In the game of chicken, mom flinches first
This school year, my 4-year-old started a 4K program at the same elementary school her older sisters attend. Sadie is used to the routine of school from her 3-year-old class last year, but there have been some minor adjustments to get used to: She now wears a uniform to school. No more mismatched socks, polka dotted shirts and striped skirts. My little fashionista must wear the same navy plaid as the rest of her peers.
I can no longer walk her into her classroom like I did last year. This year, Sadie gets dropped off in the carpool line just like her big sisters, which works out great for me — but God bless those elementary teachers who have to drag her body out of the minivan everyday.
Let me caution you about feeling sorry for Sadie. If that child was actually upset about having to leave me to go to school, they wouldn’t be able to stop me from parking my car and walking her to class everyday. But as things stand, the rules are: Everybody gets dropped off in the carpool line, and I know my child. Sadie is no more upset about having to go into school than she is about the pizza we are going to order for dinner tonight.
No. As my third child, Sadie delights in seeing how far she can push me. How much can she get away with before I am moved to action. We are playing “Chicken,” and Sadie wants to know: Who will flinch first?
The first day of school I was allowed to walk her inside, so I did. She clung tightly to my hand, but I could tell from the devilish smile she flashed me from under her mop of wavy hair that she was mostly interested in how long she could make me stand in the hall. With a little helpful prying from her teacher I was able to make my escape.
The following day I warned her ahead of time, “I can’t walk you in today, Sadie. You will have to get out of the car like a big girl, just like Aubrey and Emma. Understand?” “Okay, Momma! I will,” she lied through her perfect little Chiclet teeth.
Aubrey and Emma jumped out of the car at their designated spot then I slid up in line to allow an elementary teacher to get Sadie out of the car. As soon as the door to the minivan slid open, Sadie flattened herself against the opposite wall. I put the car in park and tried to grab her hand to pass her to the teacher. The teacher gently pulled Sadie towards her, coaxing her out of the van, “Come on Sadie. Time for school.”
Sadie went completely limp, and I watched, horrified, as another woman had to pull my uncooperative child out of the car. Please keep in mind that I was not horrified at the teacher. I was horrified for the teacher. It’s one thing for your kid to go all “cold spaghetti — if you want me to go there, you’ll have to carry me yourself” on you personally — it is another horror in and of itself to watch the fruit of your loins inflict this punishment on someone else.
Again, I must say, do not pity Sadie — had she actually been upset, I would have pulled over and carried her inside. But instead of crying, fussing or trying to get back in the car, she let herself be pulled from the minivan while grinning at me from ear to ear, shouting a quick, “Bye Momma,” as soon as her feet hit the ground.
Naturally with such tumultuous drop offs in the morning, I’ve been anxious to hear about her days when I pick her up in the afternoon.
“I only cwied for you one time today,” she said between bites of snack the first day.
All things considered, this counted as a win.
She said similar things everyday until the aforementioned day when she forced a poor unknowing soul to participate in our very own version of “Chicken.”
That particular day, she climbed into the car across to the front seat, as she normally does while we wait for her older sisters.
“How was your day today?” I asked.
“Good. I went to da cafeterwia. I pwayed wif Annie at wecess. And I cwied for you three times. One time I cwied so loud dat everybody in da cwass next to mine heard me,” she said matter of factly.
My heart clinched. Maybe I’ve been too hard on her. Maybe I should be walking her in during morning dropoff. Maybe she really was intimidated by big school. I didn’t bring it up again, but I thought about what she had said while I helped her sisters with their homework, while I cooked dinner and while I took a shower. Eaten up with guilt, I sat down to email her teacher. I explained our drop off routine: Sadie acts a fool, I kick her out of the car anyway. And Sadie’s afternoon confessions: she is miserable without me in school all day.
If Sadie could read my email I know she’d laugh out loud and yell, “Ha. Tricked ya.”
Her teacher responded saying Sadie had been teary for me once (once) since school had started and otherwise had been perfectly happy all day everyday.
I flinched. Sadie wins.
Robin O’Bryant is an author, humorist and speaker. Her latest book is “Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves.” Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter and visit her blog at www.robinschicks.com.