Your Presence is no Longer Required

IMG_4958Last August, we figured it was time and signed up our relatively freshly minted three-year old for a public kindergarten (which is pre-school in America – the terms are flopped here). And so, on the second of September, when school started for everyone, Monki was ready. Off we went to her new school, dropped off a crying little one with her new teacher, and went about our business for the morning.

What we had determined was that we would send her for the half-day program (the afternoons were nothing but nap-time anyway, and Monki is beyond naps at this point) so we dropped her off at 8:30 with a 12:30 pick-up time. That first day, things seemed okay. She wasn’t totally freaked out, so the next day we were up and ready to start this new adventure.

Of course, the problem with the public kindergarten is that they rotate teachers and the teacher we’d met the day before was only one and we hadn’t met the other. We met that second one on day two. And that was when trouble began. This woman, instead of being a relatively young, nice, friendly and understanding teacher (as the previous day’s had been) was an older woman who had been taught in the Soviet-style and just didn’t care a lick for her charges. We had gotten a phone call that we needed to pick Monki up early because she wouldn’t stop crying. In fact, when Rasa went to get her, all of the kids were crying. It was a nightmare. This was also picture day, and the kids were being rushed through the process, again with no thought or care to their feelings or how they were adapting.

Naturally, being new in a place with lots of kids, Monki came down with something and therefore couldn’t return for a while. When she felt better though, the thought of her going to school again caused all sorts of anxiety – in her and in us. We did try though, and it was very obvious it wasn’t going to happen. There was just no way we could leave her at this school. So we put her on “academic leave,” meaning we could come back next September without reapplying. The hope was that another year would give her some maturity and allow her to deal with the situation.

We argued amongst ourselves, as well. The thought that she’d just get over it eventually was my way of approaching things, that being forced to stay away from mom and dad, especially when she really hadn’t ever done that (a few isolated incidents, sure, and all with people/relatives she knew) was going to be difficult regardless and she should just learn to deal with it now. Rasa’s take was why stress out the kid now, when we were home and could arrange our schedules to always keep an eye on her.

So for a while, we tried it her way. But then, as her Ph.D. work started to take more and more time and energy, she was finding herself working after Monki went to bed and was wearing herself out. Then, in February, a friend at work told me that another colleague, who had two kids, had found a private kindergarten she really liked. We looked into it and decided it might work for us as well.

There were certainly differences, even before showing up. The first was that there were 20 students maximum, lunch was brought in from nearby restaurants as opposed to being cooked, lunchroom style en mass, on the premises. And most importantly, the kids would all be of different ages, ranging from 18 months to 6 years. This was great for Monki. For some reason, she didn’t mesh with kids her age. Younger was fine, and older was even better. So Rasa went ad checked it out, decided it looked good, and signed the little one up to start March 1st.

Of course, just before March, our beautiful little silver car was involved in a slight fender bender when a 1956 Cadillac bumped into her as she was parked. The upshot of that was the car went to the shop to have the bumper replaced, which meant if we were to take Monki to school on the first, we’d have to take public transportation and with the Covid-19 virus rearing its ugly head (Rasa had been warning me about it since back in January) we decided it would be better to wait until we could take our own car. But by the time our own car returned, it made more sense to just wait until the following Monday.

So finally, on March 9, we all went to drop Monki off at her new school. She was excited about it until we actually got there at about 9, at which point she freaked out a bit. We were able to disengage her and hand her off to the teacher (who is not only consistent but absolutely concerned with making sure the transition is comfortable). We left here there, figuring to come back and pick her up in 90 minutes. We grabbed some breakfast and enjoyed a few “couple moments” before we got the text message – “come at 10.”

So we went back at ten and she was very happy to see us. There was an interesting conversation with the teacher, who explained to Monki “see, I told you I texted and they would come, and now, here they are.” She was developing trust. We left, and Monki promised to come back the next day.

On Tuesday, we dropped her off and there were more tears, even worse than before. But we handed her off to the teacher and quietly vanished. We had meetings we needed to get to but had arranged them to be close by, just in case. Within a few minutes, the dreaded text came – “all fine, come at 12:15.”

Turns out once we left, Monki calmed down almost immediately and then had decided that since she was one of the bigger kids, she needed to show the babies how things were done. She became a right little helper. When we picked her up she was happy to see us but also excited to come back.

Which of course was delayed a day since the 11th of March is a state holiday and no school. But then, today, we made it back in and immediately Monki was waiting for the teacher and as soon as she came out to greet us, Monki took her hand and, without even a by your leave, she was gone into the school and we were left alone in the anteroom to go about our business. She was fine. Our presence was no longer required. 

There were some issues when we picked her up, but that may have had more to do with lots of people around. No matter, she was good and enjoyed her day at school and we were all set to start this new adventure of her being gone in the mornings so we could get stuff done.

Then the government closed all the schools for the next two weeks, effective immediately.

This poor kid cannot catch a break. Just as she’s starting to get used to something, the rug gets pulled out from under her and she’ll be stuck at home, having to relearn and regain her comfort at the school when they reopen, hopefully by the beginning of April.

In the meantime, we’re back to our old schedule, with the added benefit of mommy and daddy home all the time since their work has been transferred to online learning for the time being as well.


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