how to make a good first impression (the montessori mortification)

Yesterday was Kembe’s first day at his new preschool. The Montessori thing is a bit new to all of us, and I will admit to being a wee bit intimidated by the whole thing.  The school takes everything really seriously, from the strict packed lunch rules to the highly-specific uniforms to the class structure.  Also . . . .  there is not a single toy in the room made of plastic, or a recognizable Pixar character, or with any kind of battery-operated noise.  The room sort of resembles how I imagined my home would look with children, before I actually had some of them.  So while I love Montessori in theory, I’m curious to see how my kids respond.



I was glad to see Kembe show an interest in the Montessori-issue tongs and cubes as he walked into the room, instead of embarrassing me by asking where the Spiderman toys were . . . or saying something else that would reveal how totally mainstream and non-organic his mother is.  But I had to laugh when the teacher immediately redirected him, explaining that he needed to roll out a mat and play a puzzle until class began.  Then she pulled me aside and asked if he had any Montessori experience.  When I said no, she nodded with a look of pity (and maybe condescension?) and told me she would work with him a bit on understanding the rules, since the way he walked into the classroom and started playing was not appropriate.

Okay.





I tried not to laugh, or to say something sarcastic, but I was interrupted by my older son Jafta, who accompanied me into the classroom to wish Kembe well and was suddenly doing an insane potty dance.  My natural reaction to Jafta’s desperation was to break out into a mocking Seth Meyers routine.  “Really, Jafta?  REALLY?  You’re six years old, about to start first grade, and you give me a five-second window for a potty emergency?  I mean, really?”

Surprisingly, this did not remedy the situation, so I had to ask Kembe’s teacher if he could use the classroom’s toilet – a toilet that is practically in the center of the room, obscured only by a pair of swinging doors that look like they belong on a saloon in a movie about The Old West.

So Jafta goes in, and after a couple minutes I realize he is having some kind of irritable bowel issues this morning, probably related to nerves about the first day of school.  (We’ve all been there, am I right?)  There is a serious evacuation going on in that room, which is apparent to all of us based on both the sounds of effort and the smell.  I think I might die of embarrassments, but I’m also struggling not to laugh because Jafta has effectually bombed the classroom on his brother’s first day of school.  “Have a great day at school, Kembe!  Here’s a little something to remember me by!”



When I got back to the car, I related the whole story to Mark and we were crying laughing the whole way to Jafta’s school.  He really knows how to leave his mark.

When I picked Kembe up from school, he seemed happy enough, but the teacher again pulled me aside to ask about his previous school experience since he’s a bit behind.  I tried to explain that we hadn’t really emphasized the academics over the last school year, since we were a bit more focused on things like, oh, I don’t know . . .  learning English? Overcoming three years of life in a Haitian orphanage?  Acculturating to a new family and country?  She reassured me she’d work with him privately to help him, and that she would continue to help him understand the Montessori environment, and then she brought up the dreaded playing with the tongs incident again, with the same hushed tone that one might say, “You know, when your son walked into the class and showed his penis to everyone”.

So his class might be a teensy bit on the anal side.  Although, it’s possible that he might thrive in that environment.  He really, really likes structure and is a huge fan of rules and routines, albeit more so when he’s the one getting to enforce the rules and routines on others.  It might be good for him.  Or it might condition him for a long and painful future of hating school.  I GUESS WE’LL SEE!





After school, I took the kids to frozen yogurt.  There is a sushi place right next to the yogurt shop and Jafta asked if he could have sushi instead.  He is my foodie child.  So I let him order some sushi next door (where they know his name and his usual order) and he had some tuna rolls while the rest of us had A NORMAL TREAT.  Until Jafta took too big of a bite covered in wasabi, which made him sneeze, which in turn caused him to spray ALL FOUR OF US with rice and sushi remnants.  I kid you not, we were all covered in partially chewed bits of rice.  Once again, I am laughing until I cry because it’s really the only option.



One thing I can say for sure: Jafta gave us all a first day of school that we won’t soon forget.

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