May 12, 2011
I have a dark, deep seeded confession. There’s little to no explanation about this point from either of my parents, which I now consider a phenomenon. I have plenty of theories of course, but none evade the fact: I never went to preschool.
This isn’t quite the same as saying “I skipped a grade” – though it would be nice if it did have that kind of connotation. Instead it conjures the same cocked head and furrowed brow from anyone I confess to, much like the reaction I get from my poodle after asking him a question; “Wanna go for a walk”, “do you want your dinner”, “did you poop in the bathtub?”. All of these lead to a huge “huh?”, “come again!”, “did I what now?”- expression. Confused, dumbfounded, and something slightly awkward in this response makes me feel like I should simply deal with this issue on my own, and never, ever speak of it again.
Preschool seems like a staple in every other kids life — including all four of my siblings. Why my mom and dad felt it was important for them to learn to play and nap in public and not me, remains a question to this day. Friends of mine still speak of their preschool times fondly — referring to a “Miss Katie” here and a “Miss Susan” there, with warm memories of circle time, block building, the cute little milk they got for snack, or learning to their ABC’s in a real garden — “c” is for cucumber.
When I matured and gained the wherewithal to question this tripped up beginning to my education, my mom would respond by saying, “You had your sister, and you were with her a lot”. My sister is 14 years my senior. She’s what I like to call “the missing link”. She manages to fill in all of the holes between my own childhood and my parents inability to remember why they made the choices they made. I’m the youngest of five and she falls second in line.
We call her Seb, but her name is Stephanie. Of course everyone always thought her name was Sabrina or Sebastian but it’s more like the Peggy/Margaret phenomenon. I’m not sure the first Margaret who was called Peggy had a handicap sister who couldn’t pronounce her name correctly so she came up with her own version of Margaret and Peggy seemed close enough, but such is the case with Seb/Stephanie. My even older sister, Ter, is 16 years older than me. As a kid, Ter ‘s slurred speech didn’t allow her to annunciate “t” — or “phanie” for that matter– so Seb was born. A practical solution, but somewhere, someone forgot to explain to the next three kids that Seb had a different name entirely. I think I was 10 before I realized this “Stephanie” I would hear about on occasion wasn’t a distant cousin. I’m not sure what the origin of “Ter” is – the name, not the person – but I’m pretty sure having a handicap person in the family and calling them Ter is like having a little person in the family and calling them Midge. Slightly inappropriate, a little embarrassing, and yet completely understandable.
Seb was in college by the time I was readying myself for preschool. I guess it was some sort of fate in my parents’ eyes that she was in pursuit of becoming an early education teacher. My parents are very Catholic and very big on signs and omens. I’m almost certain it was my dad who thought, “why not give her a student to “practice” on? And we’ll save a little money at the same time.” ,I was essentially an internship. This well laid plan only got better when they failed to factor in that my teacher – a full time student with a fulltime boyfriend – may not want the job at the age of 19. If memory serves, the time we spent together was at Thrifty’s shopping for make-up, and not exactly practicing block building, arts and crafts, or whatever else goes on in this unknown world of preschool.
My sister is still a preschool teacher- and an amazing one at that. In full disclosure, to my knowledge she’s never taken her students to shop for Lee Press-On nails or the latest issue of People. I do find that when visiting her at her various classrooms over the years though, that I still feel like a misfit – and fit into the chairs a little less each time.
I’m readying my own daughter for preschool now. She’s only 18 months but I’ve recently become aware of the waiting list drama and suddenly feel the pressure to get her into the vey best preschool available. Am I making up for not attending myself? Absolutely. And even though no one will ever ask her how well she played and got along with others at the age of 3, I feel confident that I’m already establishing a more positive direction for her life. She will not learn the ABCs solely from Sesame Street while her mother is cleaning the bathroom. She will not walk into Kindergarten shell-shocked at the free-play with kids her own age. And she will not end up with a nick-name that no one quite understands. Besides, she already has one. Meet Ollie (Olivia).