From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

Back-to-School Q&A

The parents exist to teach the child, but also they must learn what the child has to teach them; and the child has a very great deal to teach them.

Arnold Bennett

It’s back-to-school season, which means—besides doing a victory dance—parents are busy, busy, busy.

It’s overwhelming, really. There are blue cards, yellow cards and vaccination records. There is glue to buy, new clothes to wash and Superman lunchboxes to be found. There are classroom craft donations to find and collect. There are . . . I don’t think there was this much preparation for my first year of college.

My first task to get my son Ford ready is finding immunization records missing since our last move. (Note to self: must be more organized in future.) I am also, unfortunately, responsible for hunting down a Spiderman action figure who “walks with his feet”—the kind Ford’s friend Max has. (Because who knows what would happen if Ford started the new school year without a Spiderman who walks on his feet!)

I’m doing all right until the new teacher sends a questionnaire to complete and return.

The first question asks, “Does your child tire easily?” I look up from my place at the kitchen table at Ford leaping through the air, arms outstretched, yelling “Supermaaaan!” I look back at the form, smile and write, “Unfortunately, no.”

Question 2: “What is his/her request words for using the bathroom?”

Answer: “Usually just a simple—yet loud—‘I have to potty!’ in the middle of the grocery store.”

Question 3: “Does your child have any problems we should know about?”

Answer: “Depends on your definition. Is calling himself Superman and dressing up in a red cape every single day considered a real problem?”

Question 4: “Does your child have any allergies?”

Answer: “Yes, to Kryptonite. Don’t worry; he’ll explain.”

Question 5: “What type of discipline works best with your child?”

Answer: “If you find one, please let us know.”

Question 6: “What holds your child’s attention the longest?”

Answer: (Blank) I zip through the questionnaire until the last demand: “Describe your child.”

This, I feel, is a no-win request from parents. Obviously, I think Ford (and his younger brother) is the smartest, cutest and funniest kid on the planet. But I picture his teacher rolling her eyes at yet another student who will be “brilliant and polite,” who “read when he was two years old and can already do simple algebra.” (Actually, we’re still working on tying shoes and not burping at the dinner table. Ford can’t read or count to twenty, which is why I’m sending him to school, right?)

So, how am I to answer this question? That Ford says too much too loudly, earning him the nickname “Chief-Talks-a-Lot” in last year’s Thanksgiving play? That he sits still for, maybe, two minutes out of every day?

No, no, no. Admitting to all this might get him labeled as the “challenging one.”

I struggle with this last question for several days, until at last I have to choose which is worse, describing my child . . . or being labeled as The-Mom-Who-Turns-in-Late-Paperwork. So, what do I write?

Answer: “Just call him Superman, and Ford will be your best friend.”

Sarah Smiley

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