Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Benny Goes to School

It must be tough to be a toddler. Everyone’s huge, you don’t speak the language, and just when you got a good set of truck-crashing going, someone wants to change your pants.

So I can imagine Benny’s surprise on the first day of childcare. Usually he hops out of bed and runs to the baby gate across his bedroom door. I stumble over, change him, then cart him into the living room for 20 minutes of truck racing while I chug a Snapple and set out Cheerios.

Then I fall into a chair opposite Benny while he eats. “Do you know what time it is?” I moan, “Do you have any idea what time it is? It’s 6:30 a.m., that’s what time it is. Do you know how early that is? Do you have any idea how …” And so it goes.

But this charming domestic ritual was shattered Thursday morning, when Benny was bundled into the car at 7 a.m. with a lunch box. “School!” I chirp as we drive out of town, “School!” We pull up to a brightly painted building and I unload labeled blanket, pillow, stuffed puppy, extra outfit, emergency generator, etc. Then I kiss Benny, wave goodbye and drive off.

Well. You really have to admire toddlers. I don’t know what I’d do if Ron woke me up and put me into a suit, then drove me to a building full of strangers and told me to write 20 inches on Detroit’s housing controversy. And then left. I’d probably wail.

Which is exactly what Benny did, but I’m told he recovered quickly. Until naptime, that is. He refused to lie down; instead he put on his hat and shoes and stood at the door, calling my name. He was ready to go.

The second day he did much better. He ate and napped, and when Ron and I picked him up at 5 p.m. he treated us like pushy guests at a cocktail party. (“Ah yes. Didn’t we meet at some hospital somewhere? Of course I remember you, and how’s Ed?”)

That day we also received a pamphlet called “Innovations: The Infant Curriculum” with tips about helping your toddler’s adjustment to school. I don’t want to seem unsympathetic, but some of these kids sound a little nuts. “In general,” the authors conclude, “most children are well on their way in about six weeks.”

Six weeks? If Benny has an adjustment problem now, what will he be doing in October? Wearing a fake mustache and trying to go home with other people?


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