FEARS AND TEARS

FEARS AND TEARS

From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

Fears and Tears

My mother was the making of me. She was so true and sure of me, I felt that I had someone to live for.

Thomas A. Edison

His face fell as we approached the fingerprint-covered door. Both hands clenched his Hot Wheels lunch bag; his bottom lip pouted.

“Sweetie, you’re going to love your new preschool.”

I took his tiny hand, soft and unmarred by stresses yet to come in his life. Play-Doh-filled fingernails were still pliable, but his spongy palm would one day be checkered with calluses. His head tilted, just enough to let a corner of his eye peek at me. He saw me looking and turned to stare at some invisible thing on the ground.

I knelt down to his level where massive blue eyes pleaded to me, teardrops building. That bottom lip slipped out further.

“I know you’re going to have fun. You’re going to have so many new friends.” I leaned to look into the class, hoping he would follow. He did not. A tear slid down his chubby cheek. Oh, those cheeks. Rosy, soft and smooth.

I had to toughen up if this was going to work. “Okay, let’s go talk to your teacher.” I wiped the lone tear. “I’m sure she is going to adore you.”

Uh-oh. Hold on now, I thought, that was a lie. Look at those teachers.

I could see shocks of gray hair, furrowed scowl lines and courtesy smiles for the parents. Behind them twenty-two Energizer Bunnies bounced off the walls. The sound was sonic: coughing, yelling, crying, sniffing while toys defied gravity. I thought I heard a tiny growl and saw one of the teachers grit her teeth.

Ms. Teeth-grit came over and took my son’s hand. He pulled it back and stuck it in his pocket. I kissed his golden curls, nodded to the teacher and stepped to the door. With a squeal, he ran to me and threw his arms around my legs.

“It’ll be fine as soon as you’re out of sight. It’s normal.”

Is she nuts? Normal . . . to leave an innocent child in a room of teeth and fists?

I gave him a gentle push, turned and walked away.

The air outside hit me like a blast of disinfectant. But he was back in there, back in the germ pit. Tempted to scoop him out of the war zone, I tiptoed around the corner and inched one eye over the windowsill. Window blinds. I couldn’t see in. I sighed.

Buckled into my truck, I slipped the key into the ignition and turned the engine over. What the heck was I thinking? The engine revved. Was I insane? I couldn’t breathe. Was I just going to leave him to the wolves?

I yanked the key out of the ignition, opened the door and leaped out. Okay, so I didn’t exactly leap out. I kind of tumbled and hung out the door, the seatbelt strained. Red-faced, I looked around for witnesses and righted myself. I started the truck and eased the gas pedal.

Time to let go. Time to let him discover the amazing world beyond Mom.

After all, he’d be there only two hours. I drove. It felt good. A deep breath purged all the evil thoughts I had inside, and I . . . simply . . . drove.

Honk, honk, honk!

What is this guy thinking? I pulled over and let the car behind me pass. What an idiot. Didn’t he realize it was a school zone? I put the truck into reverse and backed into my still-warm parking spot. Okay, so just another hour and fifty-eight minutes.

What do kids do in preschool anyway? My mind wandered a bit.

Wasn’t there some show that mentioned child labor? Kids in dark rooms, sewing clothes. The blinds were shut! They’re making clothes in there!

I ran out of the truck (this time I remembered to unbuckle the seatbelt), past the blind-covered window. I was sure I could hear the hum of sewing machines, tons of them. No, the sound came from the children. They were singing about a . . . bumblebee. They were covering up the sounds of the toiling tots.

I paused, poised to kick in the door. Just as my foot was about to connect, the door opened to a teacher with children in tow. Where is she taking them? Maybe she was going to sell them on eBay!

She walked past with a curious smile. (Of course it was curious; I was about to crack an underground child-labor ring. I was on to them!) They walked to a room down the hall—a sorting and transporting room? A flush jolted me as the kids dawdled back. I was right. They were transporting things out of that room, but not what I thought.

I peered around the doorframe. Not a sewing machine in sight. I saw my cherub; he sat in a circle with the other kids. I analyzed their faces. Were they miserable? Did they look like they were hurt or in pain? Poker faces, every one of them. The teacher smiled and shut the door.

I waited one hour and fifty minutes. The door opened and erupted with smiling, worn-out children. My son was not among them. Adrenal panic. Where is he? The teacher cocked her finger and pointed into the room.

Alone in the far corner stood my boy. Seeing tears on his face, I ran to him. They weren’t tears; his face was dotted with blue sparkles. He held up a sheet of paper covered with blue paint, glue and sparkled flecks and beamed. “Mommy, I made this for you.”

My own eyes welled with tears. My son. I was so proud. He had walked into the room a baby boy and left a budding artist. I thanked the teachers, with their streaks of well-earned gray and eyes framed with smile creases. Hand-in-hand, the two of us left; his other hand gripped the masterpiece that would end up on the fridge.

But I was sure I could smell the faint odor of sewing-machine oil.

Libby Kennedy

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