Friday, May 24, 2013

Take Your Daddy to School Day

Monday I volunteered in my daughter's kindergarten classroom. My work provides us two volunteer days annually to "give back" to the community, and while the company doesn't specify exactly how they should be used, it seems one of those days should be used to do something constructive -- literally, like building a house for paralyzed orphans with the corporate logo emblazoned on the siding-- but, according to my interpretation, the other day can be used for something else altogether.

I chose the something else altogether.

Plenty of corporate ninnies such as myself have done the volunteer-in-the-classroom thing before, and after two hours, are backpedaling out the door, flattering themselves and humblebragging all the way..."I'm used to giving daily speeches in front of high-powered Fortune 500 investment consortiums in fluent Mandarin, but these kids wiped me out! Especially the one who needed his shoes tied! I have such an appreciation for what you teachers do and..." and before he can finish his thought, he's back to closing another deal or haggling over a corner office with the view of the mountainside.

I did not do this to gain an appreciation of the teaching profession and what teachers go through on a daily basis-- I'm already keenly aware of that, being the son of four parents who taught everything from kindergarten to college, and then marrying another teacher myself. I know what they go through. The $250 pre-Adjusted Gross Income tax deduction for out-of-pocket classroom expenses is a joke. (Teachers spend way more than that.) The eight weeks they get off in the middle of the summer should be sixteen and should come with an all-inclusive week-long getaway to Any Place That Doesn't Have Kids.

No, I did this for my daughter. It gets harder to spend time with just one kid as your family grows, and until she develops a genuine interest in sitting down with her old man and watching an entire hockey game on tape delay, it won't get easier. (I'm still waiting.) We could have just gone and got ice cream while her two clueless younger brothers played tug-of-war with the Slinky, but I thought maybe this would mean a little more. I also banked on her not being old enough to make the gag reflex when she heard of my plan.

"I can't wait until Monday!" she squealed when I told her on Friday. This will be the last time she looks forward to a Monday on a Friday for the rest of her life, so already it's a little special.

Having not been in a real, live kindergarten classroom since I was young enough to consistently pee my pants without serious repercussion, I wasn't totally sure what to expect. My wife, who teaches in the same building, gave me three simple pieces of advice to get me through:

1. Be yourself.
2. Don't follow the teacher around like a puppy dog.
3. If you break the copy machine, we will kill you.

Copy machine? Nobody told me there would be a copy machine. I was seriously worried about making copies, not because I thought I was above it, but because my own history with the machine at work was not stellar. I feared a stack of papers shaped like church fans or a call into the repairman. Probably both. I don't know how to "collate" anything. This may be a bad idea.

Luckily, there was very little copying to be done that day, and they have a really nice, user-friendly machine that doesn't ask you 13 detailed questions before it lets you make a copy. I actually would have killed myself if I had done it any harm.

I met all of my daughter's classmates throughout the day. We chit-chatted while they completed their work assignments. They called me Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Criswell and Mrs. Daddy (gender confusion is hilarious even at the kindergarten level.) In our spare time we played Restaurant, where I could order anything I wanted, and it was pretend-handed to me by an eager and plentiful wait staff. We danced. Actually we didn't dance, we stood and acted as a de facto twirling post for the girls in the class, so they could hold our hand up high and twirl beneath it. When kindergarten girls have an excuse to twirl, they don't pass up the opportunity to twirl. We could have twirled some more.

We goofed around at lunch, watching her best friend try to eat cherries and spit out the pits without it looking like this. (She failed.) We stood quietly in line as we exited the cafeteria because nobody leaves the cafeteria until every single person is quiet. [We very suddenly had horrible flashbacks to 4th grade, when our homeroom teacher drained every last bit of recess from our hyperactive bodies by applying that same Draconian "nobody gets recess until are silent" law to 200 third- and fourth-graders. We couldn't stand that woman.]

In the afternoon, we listened helplessly as one boy burped 27 times in our faces because he could, and he thought we'd enjoy his little gift to us. We were powerless to send him to the principal's office, so we waited him out and humored him. He had more staying power and air than we anticipated. We read books, we did math, we went to music class. School might have changed some in the last 30 years, but other than the paddle no longer hanging on the wall, it hasn't changed too much.

My daughter thoroughly enjoyed having her dad there. She would often come sit on my lap, something she rarely does at home any more. She was showing me off, which was fun, because I often do the same to her in public. This day was her turn. 

But she wasn't the only one to show affection. One boy and one girl also put their arms around me. The girl informed me that I smell like her dad. I asked if that was a good thing or a bad thing. She made an X out of her index fingers. I have no idea what that meant.

When the school day was over, we prepared to leave, and my wife caught us and said, "Oh good, you can pick up the other two from Day Care." What? The day is over, no? No, it's just begun. And there is the level of appreciation...dealing with two dozen six-year-olds is one thing. But when there's was a part of you that wants to get in the car and drive in a straight line for about 2 hours, you've got to summon up some more energy. Energy for the 1-year-old and the 3-year-old who haven't seen you all day and who expect you to provide unlimited chocolate milk and officiate their arguments about who gets to stand closer to your legs. This is why you get the call at 7:30 at night asking how much longer it will be until you get home.

But this day was about the girl, and the obvious follow-up question persisted, "Are you going to come to my class again soon, Daddy?" which received the answer, "How about when you're in 1st grade?"

Maybe this will become a tradition that lasts until she's old enough to gag at the thought.

No comments:

Post a Comment