will be expected to be able to open their lunch bags and go to the bathroom unassisted.
“Annie’s got that,” I whispered to Heather.
But then the administrator added, “Often kids will have no problem doing these things at home, but when they get here by themselves it’s another story.”
It dawned on me that, while Annie is usually able to do those things by herself, there are also these times:
“I can’t do it!”
“It won’t open!”
The administrator suggested practicing at home without giving Annie any help whatsoever, so the next day I sat Annie down with her lunch box and told her how she was going to have to open it all by herself at preschool. Unfortunately, Annie wasn’t as motivated to prove she could open her lunch box as I was to see her do it.
“This is serious, Annie. You have to be able to do this at preschool by yourself or they won’t let you go! Understand?”
That, of course, wasn’t 100% true. There aren’t exactly people roaming the streets who can’t read or write on account of their inability to open a lunch box.
“Can I color instead?”
“No, Annie. We need to practice.”
I nodded and Annie lit up. “Practice,” you see, means “pretend” in Annie-speak.
“Okay, Dad! You be the teacher!”
Fine, I thought. If we have to play pretend to do this, fine.
“Hello, Annie,” I said in my regular voice. “Welcome to pre-”
“No, Dad! She’s a girl! You have to be a girl!”
“Hellooooooooo, dear!” I said sounding more like Mrs. Doubtfire than either of Annie’s actual teachers. “Come in and open your lunch box!”
Annie nodded and worked on opening her lunch box. The zipper caught at one point, but when I offered no assistance she kept trying until she got it open.
Now this looks like a kid who is ready for preschool.
Later Annie said she needed to go to the bathroom, so I told her to practice doing it all by herself and come back just as she would if she were at preschool.
“No, Dad!” she said. “Say it as the teacher!”
“Into the bathrooooooom, dear! All by yourself! You won’t get any help from me!”
Annie smiled and ran into the bathroom. When she closed the door behind her I said to myself, “It was a run by fruiting!” Yep. Mrs. Doubtfire. Spot on.
We’ve done more practice runs since then (usually with a better-cast Heather in the role of the teacher), and Annie has done great. I’m still a little worried about the big day, though, when we drop her off and leave her all by herself. That’s kind of a scary moment for a parent, isn’t it? Here’s hoping that she’ll be just as self-sufficient with her real teachers as she is with Mrs. Doubtfire.
This month I started writing at BabyZone! You can check out my author page here, or go directly to a few of my favorite posts:
8 Things I’d Wish I’d Known Before My Wife’s C-Section
25 Baby Names Found in Beatles’ Songs
I love this story and I especially loved that you used the “it was a run-by fruiting” line because I thought I was the only person who still quoted that and found it hilarious!
I went through that with my son. They scare you by telling you your kid has to be completely self sufficient. The truth is that there are teachers there able and willing to help. If Annie can’t get her lunch box open, a teacher will help her. And if has potty problems, a teacher will help her. The teachers understand that these kids are only 3 years old. It is stressful, but she’ll do great!
I was gonna say the same thing. I’ve taught kinder and subbed pre-K. The kids are hardly as self sufficient as they are made out to be. Somehow us teachers manage just fine, even while having to provide extra help.
What they are trying to avoid is learned helplessness, i.e., kids who are used to the parents always doing everything for them (or, uhm, grandmas… my mom is really bad about this, so my daughter regresses on the independence bit whenever we go visit her). I’ve run into that, too. Even these kids eventually get it (they may even relish their school independence more, go figure ;)).
Impress on Annie that it’s not about ‘can’ but ‘try’, and she’ll be just fine.
I was going to say the same thing. I used to work in preschools and elementary schools. At Annie’s age, I don’t think there should be any pressure, from parents or from teachers, that she has to know something and has to practice it even when she doesn’t want to. School should be fun and positive and all about learning through play. The idea that the teachers are trying to stress here is that they’re going to ask kids to try things on their own and only help if it’s genuinely needed.
Mrs. Doubtfire is one of my favorite movies that Robin Williams made aside from The World According to Garp.
Annie will be fine and she’s ready for her first day. That picture? Makes Annie look more like a 6 to 7 year old than a pre-schooler.
Slightly unrelated, but I wish I could attach a photo to my comment as Annie and I are wearing matching outfits – well, minus the pigtails and mine are khaki capris instead of shorts. Girl has excellent taste!
This is SO FUNNY! And BTW I LOVE her outfit! So stylish!
First of all, Annie looks so beautiful & grown-up in this picture. Wow! I think your fears are completely normal. I felt similar nerves when my son started each new “level” of school: 2 morning a week preschool at 3, full-day pre-K at a daycare/school at 4 when I had to go back to work & then full-day kindergarten at a K-5 elementary with the “big kids” last year. I freaked out each year & my son sailed through with flying colors. He was actually upset he couldn’t go to school over the summer! I have a feeling Annie will excel in preschool, based on all the posts about her personality. That being said, bring tissues on the big day-for you & Heather!!!
