Tuesday, August 29, 2006


In Which We Are Consumed By the Orange Monster...

This week is the first full week of school.

Oh, the trauma.

The Brownie rode the bus to kindergarten.


Oh, the drama.

There was much gnashing of teeth and wailing.

First, by Thomas, because he had agreed to ride "the baby bus" with his sister, to her great comfort and his embarrassment.


Then, by Her Lovely Self, who spent days prior undergoing strange weepy phases when she would talk about how she didn't know WHAT she was going to do with herself now. During the 180 minutes every morning that she would now be by herself.

Finally, and hardest to bear of all, was poor Blaze.


Thomas started riding the bus the fall Blaze first came to live with us and I remember well the shock and horror on that poor dog's face when he watched us walk Thomas out to the giant orange vehicle (back then, Blaze barked at any large truck, especially UPS trucks and buses, and most especially if they stopped near our house) and voluntarily put him into the gaping open mouth of the massive orange monster. As soon as the bus rumbled away, Her Lovely Self started bawling ("My little boy! Riding the bus!") and Blaze just lost it. He started slamming his head against the screen door, breaking several of the screws that held the glass panel in place on the door. But what I remember most is his look of utter, open-mouthed disbelief. He appeared to be on the verge of speech, his look of stark incredulity was that human. I half expected him to say, "Have you lost your fucking mind? LET'S GO GET HIM!!!"

Well, I kind of thought two years of watching Thomas successfully embark and disembark from the bus would be enough to mellow the dog out, but this fall, it was a whole new ballgame.

To start with, the Brownie was just a little anxious about starting school. She woke up around 4:30 and he little body thrummed like a tuning fork full of tension. Dogs are really good at picking up that anxious vibe and Blaze--who reveres the Girl above all others--more or less attached himself to her for the rest of the morning, even following her into the bathroom (which was kind of funny, because we have a small bathroom downstairs and both of them can't really fit, but never mind). Blaze didn't know why his girl was nervous, he just knew she was and he was going to stick close to face whatever trouble reared its head.

And sure enough at 7:50, we heard the familiar decelerating rumble of the bus and you could almost see the lightbulb go off over the dog's head. His eyes widened and he looked at me as if to say, "No fucking way. That THING is coming to take her?!?"

Interestingly, once she actually saw the bus and saw her brother ready to go and even saw her classmate Andrew--the sticky little popsicle sharing Romeo from down the street--the Brownie realized she was about to have something fun happen. So there was a round of tearless hugs and kisses. And in the sudden lightness of the moment, I made the supreme mistake of bringing Blaze out on his leash, figuring that if he saw how happy the Brownie was to ride the great orange monster, he might be okay with it.

Well, Blaze was okay with it, all right. As soon as the bus driver opened the door and the Brownie stepped off the curb, Blaze threw every ounce of his 50 pounds of dog fat against the leash, catching me off guard and nearly tearing my hand off at the wrist. Before I could stop him, he got loose and bounded aboard the bus ahead of the Brownie. There were squeals of surprise and delight--most of the kids on the bus know Blaze very well. And I thought this might have calmed him down, but in his state of mind, he must have thought he'd stumbled on a massive plot to kidnap every child in the community.

Then the bus driver--a big but jovial man whose name I have not yet learned--stood up from his seat and started to make a joke--"I don't think you have your bus pass, big fella"--when Blaze rounded on him and lunged, forcing the big man into his driver's seat. Then Blaze did something I haven't seen him do in ages: he very gently, deliberately sniffed the poor bus driver's crotch, as if to say, "I gotcher bus pass right here, monkey boy, and if you step out of line, it's coming with me."

This all happened in a few seconds, understand, and then I was aboard, physically picking Blaze up and carrying him to the house, squirming and growling at me in a way that suggested he was not going to be speaking to me for a while. He whined and made his Most Pitiful Face Ever,


then sullenly took up his post in the front hall.

All morning.

But that wasn't the worst part.

The worst part was what came next: the parents' meeting.

When Thomas first went to school, I was told about the parents' meeting and thought it was a joke. But it is not: On the first day of school, the administration holds a little coffee-and-donuts meeting in the gym for the parents of new kindergartners. The pretext is that you get to meet the principal and meet some other parents, but really it's just an opportunity to indulge over-emotional parents who can't let go. Because here's what really happens: as soon as the principal finishes his 45-second speech, all the parents rush to the kindergarten classrooms to see how their child is doing--their child who they just put on the bus about 11 minutes earlier.

When Thomas started kindergarten, I refused to go to this event and begged Her Lovely Self not to. "We've already said goodbye to him today. How's he going to feel to have you show up at school and then say goodbye again? He'll be just getting into his groove and seeing you will throw him. Plus, how many little kids are going to expect their moms and dads to do that every single day? What happens tomorrow when none of you show up?" I asked, using my best, impassioned voice of reason.

