The Boy watched the clock like it was going to throw candy.
He’d been waiting for this day for weeks – which is about as long as the Triassic Period to a three-and-a-half year old. It was his first day of preschool.
“It’s not time,” his mother told him after he’d asked … again. She pulled a clock from a shelf and pointed at the hands. “When this is on the five it will be time for school.”
And he waited.
When the hand hit the five, he opened the door and said, “Bye. See you later. I’m ready.”
Then he and his mother were off to school. I looked at his little sister who was eating something off the floor and realized we’ll have to go through this whole thing again in two years.
Were we ready for our baby to go to school? We thought so. But no matter how much parents mentally prepare themselves for their child to go to school, which roughly translated from Parentese means “a place without me,” we’re never really ready.
Sure, we may seem confident, but something happens to parents when they let go of their child’s hand as he walks into the classroom.
Suddenly parents realize that instead of teaching their child important things the past three and a half years – like don’t talk to strangers and how to deliver a roundhouse kick to the face – they’ve been wasting time on silly things like counting and going to the bathroom.
How’s not peeing in your pants going to protect your child from terrorists?
My wife looked lost when she came home.
“He doesn’t know anybody there,” she said. “And what do we really know about the people who work at that school?”
It’s the nightmare of every parent of a first-time student that as soon as their child is at a distance greater than six inches from them something terrible will happen.
Parents are certain Germans, like the bad guys from “Die Hard,” are posing as elementary school faculty just waiting to teach preschoolers how to rob banks. Then maybe communists or gypsies – or worse, communist gypsies – will attack the school and steal all the really gifted children, which of course means yours.
“It’s OK,” I told her. “If there are any Lebanese Secret Service agents there trying to convince the children to invade Israel, I’m sure somebody will call us.”
For some reason that wasn’t reassuring.
Later that morning, I picked up the Boy from school. He looked happy and relatively innocent on the subject of international political conflicts.
“What did you do in school today?” I asked as we got into the car.
The Boy shrugged.
“I don’t know,” he said.
Yeah, I can expect about 13 more years of that.
Copyright 2008 by Jason Offutt
Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots,” is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or tsup.truman.edu. Visit Jason’s Web site, www.jasonoffutt.com, for his other books.