Panic at the Preschool

A terrible thing happened last week. We took our four-year-old to visit a preschool.

At first, I expected it might be terrible because of the whole melancholy about the passing of time thing. You know, I figured I would be all like, “Oh no, my baby is growing up!” I mean, this was a reasonable expectation seeing as how I started imagining how the first day of school would go about three years ago. I always pictured my little boy, weighted down with his little backpack, letting go of my hand, taking a few hesitant steps, turning back to look and give one last wave, and walking bravely off into his new world. And then, just as I turn to leave, surreptitiously wiping a solitary tear from my eye, he runs back to me and hugs my leg one last time before heading off, very agreeably and without any crying or screaming, like a little trooper.

And so, while there was probably a little of this sadness mixed in, what I didn’t really anticipate is that visiting a preschool is horrible because it’s, well, a school. I’ve been away from schools, at least of the ones that contain little kids variety, for a substantial amount of time now. I had apparently reached the point that I had almost forgotten that they existed.

So, when we walked through the second door leading from the school foyer into the school proper it was like getting slapped across the face with a cold, wet fish. There they were. A whole line of them. Just standing there staring at me. Preschoolers. There were probably fifteen or so, but it seemed like the line snaked on for miles.

Their intense glares, penetrating eyes, unkempt hair, and mismatched outfits were enough to make me panic a little.

Ugh. I definitely had forgotten how much I hated school. I mean, I remembered that it wasn’t my favorite place, but looking back now, I’m pretty sure I really hated it. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just channeling a few bad experiences that I’ve held onto and amplifying them. Yeah, let’s just go with that.

However, one thing is clear. Stumbling upon a poorly-formed line of wild-eyed preschoolers when I’m not fully prepared is still one of my worst nightmares. I could feel those little scoundrels being all judgy and judging me like they do. What made it worse is I was clearly on their turf. It was like a home game for them. “What’s with this guy?” they were collectively thinking. “Who does he think he is stepping in here like that?”

I was more than ready to turn and run. To cut our losses. “Maybe we can try this again next year,” I planned to say. “There’s no need to rush it, really.” But, for the sake of my kid, I soldiered on. I hustled our little group past the swerving line of tiny humanity. I gave them wide berth, smiled awkwardly, avoided eye contact, and cast the occasional peripheral glimpse to make sure none of them were charging at me.

We survived the gauntlet and had the chance to peruse the, thankfully empty, classroom and playroom. In addition to the kids, the other thing that is just plain freaky about preschools is that everything is miniature. The tables, desks, chairs, toilets, everything. Well, mostly those things, but it seems like everything. It’s enough to make an adult feel like Godzilla stomping through Tokyo. Let’s just say, I definitely know how Willy the Giant on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse feels now.

Other than the miniature nature of everything, the classroom and playroom seemed nice. Probably because they were empty. I could see four-year-old me having some fun me time in there if all the other kids were banished for some reason.

We wrapped up our tour on the playground, which was also nice and empty. It seemed pretty solid as well. However, our tour guide made some passing reference to the fenced-in area beside the playground equipment being claimed by the big kids. That sounded a bit ominous and intimidating. I was quietly relieved that I wouldn’t have to deal with that situation.

As we were heading out––and not a moment too soon––we unfortunately had to pass through the miniature eating area. The wiggly line of preschoolers had migrated in there while we were completing our tour. And now, when we walked in, there they all were. Just sitting there eating peanut butter and graham crackers. And judging me, probably. You know what’s worse than a group of preschoolers? A group of preschoolers eating. I quickly averted my eyes so as not to witness the carnage. I didn’t want to see anything that couldn’t be later unseen. I already had collected enough mental scars from this catastrophe (and apparently, from a lot of other things).

We hustled out. Well, I did at least, the others in my group made it out too, I think. They were all with me in the car on the way home; I counted. So I’m pretty sure they made it.

What now remains is the actual enrollment in the school and attending for real. The good news is, I’m not the one that has to go. Ha!

So, good luck, dude. I hope you have a great time at preschool. I’m sure it will be fun. What could go wrong?