Picking up Ro-Ro from preschool is usually a delightful experience.
We have a regular routine and everything. First he comes bursting out of the school doors and runs full-speed at me, usually head-butting me in the gut and knocking me off of my feet slightly (he’s only a whopping thirty-eight pounds, so I figure I’ve got a couple more years before he’s able to actually knock me to the ground). And then, right in front of the school door and in the way of every other parent trying to collect their child from school, he has to show me each and every project that he made that day. Lord help me if I even dare to suggest that we go to the car first and then look at his artwork. That just won’t do. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, or snowing, or so windy that my hair is flying in my face and I can’t actually see his paper plate spaceship that’s been stapled together, painted, and then covered in shiny jewels and glitter (just like an actual spaceship, obviously). He has to show me everything. Right then. Right there.
And then, once I’ve oohed and ahhed over each of his art projects, he begins telling me every single detail of his morning, right down to the tiniest of tiny details. He doesn’t miss a crumb of what happened at school. His brothers never tell me anything, so I really do cherish this part of preschool pickup. He tells me every toy that he played with, what they ate at snack time (and what he refused to even touch, let alone actually eat), which stories his teachers read to the class, how many grains of sand he ‘accidentally’ poured out of the sand table, how many times he went to the potty and what shade of yellow his pee was (the kid doesn’t miss any details whatsoever), what kind of dances they tried at music time, and sometimes he even tells me what his teachers wore to school that day (the space-print leggings that were covered in moons and stars were a personal favorite of his…my clothes suddenly look so blah).
Basically, there’s a solid ten minutes of excitement and enthusiasm where I can’t get a word in edgewise and Ro-Ro’s literally tripping over his words because he can’t seem to get them out of his mouth fast enough. Then we make our way to our mama van, settle into our respective seats, and he suddenly goes silent. Before we’ve even pulled out of the parking lot, a low, rumbling snore begins to travel from his car seat up to the front of the van. All of that excitement really tuckers a guy out.
But then Thursday happened.
That afternoon, he came stomping out of the school door, grabbed my hand and started pulling me in the direction of our van. There was no kneeling down on the sidewalk to oogle over his artwork. No guessing game about what they may or may not have eaten at snack time. No singing Raffi songs in the middle of the parking lot. And he definitely didn’t want to hang around and chat about his day at school.
“Everything okay, Ro?” I asked him, as he forcefully pulled me by the hand away from his school.
“No,” he said, keeping his eyes on our van. “I want to get in my car seat.”
Uh-oh. He NEVER wants to get in his car seat. In fact, most of the time he’s enraged that he still has to sit in a full-sized car seat and rants that he just wants to sit on a booster seat like his big brothers. I tell him that when he finally starts eating all of the food on his plate at dinner time and breaks through the forty-pound mark, we’ll talk about upgrading. He usually just rolls his blue eyes in frustration. Moms are so annoying.
“So…” I asked as I strapped him into his car seat, “How was school today?”
He frowned at me and said in his deepest Gremlin voice “Preschool is so STRESSFUL.”
I stopped what I was doing and stared at him. Stressful? Really? He goes to school for two hours twice a week and spends the majority of the time either playing with toys or painting. If he thinks this is stressful, he’s going to have a complete breakdown when he starts kindergarten.
I had to bite my lip to stop myself from smiling or laughing. He was serious. Very serious. If I even cracked a grin, he would be devastated and never trust me again. I tipped my head to one side, furrowed my brow, and in my most concerned, caring voice said “It was stressful, Honey? That’s not good at all. Tell Mommy what happened.”
He folded his arms, exhaled sharply and said “I didn’t get to paint my dinosaur picture.”
He looks so adorable when he’s frustrated. The laughter was bubbling up inside of me, but I couldn’t let it out. I bit my lip even harder and deepened my frown. He was so mad.
“Why not? What stopped you from painting your dinosaur?” I asked him, as I stroked the side of his face.
“Abi-GAIL!” He shouted at me.
“Abigail? Who’s Abigail?”
“She’s a girl in my class and she LOVES me. It’s gross.”
“Abigail loves you?” I smiled a little bit. I couldn’t help it. It’s times like this when I really wish that I had one of those little tape recorders hidden in my pocket so that I could record these priceless conversations.
“Yes. She keeps saying that she loves me.” He folded his arms and sighed loudly. “And her name is Abi-GAIL, not Abigail!”
Oh. Pardon moi.
“How did Abi-GAIL loving you stop you from painting a dinosaur?” I asked him.
“Because she kept following me around and hugging me.”
“Well, how did that stop you from painting? I don’t understand.”
“Because she was right there! In the way!!”
“She was in the way of painting?” I asked.
“YES! All she wanted to do was play with me and hug me and love me so I had to run away and then my teacher said there was no time to paint my dinosaur picture. Girls are RIDICULOUS!” Ro-Ro looked genuinely enraged for the first time in his three and a half years. This Abi-GAIL had really ticked him off. I’d say her chances of ever getting a hug from him are zero to none.
“And you didn’t want a hug from Abi-GAIL?”
“NO! That’s gross! I don’t want girls to hug me!” He was staring at me as if I’d completely lost my mind. How could I even suggest something so outrageous?!
“But I’m a girl and you hug me all the time!” I told him.
“No, you’re not a girl.” He replied, looking very certain.
“Yes, I am!” I protested.
“No, Mommy, you’re a lady. I only like hugs from ladies. And Daddy.”
An enormous smile spread across my face. I leaned in and hugged him as tightly as I could, as my heart melted all over our mama van.
“Well, maybe next time you can use your words and ask Abi-GAIL nicely not to hug you,” I suggested. I wasn’t happy about this sudden anti-girl stance. I’m going to put it down to just being a phase.
“And maybe you can be kind to her and be her friend. She seems very sweet. Maybe you can color with her, or play the marble races together.”
He looked at me for a moment, unfolded his arms, and said, “Maybe.”
“You might even turn into best friends, Ro-Ro.” I said, smiling at him.
He scowled at me and said “You’re my best friend.”
I pulled him in close for another hug. I’m pretty sure I heard him mutter “And no girls ’cause they’re gross!” into my neck, but it was muffled by my coat. I decided to let that remark slide.
“Let’s go home and make a tuna sandwich for lunch,” I suggested. He nodded in approval and then leaned his head against the back of his car seat. He would be asleep within a matter of seconds. I’m sure all of this girl stress is really exhausting.
Nothing compares to the sweetness of your three-year old son. I hope I’m always his favorite lady and he always thinks my hugs are the best. That probably won’t always be the case, of course, and before I know it I’ll be steering him away from girls. But it’s these little moments, these little heart-felt side comments that bring a sudden tear to your eye, that make you wish that you could freeze time and keep them yours forever.
I was glowing the entire drive home.
And he was snoring.