First days suck and now it has become clear that both of my kids suck…nay…super-suck at first days. I had great hopes that Nug would be more macho, or at least the toddler version of stoic, whatever that is, but no. He too is a big ol’ mama’s boy dead set on giving his mother an ulcer to match the one caused by years and years of his brother’s first day antics.
Last week was Nugget’s first day in the Early Childhood program at the deaf school. We thought it would be good for him to spend time with kids like him, hone his ASL vocabulary and get accustomed to a school environment before we start full-time school in August. Ok, that’s a load of crap. That’s what I told the Turk but in reality, I just really wanted those four hours a week to meander around Target and maybe drink a latte that wasn’t filled with toddler saliva. My needs are simple but I’m a desperate mother.
Leading up to his first day I pumped it up. We talked all about school and bought an Elmo backpack that counts when you punch Elmo in the nose. (Yeah, you’re probably not supposed to punch Elmo but you know how he gets.) We gathered his requisite supplies and even got a lunch box. It was all very exciting as he was well on his way to big boy status.
On D-Day we put Number One on the bus and drove downtown to the deaf school. Nugget was atwitter, signing along with his jams, dancing in his car seat and laughing at his own wit. Like a fool, I thought, finally, something with this kid is going to be easy. He’s going to be one of those rare unicorn babies that walk into their classroom, wave goodbye and poof, parenting success.
Of course, leading up to this I’d had a massive meltdown and had to be texted off the ledge the night before. (Yes, texted off the ledge is a thing. It’s the modern remake of talked off the ledge. Get with the times.) I was sure my baby was going to be sold to a child labor syndicate or tied to a snowdrift for timeout, (Yes, I realize that is not possible but you can’t reason with anxiety. I read that in a self-help book once.) or worse, what if he couldn’t communicate his needs? I mean in our world I’m the only one who….then it hit me… this is the only place where someone else would be able to communicate with him. The entire school functions only in ASL, his first language, so of course they’d understand him. Once I got past that and the whole leaving my baby out in the wild thing, I was cool with it. Nugget being so excited only made it easier.
We walked in the big doors, greeted the school secretary who patiently waited through my remedial signing as I explained who we were and where we were heading. (Seriously, I feel like I signed for 10 minutes straight and when I was all done and proud of myself, he simply signed, Ok. Very anticlimactic.) Down the winding hall we went with a bounce in both our steps. This was going to be awesome. First days rock with this kid. Good work magical unicorn baby.
But then he saw the door. Nugget froze. He stiffened his body and I had to push him in on his little heels. It was the toddler version of that scene in Silence of the Lambs when they wheel Hannibal in on a handcart. He took one look around and immediately lay down on the ground. There I stood with a little fat kid, bundled in a huge winter coat and Elmer Fudd hat lying stiff as a board at my feet staring at the ceiling. What is this? Where in the hell did magical unicorn baby go?
I nervously smiled while trying to understand everything his teachers were signing to me. The teachers gathered around and began signing to him, reassuring him and introducing themselves. How did my magical unicorn baby respond? He closed his eyes and squeezed them shut because when someone is signing and you don’t want to listen you just don’t look at them, obviously. Genius move unicorn baby.
After a few minutes of working through my bag of tricks and standard Irish-Catholic mother threats, his teacher and I decided it best if I just made a clean break…only there was nothing clean about it. I heard his screams all the way back to the front office. Fortunately, it’s a deaf school and thus, I was probably one of the few that heard him at full volume.
I spent the next three hours in the parking lot counting down until pick-up. Though upon my arrival he lovingly embraced me like I’d just crawled out of a watery grave, he was still pissed. As we walked out of the building at least five teachers totally unrelated to his class signed to me how sad he’d been all morning. (Guilt is even more powerful when it comes in a second language.)
Thankfully, his teacher is amazing. She’s like a beautiful, deaf Judy Collins who gracefully signs songs and very exciting stories. She told me his communication was stellar and that he’d let her know why he was pissed and what he did and did not want…repeatedly. I guess that’s a win huh?
Week two is going about as well as week one but we’ll keep trying. He’s already picked up new signs and is beginning to learn his ABC’s in ASL, something his father has yet to master. It seems school, as with all things Nugget, will be a struggle but in time we’ll get there. Tomorrow morning, I’ll wheel Hannibal in and we’ll try again.