Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Nursery School Revisited

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 11, 2016] © 2016

Preschool is a whole new world since my sons went. Two of my grandchildren go to a preschool in L.A. that is not only very environmentally-conscious but also has a zero tolerance policy for sugar (bad for you) and nuts (someone could be allergic) on school grounds. (Knives would probably be OK.) 

I’m almost sure I remember my preschool sons being given ice cream from time to time, and certainly cupcakes for a classmate’s birthday. My daughter-in-law says it’s a challenge to find a treat you can bring in to school for a celebration. Or at least one that any of the kids actually want to eat.

I also remember that the curriculum at my sons’ preschool involved a lot of time in a Superman cape. Current events? Not so much.

That’s why I’m pretty dazzled at what my five-year-old granddaughter has already learned in school about environmental issues. We were down watching the sunset over the ocean, the pelicans gracefully coasting the wind currents overhead. I told the grandkids that if I could come back as something else, I’d want to be a pelican. I like fish and the idea of flying around with my pelican friends seemed like a pretty good life to me, especially if it was devoid of United Airlines and Time Warner Cable. (For the record, my husband Olof wants to come back as one of my sister’s cats. No creature on earth has a better deal.)

I asked the kids what they would like to be if they could.

My three-year-old grandson knew immediately: A cheetah because they run really fast.

My granddaughter knew right away as well: A polar bear. But then she got teary. “But I’d probably be all by myself since they’re nearly es-tinct. There might not be any others besides me!” She launched into a lengthy discourse about the plight of polar bears using terms like “global warming” and “Arctic” (she carefully pronounces it Arc-Tic) and has already made it her life’s work to save them. I consider this a good thing. But I was pretty amazed to hear her say it.

We still have all the Curious George books from when my kids were little, and my granddaughter asked me to read her the first one in the series. This is the one where George, the monkey, is captured in the African jungle by the Man with the Yellow Hat to bring to a U.S. zoo. My granddaughter was shaking her head in dismay the whole time. "You should never do that," she kept saying. "You should leave the animals where they are. They don’t belong in a zoo."  (Watch out, Sea World. She’s coming for you next.)

Interestingly, I have my own issue with Curious George. In the book Curious George Gets a Medal, George brings a box of soap flakes into the house along with the hose and creates a big soapy lake which, the author mentions in an afterthought/aside at the end, the (un-named! unseen! unpaid!) “kind woman next door” spends “hours” cleaning up. As a fourth generation feminist, I felt morally compelled to note to my granddaughter, “George and the Man with the Yellow Hat should have rented a shop vac and cleaned it up themselves.” She nodded.

I wonder what she would make of stories I grew up reading like Little Black Sambo which I’m sure has disappeared from children’s libraries. Unlike the unfortunately stereotypical fare of its era, it was the story of a clever, resourceful kid who outwits four tigers who are out to eat him. (The tigers ultimately do themselves in through no fault of Sambo’s.) Now that I think of it, it’s probably the Save the Tigers folks who have put the kibosh on this book. 

One thing that has absolutely not changed since my kids were in preschool: germ warfare.  Between two different nursery school classrooms and a baby in Mommy& Me, at least one of the grandkids is always sick. Our pediatrician used to assure us that these early childhood illnesses were building up the kids’ immune systems which would benefit them greatly later in life. So why are the parents’ immune systems, veterans of all those preschool ailments, getting regularly flattened with all these bugs as well? Or are these new breeds of microbes to which the folks – never mind the grandparents - have no defense? 

At least one grandkid invariably shows up with a runny nose and we are generally sick within days of the time the little germ bag leaves. At this point, we don't even try to avoid getting sick because (a) it doesn't work, and (b) we'd miss a whole lot of snotty hugs. Hugs are hugs, snotty or not.

Still, I might just be glad I got to go to school when we were allowed to eat cupcakes.

[Library’s ancient version of Little Black Sambo. I had the Golden Book version.]

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