Here is one two year old little fellow who is “taking his Dad on a tour” of his new school. I am not so sure that he is not really intent on taking his Dad away from the new school!
Ivan is my step grandson, and this photo is from images of his introduction to day school. What a huge event in the life of a person who has only had some 700 or 800 days of history “on the outside.” Think of what it would be like to suddenly spend a whole long day of the few days of your life being immersed (body, mind, soul) in a place totally foreign, with strangers in charge and with nothing familiar around you! Except for the presence of parents, this would be unbearable. Huge.
All the photos are poignant; the sheer delight at a little playground playhouse — like a birthday party; the complete misery at the moment of being handed over to some strange smiling (and strange smelling, because they are not Mommy) ladies who seemed perfectly immune to your needs to be back in your safe parental arms. Mommy and Daddy seeming suddenly lacking in empathy with resolute smiles on their faces. The various faces of little ivan are a study of all the expressions in the book, and none of them is manufactured, like the parental smiles — they are genuine expressions of a small person on a huge personal odyssey.
Being “in on” this event through family photos brings to my mind a lot of similar history: my own childrens’ passages; my own passages. We humans die a little and also learn to live a little more on these complex occasions. The day after a “big step”, when we have gone back to “normal” life, we will find out that the trauma we experienced yesterday is not over, but is going to happen again today. This adds a new dimension to our discomfort. It’s a very present “bogeyman” that looms outside our safe place. And our parents that we trusted are still smiling that new way and saying the new school is a good thing! What a lot to undertake when you are two years old and filled with something very like dread!
We grow. We have learned that falling down makes our knees hurt and then they get better, that being left in the hands of strangers is not fatal, that Mom and Dad love you even when they are tired and cranky to you, that getting a D on a test at school is remediable, that being broke isn’t terminal, that losing a loved one isn’t either, and that dying is a fact of life that is universal, and therefore doesn’t single one out. All these things are learned by hard things happening to us! Guess that’s what they explained to us about what happened in The Garden of Eden! Darn that Eve.
Anyway, here is an older woman, writing this, who keeps stepping out of the comfortable into the unknown. Nowadays, at 70, it’s not so scarey. Uncomfortable but not scarey. I remember nursery school. I hated it. But I remember it, and I’m glad I went.