A couple of months ago, I came clean about the fact that The Boy has never been outside the presence of at least one parent in all of his 3 1/2
years. Well, the times, they are a-changing. We're just as overprotective and hovering as we ever were, but The Boy's need for socialization continues to grow. "You know, I have a lot of friends," he'll say, sitting on the living-room sofa by himself. It chokes me up a little every time. It's not that he doesn't have any friends, he just doesn't have many friends, and those friends have long since started preschool.
I tried looking online for some stay-at-home-dad groups that my husband could check into. Predictably, there aren't many, and those I did find seemed more geared toward giving dads the social interaction they were craving, not so much the kids.
Some days my husband takes The Boy to Chick-Fil-A at lunchtime, because there's always a crowd in the play area. It's like a pick-up playgroup, and they have milkshakes. It's a good time. A couple of weeks ago, there was a particularly lively bunch of kids on the slide.
"I had to drag him out of there when it was time to go," my husband reported. "He was screaming over my shoulder, ‘Bye, guys! See you tomorrow at Chick-Fil-A!' "
We started talking about preschool that night. We already knew the one; it's attached to the school we've always had in the back of our minds as our alternative-to-homeschooling possibility. I sent them an e-mail, asked them some questions. They responded quickly and warmly. My palms started to sweat.
The next day, we went out for pizza with The Boy's best friend and his parents. He started preschool a couple of months ago himself.
"I can spell my name," bragged the friend, rattling off the letters like an old pro.
"I can spell my name, too," The Boy said, blithely munching a crust. "A-H-H-H-3-7-X-2."
That's not how his name is spelled. The three actually comes before the third H. I was proud of the friend, because he's our guy, but I also felt maybe just the tiniest bit competitive.
The next day, friendly preschool lady suggested we come for a visit. She sent us their new address; the old location wasn't too far from us, about four miles. The new location was even closer. My excuses were melting away.
It took us exactly five minutes to get there from our house. True to form, The Boy managed to fall into a deep sleep on the short drive and was a cranky beast when we walked in the door. I apologized to friendly preschool lady when he wouldn't say hello. She took it in stride.
We toured the halls and peeked into the classrooms. The children looked happy and well-supervised, and the school was clean and welcoming. We ran into an acquaintance from our old regular coffee shop; turns out she's the fourth-grade teacher there, and both of her kids are in the preschool — a glowing recommendation. OK, universe, we get it, thanks!
Back at home, we came up with a thousand reasons why we shouldn't send him. We would have to get up at the crack of 8 a.m., three days a week! His potty-training isn't completely foolproof yet! I worked myself into a self-loathing froth trying to analyze the look the lady had given me when I'd mentioned that he doesn't drink out of a cup very well unless he has a straw.
"I want you to go back there and tell that lady that he still sleeps in our bed," my husband taunted.
"I want you to carry him in there on the first day in the backpack," I retorted. My husband refuses to accept that The Boy is way too big for the toddler carrier he uses when they hike the James River. When he wears it, he looks like a soldier carrying a wounded comrade off the battlefield. Whenever I mention retiring it, he pretends not to hear me.
The application is still on my desk. I haven't filled it out, but I haven't thrown it away, either. I know that he's ready, and I know he'll do fine. It's the rest of us I'm not so sure about.