This week Max’s kindergarten class is being evaluated individually. His teacher requested that students take one toy to school to share while she works one-on-one with each student.
Max chose to bring Itty-Bitty to school yesterday.
Itty-Bitty is his younger brother, Jack’s, toy lamb.
While the boys played together in hushed whispers before their official seven o’clock wake-up time, negotiations granted a one day pass for Max to play with Itty-Bitty. My kids have a unique sharing system. At some point when they were two and three, they divvied up their shared stuffed animals using a logic that is incomprehensible to me. Some of their toys are now primarily-owned by one boy while others remain joint-custody. For the most part they are content with the complicated system they devised, so I don’t intervene unless there is a problem.
I thought you were going to take your T-Rex to school, I said. I knew exactly why Max wanted to take Itty-Bitty to school. He’s a hot commodity at home, but I wasn’t so sure he’d be as popular in kindergarten.
I was, he confirmed, but now I want to take Itty -itty.
OK, I said. Do you think your friends are going to want to play with it? I thought a lot of them brought dinosaurs yesterday.
I could just see his little lamb being slaughtered by carnivores all afternoon. I knew I was treading on shaky ground. I didn’t want to tell him his choice was wrong, but I also didn’t want him to be teased. His May birthday makes him the youngest in his class. The rest of his classmates are already six. In preschool last year a mom told me that her son referred to Max as a baby. He was the youngest there too.
Yeah, they’ll like it. I want to bring this.
I was going to drop it, but my husband widened his eyes with trepidation. I gave it one more shot.
That’s great, I agreed. Do you want to put your dinosaur in your backpack just in case you change your mind?
No, he was resolute. I want just this.
As far as I know everything was fine at school. The thing is, my kids don’t know anything about being cool. It’s a concept I’ve never introduced, and a word I’ve only used when they are hamming it up in sunglasses. I have friends who talk about being cool all the time with their kids. Be cool. (Don’t hit your brother.) That’s not cool. (Hitting your brother is wrong.) Don’t you want to be cool? (Please don’t want to hit your brother.) It just doesn’t even occur to me to teach my kids about being cool.
For obvious reasons.
I, myself, have never been cool. The only lesson I could teach them about being cool would be a lesson called, How to Make Yourself Feel Miserably Inadequate in Junior High by Comparing Yourself to People You Don’t Even Know. This is clearly not my department. I teach them passion instead, because that’s my specialty. My husband could teach them about being cool, like Spanish, it’s his first language.
But he refrains too.
You see, our kids are way too innocent to be cool. We followed the pediatric guidelines to not let our kids watch TV for the first few years of life, so they still get excited by Elmo. At four and five, that’s not common. It’s certainly not cool at their age, but it’s what they like. I am in no hurry to up the ante and add older themes to their world. In fact, the few times we watched movies, my kids tired out after 45 minutes and were terrified by any scene with bad guys. Those were all Disney G-rated flicks.
Our bedtime stories lately have been a chapter from a Magic Tree House book, a chapter from a nonfiction book about Ancient Egypt, and a Winnie the Pooh story. They love Pooh and Tigger just as much as two year olds, probably because they didn’t have Pooh when they were two. Who am I to take that away? They have superhero toys, but they often sit neglected in the toy bin while stuffed animals and trucks get all the action.
Their innocence is so sweet, it breaks my heart. SLOW DOWN, WORLD! I want to shout as I do my best to slow down their childhood. They will be big forever, but little for only a flash. Their innocence is something I fiercely protect, but now that they are at school, their world has widened beyond my grasp. Lessons of cool will be taught on the playground.
But in my arms, my children are always welcome to be my itty-bitty babies.
I guess my heart just doesn’t run cool.