But despite my tough love approach, Her Lovely Self went that year anyway. And thank God, Thomas was so besotted with all the interesting things in the classroom he didn't even notice his mom. However, HLS did report that quite a few kids--and parents--had big, soppy emotional breakdowns in the classroom that could have been totally avoided if they had just left well enough alone and waved goodbye at the curb.

You'd think the school would have learned its lesson, but there's a fine line between insanity and tradition, and thus it was that this year, it was announced that there would be yet another regular coffee-and-donuts meeting for new parents. I couldn't believe it.

Imagine it. Imagine two buses full of 5-year-olds driving out of a cookie-cutter middle class suburban development, followed by a forty-car convoy of minivans and SUVs, all driven by slightly emotional mommies and daddies, trailing their children to the school, where they can work themselves and their children into full-blown emotional crises. It just staggers the mind. Truly.

Which is exactly what I told the Brownie at 4:30 that morning, when she asked if I was coming to see her on her first day.

"Mom came to see Thomas on his first day," she pointed out.

"First of all, I'm sure how you even remember that because you were only 2 years old. Second, MOM went. I didn't go. Don't you want to spend the time getting to know your teachers and make new friends?"

The Brownie nodded, but her face was already quivering. "But I want YOU to come too Daddy."

Oh crap, I thought. But I said, "Honey, I have to go to work. You really don't want me to come. I'll just be in the way."

She clasped my big hand in her little perfect ones. "Please, Daddy. Puh-lease? Please come? I want you to see my classroom and meet my teacher. Please?" Then she thought of something else. "And I promise I won't cry or anything."

Oh fuck, I thought. ""Honey, I really--"

"Pleeeeeeeeease?" she begged.

"No," I said, trying to put maximum tough love in my voice. "I really can't, baby." Because if YOU start crying then I'LL start gibbering nonsense and singing the stupid song we made up about how if Blaze were just a little smarter he could be a kindergartner and that won't be good for anyone, I thought.

"But I really WON'T cry. I MEAN it!" she insisted.

Luckily, there were no lasting psychic scars. Since that first day, there have been no further tears, the Brownie has been riding the bus with new friends and enjoying school and reporting much fun with her new table mates, who are all chatty types who are jealous of the Brownie and her wonder dog Blazey.

Who, by the way, still isn't speaking to me.


From Somewhere on the Masthead

Post was well worth the wait. I think your dog is a human re-incarnated.
My lord, that's one giant step on the bus. How'd the Brownie manage that? Or was Thomas pulling her up?

Good to see Blaze is doing better.
I work in the land of kinder...she'll be fine..better than that she'll be great!! Those kids though, they are bundles of inspiration... They always give me so much to write about. Oh, how much fun she'll have...PS you are a total softie..for the son, you stand firm...but for Daddy's little Girl you cave....
Poor Blaze!!! His most favorite human out of his care!

I hope hls has lived through this first week or two as well-- it's hard.
As a new teacher it's really great to hear stories from the parents' point of view. I completely agree about the Parent's Meeting thing. After being in school for 7 months, a JK class I was working with held a special concert for their families.

These kids were comfortable at school, set in their routines, and seemed very well-adjusted. Until it came time to say goodbye to their mommies and daddies (who also looked emotional). Half the class fell apart completely. A third went home "sick". These kids loved being at school, yet as soon as they saw their parents - they wanted OUT. Can't imagine how it would be on the first day of school...

I agree with Wendylou - the Brownie will be just fine... and kindergarten will be a great adventure for her.

ps. hope Blaze forgives you for letting the Orange monster take away another one of your kids ;)
Dude, I am sorry. That is one tough bit of life. Glad to see y'all came out on the other end none-the-worse for wear. And there's no right way to parent, only a goal towards parenting in such a way that they become self-sufficient and out of jail. So don't worry so much, it gets easier. A little more dramatic at times, but over all, noticeably easier.
Aw, I'm a little teary eyed and I have five more years before my baby goes off to kindergarten. And Blaze!! Ever the faithful friend.

(and the Brownie's name is Anna! Unless that was another girl you and HLS were consoling...very sweet!)
Yes, you clever observant folks who've been sending me gloating emails, you shook loose one of the big secrets: my daughter's real name! I still call her the Brownie and you can too. I was just too lazy to try to figure out how to pixelize the name tag.

Guess that's it. I'm outed. There's only about 130,000 girls named Anna in the world, so we've really narrowed it considerably. ;-)
She'll always be The Brownie to me.

This brought back how tough it was for me to put my son on the bus for the first time. My Dad was there too. It's much harder on the parents than the kids. The little sponges thrive on their new adventure, parents mourn the loss of their babies and being the center of their world.

