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.
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.
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