Friday, July 2, 2010

Laying the Groundwork

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “No way. I finally got my kids out of school, and she’s already talking about the first day back.” Yes, you’re right. Feel free to tuck this one away until August. Or, you might think about it another way.

Mouse’s First Day of School by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Buket Erdogan, is really a story about Mouse hiding in a backpack and going to school accidentally. In the process, Mouse takes the mystery (and therefore the anxiety) out of that very first day. And if you begin reading this little Mouse adventure in, say, very late July or early August, by the time school comes around, this will all be old hat. Your preschooler or kindergartner will be far less intimidated than he or she might have been.

Recently, I got to witness the value of arming a toddler with information as my brother and sister-in-law prepared my two-year-old niece, Maggie, to undergo open heart surgery. She was born with a hole in her heart, just like her mother. For weeks, Suzie (her mother) talked to Maggie in simple terms about what the procedure would involve. They would give her something to help her sleep through the operation, the doctors would sew up the hole in her heart, and afterwards, she would wake up to see Mommy and Daddy there, and she would have a scar on her chest, just like Mommy’s. (I might be leaving out a step or two, but you get the idea.) Every once in a while, Maggie would check in with her mother to ask a question or to make sure that she understood how it would go. “We have matching scars, Mommy?” she would ask. By the time Maggie got in the car to head out for her surgery, she knew the steps by heart. The hardest thing for her was leaving her big brother, seven-year-old Tiger, behind.

If you’ve been with me for awhile, you know that I’m a big believer that children can understand a great deal, and that whatever they can’t take in, they will simply ignore. So even if it seems like your toddler is not taking in Mouse’s first exposure to a classroom setting, you may be surprised on that maiden trip when he or she walks into that preschool or kindergarten room and says, “Look! There are blocks, just like Mouse’s!”


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