Sunday, April 11, 2010

patent leather and merry grunge

It's pick-up time at the OK Corral, and I am the lone mama, stalked by children with a variety of agendas. One needs hugging, another needs admiring, a third needs a mama-substitute, the fourth wants to be sure that I'm up to some good/tie a shoelace/ be awestruck by a bit of stick-and-fluff, and my quarry - well. Er.

He's zoom! over there zoom! somewhere - no, wait - zoom! he's over, well. It's an enclosed area, and we're bound to find him eventually.

Aside from the adorableness of the kids wanting hugs, and the poignancy of the ritual mama-substitute, I hate picking up the Toddles. Love having him with me, hate the pick-up itself - and the teachers noticed. Politely suggested that perhaps I could use some help? The kid looks so tired...

(sprawled on the floor, binky in his mouth, the Toddles was humming quietly to himself as his eyes closed)
(blurring in our sight, the Toddles charged up and down the hall, vibrating with glee and absolutely not even a tiny wee bit with full bladder)
(swaying gently, the Toddles stood still, unable to remember how to put his coat on)
(pause. maternal nudge. pause. maternal encouragement. pause. maternal snap. pause. maternal implosion. The Toddles blinked with surprise, looking up.)

Does he really still take a nap? What time does he go to bed - oh, really? Hunh. Was there somewhere that I could take a nap, perhaps before coming to get the kiddo? No? Maybe, then, ah - hm. They huddled, I tried not to look like I was hiding behind my own jacket, nope, not humiliated here, nooooo. Cripes.

Days later, the Toddles proudly showed me a tiny clipboard, with a checklist that he'd made with his teacher.
  • 12 o'clock: Mummy-mom comes
  • hug Mom
  • go to the bathroom
  • put on bag and coat
  • go out the door
  • go to the car
The last one proves, you know, that the teachers had watched the Toddles make it (glacier-like) to the door, and then sprint with astonishing agility and momentum for anything other than the car. Sigh. The Toddles was super-proud of having made it, drawn some of the pictures, and loved filling it out all of oh, twice. And then didn't want to touch it again.

(Hey, square one, how've you been?)

I do hate pick-up. Except, perhaps, this past week.

I arrived at the playground, where the Toddles was zooming round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round on a tricycle, waving a sparkly silver wand in the air. Expelliarmus! he shrieked, and tried to ram his tricycle into someone's plastic pedal-car. From the looks of his clothes, he'd tried this before, and overturned once or thrice in the process.

A pair of perfect patent leather shoes stepped forward, attached to a young lady of extreme style. She put her hands on her hips, and looked at me sternly. WE don't want to play the games that HE is playing. Behind her, another little girl looked sheepish but determined. Patent Leather considered tossing her head, tried it, pulled it off - and the Toddles, grungy, giddy with speed and the wattage of his grin, zoomed past.

I'm going to drop an atom bomb on you and make you dead! he shrieked. His pants were beige with dust, sand was leaking out of his pockets. The pale pink socks with hearts-and-flowers (Mum, MumMumMumMum - look! aren't they beautiful?) were now pinkish-greyish. I waved, he brandished the wand, and took the corner with style. I looked at him. Looked at Miss Patent Leather. Grinned.

No, I guess you don't, I said. But I do.

Now, I'd be a tidy story-builder if I let the post rest there, but the truth is stragglier than my sense of narrative aesthetics prefers. The next day, the Toddles went over to Miss Patent Leather, and tried to tell her his best jokes. And alas,

that's not funny, she told him. He tried again.

that's STILL not funny, she said. And moth to a shiny-shoed flame, you can guess what happened next. The teachers and I, watching the new kid fumble his way through the social minefield, stood back. Let him fumble, then pause, bewildered. Periodically, he'd be quietly steered him to a safe harbor. But all too soon,

oh. says Miss P.L. What do YOU want?

Which makes me suspect the following: first, that youth is not wasted on the young. It's clearly the time when you get to be too young to remember all of your humiliations. And that learning definitely comes with social mud in yer eye. Second, that the laid-back caring person watching this, might possibly be quietly chewing through their lip, albeit in the most mellow way possible. Because I don't care how normal this may be, it sucks uber-allergenic smelly eggs. And third, that in a world where the balance is tipped towards aaaaargh at 12 noon, when only one kid goes home and that kid is the least equipped to do so gracefully (and matched with a mama of his ilk), it's nice for that mama to be the hero once in a while.

Because oh, yes, I'll play with him - he's a wicked fun little guy.

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