First of all,,,she looks positively gorgeous in that outfit,and secondly,,,,,I hope, and I’m pretty sure. that she will do just fine on her first day. Good Luck, Annie!!!!
Oh, this post made me laugh so hard. Sad to say, this will be a theme for years to come
“in kindergarten they have to do….by themselves!”
“middle school is a BIG change for these kids – we don’t baby them anymore!”
and so on.
I turned to my friend after middle school orientation last year and said “I’m wondering how I ever made it through middle school the way they are talking, it’s not the Marines for God’s sake!”
Exactly! I was going to say my older wiser advice would be really, if your kid is anything close to average, please don’t waste a lot of mental energy freaking out about preschool/kindergarten/elementary school, they’ll be fine! But now I’m watching my friends with kids entering high school freaking out, which will be me next year, and it all seems legit. (And also wanted to add I remember that when mine were in preschool, a lot of supposedly “potty learned” kids were getting through the day in pull-ups!)
Mary Ann says:
Annie looks so grown up in that picture, I can’t believe that she is starting preschool. I have been a preschool and kindergarten teacher and from the posts I’ve read she seems more than ready to start school. I do think you have to do a little back pedaling and let Annie know that her teacher is her friend and if she needs help just ask. Don’t let her know you are sad that she’s starting school but tell her how proud you are of how grown up she is getting. I can’t wait to see those first day pictures.
OMG!!!! This was toooo funny!!! I loved the Mrs. Doubtfire part. “Helloooooooooo, dear!” HAHAHAHAHA!!!! That cracked me up!
Mary Brock says:
Mike, why is there no video of this?? It would have been great to see! And BTW, the picture of Annie looks like it came out of a magazine. She is gorgeous!!
I’ve never forgotten my dad sitting me down right before Kindergarten and teaching me how to write out Alexis. I’d always gone by a family nickname, Deka, which was, to me, SO MUCH SHORTER. I was flabbergasted when he told me my last name had NINE letters in it! While I’m sure my mom did tons of things to prepare me, too, it’s that night with my dad that I never forget. And while I know my dad wanted me to be self-sufficient and not feel behind, the techer was totally cool with me writing “Al” on all my work!
OH MY GOD. Laughing SO hard!!! Mike — she looks so much like you in this last photo. And so grown up!
Ok, so in my head I read your Hello dear line as Mrs. Doubtfire before I even read what you said. Lol!! I think Annie will do wonderful in preschool!
I remember dropping my son off at preschool for the first time last fall, and I was secretly sort of hoping that he would cling to my leg and sob “mommy, don’t go!” or something equally dramatic to affirm how awesome a mom I am, but no, I ran right into the play yard without a look back. But then again, that’s pretty awesome too, right? Because he was secure enough to be fine without me Don’t be surprised if Annie runs through the gamut of emotions over the first couple of weeks of preschool as she adjusts. My son went from loving it, to hating it, to LOVING IT. I’m glad we worked through the adjustment period, because preschool has been so great for him!
My children were much more self-sufficient at school than at home. Also, they would try new snacks at school or a friend’s house that they would reject from me. And yes, it is a big step dropping your child off for the first time. But it will be wonderful for her to make friends and explore her little world.
love that line from mrs. doubtfire! great story, i’m sure that your lovely daughter will have a wonderful time at preschool.
I literally LOLed!!! So funny!!
Sorry my comment is so late….we were in Chicago. Since I’m a mom AND I worked in a school I got to have Both perspectives but having my own first born son go to school the first time was by far, the more emotional than I thought. Here I was releasing MY BABY to some “Stranger” – I felt overwhelmed, scared, excited for him but for me….I just wanted to scoop him up in my arms and yell “You can’t have him”! Ha ha Fortunately for me, none of my 3 children cried when we dropped them off that first day and believe me I KNOW b/c I was one of the parents peeking through the window!! As a teaching staff, I also knew IF they did cry, they would stop minutes if not seconds after we left. I’ve witnessed it a 1000 times myself but it’s different when it’s YOUR Kid!!! Now saying all this, I TRULY DO Believe Annie will be GREAT!!! She is very articulate, independent and out-going. I think she’s going to love school just as much as her staff is going to love her!!! Still, I’ll be thinking of you all tomorrow as you achieve this milestone as I take my own kids as they begin their own journey in grades 5, 8 and 11. xo
Um, Mike… Where’s Annie? Because the kiddo in that photo looks WAY TOO OLD and mature. Seriously. That photo is a glimpse into what she’s going to look like when she’s like 8 or 9. I feel like it was just yesterday that she was born!