Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Not the Mommy

O attends a part-day, part-week preschool at a local church. He's there 3 days a week for 3-4 hours a day (depending on whether we chose for him to stay for lunch that day or not).

I love part-time preschool. It's just enough "school" at this age to make him feel like a big kid and give me a break (or a chance to go to the dentist!). He's learning to interact with his peers--to share toys and attention--and to function in a classroom setting. I don't really care if he's learning to read yet, so we deliberately picked one that's "play-based" not "strongly academic" as some are. The academics will come soon enough.

His particular program has turned out to be a blessing in other ways in that that church runs their school as the mission field that it really is. The teacher and director have bent over backwards to ensure that O feels loved and safe and "normal." I was assured that the required 30-day notice for withdrawal will be waived if necessary because they understand that I may not know 30 days in advance that he's leaving my home. I've been told they will also waive the "non-refundable" fees required to hold a spot for him for the fall. When I protested that I hated to think they would turn away another child while holding a spot for him if he didn't end up using it, the director calmly said that she believed God would "take care of that." Love them for their compassion, their servant's hearts, and their rationality.

They do a morning and afternoon car line at O's school. That is, the parents pull up to the doors, several teachers come out and get the kids in or out of 2-3 cars at a time. Now, carline is not required. You can park your car and walk your child into and out of the building if you so choose. But I've always loved a carline for both selfish and unselfish reasons.

The selfish reasons? I'm much more efficient with a carline. I drive up, drop off, drive off. Drive up, wait in the car for them to come out, drive off. No lingering to chit-chat with other moms. No coaxing a child into or out of the classroom. While that may not be the best way to build a relationship with the other parents in the class, it does mean I make the best use of that precious, child-free time. It also means I don't have to get in and out of the car in the rain or the cold. I've driven kids to preschool with my shoes in the seat beside me!

The unselfish reasons? I truly believe it's good for the kids. I think they develop a sense of independence when that teacher walks them in the door and then lets them lead the way to the right classroom. I think they develop ownership of the school--this is my school, my class, my teacher--and they learn how much they are capable of doing on their own. Kids, in general, rise and fall to the level of the expectations set for them. So when I let a child climb out of my car and walk to his class on his own, I'm sending him a message. I'm telling him that I believe he's big enough to go to the right place and to know what to do. And he does. That builds confidence that will serve him well when he hits kindergarten and beyond.

With O, though, I've discovered one flaw in my beloved carline and I'm struggling with how to address it with the wonderful, delightful, caring staff of his school. The teachers who get kids in and out of carline are a rotating bunch; I think they all take turns being "on duty", but even if O's teacher is out there, she may not be the one who gets him out of the car. Those other teachers don't necessarily know that O is a foster child. And they shouldn't! It is, therefore, in total innocence that they say to him, as they close my car door, "Say bye to Mommy!" Or walk him to my car in the afternoon with a cheery, "here's Mommy to pick you up!"


I need to mention this to the director. I'm sure I'm not the only non-biological parent dropping off and picking up a child, but I may be a relatively rare case where that's not obvious to the teacher. Still struggling with how to say it constructively.

I've noticed that when the other teachers get O in and out of the car at carline, they frequently refer to me as "mommy" when speaking to him. I know there's no reason for them to think I'm not, but it's kind of confusing for him, especially since he has a relationship with his Mommy. I wonder if a future training could focus on asking the teachers to get in the habit of using a more neutral good-bye or hello statement, since I imagine there may be other cases where that's not the most appropriate word for the driver of the car. Just using"say bye!" instead of "say bye to Mommy!"? Or in the afternoon, leave it at, "Look who's here to get you!" rather than "Here's Mommy!"?

Ugh. It sounds so nit-picky when I write it out. And yet, I don't want to stop doing carline with him for both the selfish and non-selfish reasons I already listed!

1 comment:

  1. I run into this ALL the time. At the doctor. At the dentist. At the grocery store.

    The only reason people hesitate in our case though and don't spew the "mommy" word immediately is because we are a mixed race family. Even so, everyone calls me mommy if they don't know better.

    I find myself speaking in 3rd person a lot of the time. I try to identify myself as "Mamma L***" to those around me right away. For example I'll say something like, "Mamma L*** will see you when school is over. I love you."

    This foster care game is an interesting one. I don't want to run around announcing to everyone that my kids are in Care. But I do need those around them to be sensitive to their special needs and relationships. Because I want to show others what a positive thing foster care can be, I will tell professionals and care givers discreetly that the kids are in care. That way they can have a better understanding and can respond appropriately.