I think you'll get over it long before Blaze does. The protector can't protect, if he isn't present to protect.
Oh, I just wrote a blog entry about our firstborn starting BIG school next week.

Glad to hear your girl is doing well.

I will probably be just like Blaze, and wanting to bring my boy right back home.
Awwww! Poor Brownie and Blaze! Glad to hear that there have been no more tears from the Brownie. My Monkey started first grade a few weeks ago, and I still can't believe my baby's going to "Big Kid School."

I'm sure Blaze will speak to you again soon...maybe by the time Brownie's in middle school.
My boy just started kindergarten this year too... The first day I was in tears but held myself together until I was out of the school parking lot... But now he is having the time of his life!!! We just had back to school night tonight and it was nice meeting and greating his teacher and other parents...

I hope Brownie has tons of fun and I am sure she will

That is such a good picture of Thomas and The Brownie. I hope it's going on the mantle!

You got me all teary eyed with my own rememberances and my son's now 23. LOL

Loved the picture of the kids. Nicely done.

And don't worry, Blaze will forgive you.......eventually.

And you should *so* keep that video. Use it as blackmail for when she starts dating. Heh heh heh.

softy... ;)
She is such a doll! That video kind of broke my heart. I'm glad she's having fun and impressing everyone with Blazey!
I had actually always wondered why the Brownie's name was such a secret in the first place. We have known Thomas by his real name and his Art Lad alter ego for quite some time. I had assumed she probably had a family name that she just hated like Beatrice or Millicent.

Now is it just me or does that bulletin board in the background of the video have a huge marijuana leaf on it? What kind of a school is this?

...there's a fine line between insanity and tradition
Actually, in my experience there is generally absolutely no line between insanity and tradition, in fact they seem to be symbiotic in most cases.
Anna is a beautiful name and since we all know Thomas's then it's only fair...but still, she'll always be Brownie. I sent my little one off to school for the first time this year too. His school also had a "Parent Meet" where we said goodbye to our kids before their teachers whisked them away through the ominous double doors to the classrooms beyond. It was hell. I agree with you, it would've been much easier on all of us to have just left the goodbye time when we dropped them off (either at the bus stop or the school) Having us all come inside the cafeteria to go through it all over again was torture...and pointless as the kids were just fine!
I have a five year old Anna also, and we call her Lucy. She started kindergarten last week. She was scared, and completely lost it when I showed up at lunchtime (as a volunteer lunch monitor for another class, mind you; I wasn't supposed to see her at all). Still she came home that day thrilled and said she loved kindergarten. She was still saying it today, a week later. I'm so proud of her for being brave and giving herself a chance to enjoy it. I'm sure you'll feel the same about the Brownie once she reports back.
I guess it's been a long time since I went to school. Labor Day was always the traditional end of vacation, with school beginning the day after. Now they start in August? Cruel, cruel world.
I thought I might cry too watching that video. Close.

My little ones are in daycare, and the oldest is now pre-K. It's tough leaving them every single day. I can only imagine what it's going to be like in two years when K actually start for firstborn.


Way to go Brownie. Enjoy. And Thomas, what a nice brother, riding the bus with little sis.
On the first day of kindergarten at our local elementary school, both parents and kids show up and stay for about 90 minutes. While the parents stay in the classroom with the teacher to learn how things will work during the year, the children are taken off by another teacher for a walking tour of the school to familarize themselves with the place. The next day is a normal school day and it goes much more smoothly because the kids have already been there and the separation anxiety seems to be much less. Also, MM, what was the reaction of Her Lovely Self? Did she fall apart at home like she did with Thomas?
Jeez, no wonder Blazey won't speak to you. That song about him was insulting. He's *plenty* smart enough for kindergarten and don't you forget it! That's the real reason he got on the bus.

So is the Brownie's "real" name Anna Bellow Hoska Boo Boo Ba Doo?

And is your son Thomas Artlad Hoska Boo Boo Ba Doo?
oh careless me. of course I meant Anna Brownie Hoska Boo Boo Ba Doo.

I should be more careful with my proofreading.
the dog will get over it. :P
The song about the dog! How adorable. I bet she remembers that moment for the rest of her life.

A long time ago, my 2-year-old was falling asleep in the car and I was trying everything to keep her awake until we made it home. (So I wouldn't have to wake her in the car.)

We made this song up about this bottle of soda that I had sitting in the front seat. "Soda baby, I love you. Soda baby, you're so cute..." And I had them make up different lines for the song. "Soda baby, you wear shoes."

That was almost 4 years ago, and the kids STILL sing that silly song. They know every word. It's so adorable and silly and priceless.
Oh wow...that video broke my heart. I will be horrible when I have kids and they start school...I will definitely be a crying mommy. :(
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