Charting the Course

In March Miss Red started preschool at a fantastic place. Really, we are very, very happy. We had a rough week of transition, but she’s now well-entrenched in her preschool life, telling us great stories at the end of each day.

We were beyond fortunate that for two years she attended the most amazing in-home daycare. The woman who ran it had a background in early childhood education and loved the children, deeply and truly. Each day held adventures for them, and they would walk to a nature sanctuary, spend an entire day outside or make the most memorable crafts. I cried when Miss Red left.

One of the hardest transitions for me to preschool is that we don’t have documentation of her daily schedule. Her childcare provider sent us home with a sheet each day, detailing what she ate and when, diaper activity, and whatever else they did. We would read them over dinner and if CH left them in the car, I made him get them so I could review them. It was something that we studied carefully when she was a baby and measured her food in ounces, then cubes of food we made, but then just read to stay abreast of what her day was like.

Now, when I drop Miss Red off, and when she is picked up, there are different teachers at either end. So CH and I never talk to the same person, and alas, there is no note. We’re working on potty training, and it was nearly a week before we learned that Miss Red had been sitting on the potty at preschool. As chatty as she is, she does not share this information.

I like information, and as much as I speak to her teacher in the morning, I don’t want to be overbearing, so I don’t ask for a note. But I really miss them. In fact, I saved the one from daycare when she first went to the potty. There is a big smiley face and underlines and exclamation points on it. It’s on the refrigerator.

I wonder if I’m thinking about it too much. It makes me think of Mary Kelly, an artist who is best remembered for saving one month’s of diapers in an installation about the female/motherhood experience. Her project is difficult to explain, so here’s what her gallery says:

MARY KELLY’S “Post-Partum Document” (1973-79) upset a lot of people when the first of its several sections were shown at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 1976. In the manner of a pseudo-scientific study, it inspects the relationship between a mother (the artist) and her newborn son during his first years of life. The subject is common enough in the last thousand years of Western art, thanks to the Madonna and Child. (Kelly went to Catholic colleges before she chose art school.) But the connection between them had never been considered quite like this.

Part 1 of the multipart work — “Analyzed Fecal Stains and Feeding Charts” — is probably its most infamous segment, as the subtitle might suggest. Think Dr. Spock crossed with Dr. Freud. Flanked by graphs and tables, the work comprises 28 framed paper diapers chronicling the month of February 1974. A list of what Kelly’s baby consumed each day — 2 teaspoons cereal, 1 teaspoon carrots, 1 ounce water, etc. — is carefully typed on each diaper. The list is a caption just beneath a ghostly brown or yellow stain.

Mary Oliver's "Post-Partum Document" (1973-79)

Yeah, not exactly Monet, but says something about a need to chart, graph, make sense and plod and plot along. I only have the one note saved. I have even failed at keeping a baby book for Miss Red, but the daily record of her rhythms is no longer recorded.

I remember soon after I had Miss Red and was so upset about her not breastfeeding, my mom shared a story with me about a women she had encountered in her work who suffered from such extreme post-partum depression that she saved every single diaper. She was young, single, didn’t speak English and felt trapped in her apartment with a new baby, unsure of how to manage. I cried when I heard the story, my heart breaking and stitching together for this woman, knowing how close some of us can come to coming undone, and thankful it wasn’t me.

– MD

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7 thoughts on “Charting the Course

  1. I felt the same way when Jonathan moved 2 months ago from his in home provider to a center. I felt many of the same frustrations during the potty training too, and thought it was strange to not know what/when he went, etc. Now I am used to it and if I don’t see dirty clothes at the end of the day I know he went all day. I also get frustrated with the rotation of teachers (where different ones are there in the AM vs PM pickup). I get WHY it has to happen that way, but it’s not the best way to communicate about our kids unfortunately. I look at it as training for me for when he goes away to school and won’t have these types of things anyways, and it makes me feel so fortunate that we did have those types of things when he was younger. =)

    • Thanks, Melissa. I was thinking the same – that it’s all in preparation for school and later years when I’ll be lucky if she even talks to me!

      – MD

  2. Lori had the same problem – we were blessed with the BEST kindergarten teacher and a pretty decent preschool teacher. This year brought a teacher unlike the first two and Lori was ready to declare war. I was a bit upset, but I understood the necessity for change. School isn’t about ice ream and hugs (or insert any hookie comparison). The older your kid gets, the less school is about emotion and more about work (IMHO). I will say that you have to engage your kid’s teacher. I didn’t care if I was a pain, Alexander is my legacy. I regularly email and text his teachers and the principal knows Lori and I because we volunteer as much as possible.

    Alexander made tremendous strides this year, thanks to this new teaching method. While I miss the “hotdogs and sodas” of kindergarten, I look forward to working with Alexander’s future educators. Teachers are the educational foundation, but parents are the house built on that foundation. The reinforcement of lessons learned and countless hours of reading (and listening) are my evidence of a team effort.

    • Jason,

      Thanks for these comments. I already knew you were smart, since we’re related and all, and you raise excellent points. I am personally terrified for actual school; not because of the teacher or school, which I know will be great, but because of the scary dynamics of school and how mean kids can be to one another. But I have a few years to deal with that, and as you point out, it is based on my emotions.

      – MD

    • Jason,

      You got me thinking about this, and today I emailed her lead teacher and asked for notes about her potty training. She responded right away with an “absolutely!” and will even give us a notebook we can pass back and forth. Duh! Why hadn’t I thought of that? Thanks for the inspiration.

      – MD

  3. Ahhh! I am just full of mixed EMOTIONS today about this whole preschool thing. I feel like I want to protect him from all the “bad stuff” out there, but obviously and I can’t and that wouldn’t be good for him anyway. It hurts me more when my kids are hurting than when I am upset about something myself. Does that make sense? The drop-off was awful, the actual day was pretty good, but on the way home Isaac told me he was sad and angry because he couldn’t go to Dinkazoo anymore. STAB right in my heart! It is good to hear that school becomes more about learning etc. Right now it is all I can do not to say, “Okay, Isaac you can stay at Dinkazoo and home and never have to go through any kind of transition or hardship” I guess I know where Isaac gets his sensitive nature from…

    • Nikki,

      I feel the same way, and at the same time, know that it’s part of learning about the world. But many of us know the world can be bad, but in day-to-day don’t experience a bad world, if we’re lucky. And while school IS more about learning, I think it’s equally about socializing and learning how to operate in the world. We were just so lucky to have someone create that little world of adventure and care that the ‘Zoo gave us. Good luck to you and Isaac – what a big change!

      – MD

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