Corner view is a weekly Wednesday gathering, originally hosted by Jane, now by Francesca. A topic is given and you can see impressions; be it photographic or writerly in form, from around the world. Come see the world’s corner view via the links on the sidebar.
“Quail. We need to talk about drop-off, ok?”
She ducks her head and scuffs her purple shoe back and forth. I’m sitting on the floor in front of her doing my best imitation of placid…
The Quail looks guilty and irritated. Clearly not happy about what I want to talk about. I started dropping her off at school approximately two years ago. I admit- taking a three year old to school, it took something out of me. The staff at the school were beyond kind and accommodating. Each day on the drive there we would sing and talk and practice our A,B,Cs and 1,2,3s. We used that time to connect and practice her approximations and articulations in an environment free from sisters proclamations and involvement. She loved those rides and so did I. When we would pull up to the school we were allowed to park in the lot, avoiding the drop-off line while her teacher came out to meet us. Sometimes walking with her, sometimes carrying her- always greeting her with a hello, how are you and talk of the day to come. For the most part the Quail enjoyed the drop-off. She would have momentary lapses of shyness, but she generally played along nicely. The next year drop-offs weren’t my job. She was spending 5 half-days at school, but they started mid-morning so the public school bus would arrive at her daycare each day at the same time and Ray the driver would greet her and off they would go. I was told the driver and assistant loved their jobs and would sing and count and talk with the children. The Quail loved Ray so much that her teachers told me how one day the district switched the bus without any notice and as the Quail stepped out of the daycare doors and saw a bus that was clearly not hers she stepped back saying, “No bus. Curley’s bus. No Quail bus.” She only agreed to get on at the point that Ray stuck his head out calling her name, at which point she cheered and ran over to him. At the end of the year, I met a mother of another kiddo in her class and she talked about how each day when she met the bus with her own son she would see the Quail peering out the window at her and would wave. The Quail looked at her stoically until one day in the late spring, she waved back. The mother smiled back. This small act made her come up to us at the 4k graduation to tell us about it and how much she looked forward to seeing the Quail each day. That she just looked so capable and independent.
Earlier this fall, a mutual friend asked me to give this same woman a call. She had given birth to a baby girl over the summer. Her fifth- and the sweet little girl was diagnosed quite unexpectedly with Down syndrome. When we spoke she told me that within an hour of her infant being born she looked at her and wondered if she might have Down syndrome and her next thought was of the cautious little girl on the school bus who one day decided to open up to her and wave back. She said she hoped that life would be as good for her daughter as it seems to be for the Quail. This filled my heart and eyes. That the Quail had provided hope for another little one and her mother just by being herself out on her own in her community.
This year the Quail is in school for a full day. Which means she now gets to go to and from school with her sister. Both she and Zuzu have been planning how this would go throughout the summer months. They traded lunch boxes, parceled out who got which dresses from the bi-annual consignment sale, traded seats in the car and talked and practiced endlesslyu about when and how these drop-offs would work. Lovey did the first week of drop-offs and for him there were no issues. They drove up, Zuzu got out, then the Quail did and everyone went off to their days. Then I started the drop off. I pulled up. Zuzu reached over to help undo the five-point harness that we still strap the Quail into and the Quail protested. She wanted my help. Easy enough. I put the car in park and leaned back and undid it. Zuzu got out, the Quail grabbed her backpack and then balked. It was a long step down. So Zuzu stepped in again, took her backpack from her and offered her hand. The Quail squawked at her, but climbed out. I slowly pulled away eyeing them through my rearview mirrors. Ignoring the cars in line behind me that surely wished I would just pull out already. The girls weren’t moving. Zuzu looked irritated as she tried to coax the Quail to come with her. I finally pulled into a parking spot and got out to watch. As it continued I got more anxious and just as I started to walk up to them, the Quail acquiesced and in the building they went. The next day we all repeated this scene. And the next day more of the same. Then I happened to ask about what happened when they went in the school. Zuzu happily informed me that the Quail refused to get up to go when the kindergarteners were called and loved it when she took her to her classroom. As I mentioned earlier– I had laid down the law about this. The Quail needs to learn to get there on her own and follow the expected routine. That didn’t go over well then, and it continues to not go over well now.
We were out the other weekend when a friend came up to me chuckling about how he was initially worried when he pulled up to drop off his kids and saw the Quail standing on the sidewalk but our car gone. He explained that there were about 10 children milling around her trying to convince her to go inside. Sigh. I felt simultaneously annoyed and grateful. Annoyed that this routine is not the routine I think it should be- the routine that safely delivers her from our car into the school building filled with in-charge adults and grateful that she has become so ingrained in her community that others don’t just walk on by. That they stop to talk and lend a convincing hand. And considering we pick her up everyday at the end of the day- all has been well in the end. It still worries me though. She’s never been a runner. Neither at home or out and about. But still. I want her to just get out of the car and go inside. I already gave in to the fact that her sister likes to walk her to class, the teachers think that is fine and the Quail thinks that is fine. After watching her for a few days I realized what was going on. She was looking for her friends. One day Miley got out and they ran off into school together. Another day it was last year’s classmate Hunter. I heard him call her name and as he walked up they joined hands and went in together. Another day as I was squawking at her to get out of the car already- dear Mrs. P- Zuzu’s former teacher popped her head in asking if we needed help. The Quail turned on the charm and reached right out to her. Another day it was her own teacher from last year. People are wonderful- they really are taking care of her. Still though- I find this drop off rough….the roughest part of this entire adjustment from a preschooler to an elementary schooler. The feelings I had watching Zuzu walk off into the school by herself that first year are just amplified by all the what-ifs that I’ve trained my mind to watch for and problemsolve before they actually reach that level. It’s rough to settle my own feathers and watch her spread her wings. And it’s rough to know when to helicopter in for a landing and when to hover further back.
In the meantime while we continue to work this out- I’m grateful for all the feather smoothing our community has been providing for us.
…”So I need you to just go inside when you get out of the car. Ok Quail? If your friends are there you can walk in with them, but if they are not, you are to go in with your sister and not wait for someone else to walk off.- Got it?”
“So what do you do when I pull up to the school?”
“And if you don’t, what will happen?”
“Momma angy. No cake. No TV.”
“Right. But you know to go inside right? No more waiting outside- Go. In.”
“Yeah!!! Go in!” She does a little dance and leans in plumping my cheeks with her hands as she rubs our noses together and I finally grin. She lets go, grabs her backpack and as she swings it on her small shoulders hollers for her sisters.
“Bye Sug! Zuzu come on!”