Kindergarten lessons: A story
MANILA,Philippines - The sound of kids’ laughter usually reminds me of the innocence of youth. But the happy sounds coming from inside the St. Francis kindergarten on this particular day did not. My wife and I were there to drop off our daughter Lizzy for her first day of school ever, and the emotions we felt were far from happy.
We had prepped Lizzy the night before and she nonchalantly replied “okay” to our reminders.
Don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you”. Okay.
Don’t fart and then laugh loudly like your father taught you. Okay.
You will be forced to eat kangkong and amapalaya all day. Okay.
Obviously, my daughter wasn’t listening so the next day didn’t go very smoothly. Right before entering school, she wailed at the sight of the motherly teacher waiting at the door. Lizzy quickly ran behind my wife and buried her face into my wife’s leg.
Stay calm, we said. Don’t worry, everything will be alright. She eventually took the teacher’s hand and, with longing and tears, glanced back at us, entered her classroom and was out of sight.
Suddenly, I was the one who was panicky.
Would our daughter really be okay? There were dozens of kids there, how could the teachers look after each one? Why, anything could happen! What if someone pushed her off the seesaw? What if she fell and hit her head on the concrete floor? What if she hated her school experience so much that she refused to return to school for the rest of her life?
I could hardly concentrate at the office. I kept staring at my phone, waiting for a call from the principal cheerily saying that: a) my daughter was crying non-stop the entire day; b) I should pick her up and never return to school, and; c) we were cordially invited to the school’s after-class meet-and-greet on Friday afternoon.
I rushed home that evening, barged in, and found my daughter happily at play with her stuffed toys.
“How was your first day?” I asked with a sigh of relief.
“Okay,” she said.
“Great! What did you do?”
“We sang, we danced, we played. And Max held my hand.”
“Wow, that sounds like fu…WAIT! Who’s Max and what did he do?!”
“He’s my friend.”
Ha! Some friend. Here I was concerned about my daughter’s future as a student when all along, there was a three-year-old wolf in preschooler’s clothing! My paternal instincts kicked in immediately. I was ready to protect my offspring from the evil intentions of a prowling predator.
And what kind of toddler name is Max? I imagined a rough-looking, two-foot-tall kid with the early hints of a moustache and a Ninjago tattoo on his bicep. But that meant nothing to me. Whatever you looked like, Max, watch your back!
The next day, as the family approached school, I silently rehearsed a respectful but firm message for the school staff.
“Excuse me. My daughter casually mentioned an alleged hand-holding incident. Is this the behavior that you encourage in a wholesome institution such as yours? I’m sure you understand what I am getting at. Thank you for considering my suggestion to exile this kid called Max to your campus in Sorsogon.”
Just then, my daughter ran off to meet a cute, chubby kid who looked like he couldn’t harm a fly. They both started a contagious giggling fit before running off to the playground together, the wide-eyed innocence of youth restored.
My wife and I were so intent on watching this magical moment that we failed to notice a stunningly gorgeous lady approach us. “Hi, I’m Mara, Max’s mom. Aren’t they the cutest?”
Wow. If there was ever a pair of jeans perfectly meant for someone, Mara was wearing them. My male instincts kicked in again and I switched my charm-o-meter to high…which really meant that I devolved into a babbling mound of mush, just as I always do around attractive women.
“Hello...haha… that’s Lizzy, my dad. No! I mean I’m Lizzy’s daughter. Uuuhh…ha ha…riiiiiight. Soooo, do you think we should set up a play date for the cute parents…I mean cute kids? Haha. That would be aweso…OWWW!”
I was blinded by pain as my wife’s elbow dug hard into my ribs. But I knew from experience that any discomfort I felt then was nothing compared to the punishment in store for me that night. I quickly ran behind my wife and buried my face into her hair.
One, most of us parents emerged from our school years as well-adjusted individuals and our kids will likely do the same. All we can do is to provide the best environment possible for them to grow in – not perfect, mind you, but best.
Two, don’t overprotect them; some degree of freedom will do their self-confidence and self-reliance good.
Three, if they run into difficulties from time to time, sure, they will get hurt. Just as we’ve been hurt, too. But we have to hope that they will learn life’s lessons, survive, gain strength and wisdom, and eventually make the world a better place.
And last but not least, enroll your daughters in all-girl schools until they’re forty.
This story and its characters, by the way, are purely fictional. Any similarity to actual people is purely coincidental.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. My doctor has advised me that I can’t stay in front of the computer too long and that I should ice my bruised ribs as often as possible.
Here's a back-to-school clip of an equally anxious father from 'Finding Nemo':
About the author
There is the helicopter parent, the negligent parent, and then there’s Michael Gohu Yu. A doting father one minute who transforms into Homer Simpson the next, his writing on parenting reflects themes ranging from the humorous to the heartwarming. Whichever the case, though, he always aims to entertain parents of all ages.
Photo of Little Children Playing with Constriction Blocks in Classroom by Tyler Olson from Shutterstock