Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'll always remember: dropping out of preschool

When I was little, like any child of an affluent household, I was enrolled in the city's public preschool. And I hated it. Mom would take me downtown for school, and I didn't know how to explain to her how much I hated school.

I don't remember why specifically, but apparently to me school was just so bad, I couldn't stand the thought of going in. But after 27 years I only have a vague recollection of dislike . . . I don't recall exactly why. I think I was bored; it was all about busy-work. "Here's a ditto of a chipmunk, here's a brown crayon . . . knock yourself out."

At any rate, I know I expressed my dislike to my parents, crying and carrying on and so forth as any three-year-old would, but to Mom the giant red flag was that day I tried to exit of our moving vehicle. Now I don't even remember that part, but I know for Mom it was the pivotal moment of the story. For her, when I tried to jump out of the car it was the, "Maybe she's trying to tell us something" moment.

The details after that are fuzzy. I know Mom came and watched the class at least once, and I know she had an "Ah ha!" moment afterward, but I don't remember her actually saying anything to me (or in front of me). That is to say, I don't remember her saying something like, "You're right, that is awful!" or "What a bore!" And I'm sure she and Daddy had a lot of conversations about what they could do, our options, etc., but at three I was not privy to any of that.

Here's the main point of this entry: I have a very vivid memory of the conversation with Mom and Dad about me quitting preschool. I don't remember the dialogue, what I do remember is they had me sit down on the couch in the living room (a room we rarely used) and they sat across from me. The couch was very hard with square, un-sat-on corners. We hardly ever used it and it was practically brand new, with big brown flowers and a very rough, linen-y material. I remember that couch always made me think of the material you use for needlepoint. The carpet in that room was brown, I remember. And we had a big, glass pane window that let in a lot of natural light, and there were two small, shiny, octagonal end tables.

The gist of the conversation was, "Do you want to drop out of preschool?" And my emphatic answer was, "Yes!" Even though I was only three years old, I remember they let it be my decision, and I was surprised by that, although the full impact didn't hit me until later. Mom and Dad treated me as an adult and it was my call, and only my call. At the time, even though I was shocked that I was allowed to make the decision, I didn't stop and think any more about it--all I knew was that I wanted out. So I said yes, I wanted to drop out, and they said, "Okay." I remember also being surprised that they were actually listening to me, and yet I knew it was the right decision and I felt validated that it really must have been awful if they were going to let me do it.

Now comes a "Choose your own adventure" ending. Because depending on who you talk to, there are some small differences. Either my dropping out of preschool was A) just a coincidence regarding the timing of Mom opening up Rainbow Kids, or perhaps lit the fire under her tail to get it moving more quickly but she had already decided to do it, or . . . B) Mom had no plans to open her own preschool up until that point, but because I dropped out she had to do something, and so started Rainbow Kids just for me.

I guess you'll have to be the judge.

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