Monday, December 19, 2005


First the good news: Finn loves preschool. He loves his classmates, his teacher, playtime, story time and crafts. Each morning after he wakes up he inquires if today is a school day; three days a week he’s ecstatic, two days a week he’s disappointed, and on the weekends the question represents the only time he’ll address me directly, as Johnny’s home and I can’t be wasting my time on idle chatter, woman, when my Papa’s here to play with me! Duh!

Now onto the frustrating news (or comic news, I suppose, for everyone who’s not his Virgo mother).
The complete version of the sentence above should have been written like this: Finn loves preschool—as long as it falls between the regularly scheduled school hours of 9am and 12:30pm. After that time, all declarations of love become null and void.

For some reason, the same little boy who chatters non-stop all day long and has lately earned himself the nickname “Captain Volume” due to his success rate in waking his sister up from more than 90 percent of her naps while doing so, flat-out refuses to participate in any
extracurricular social or holiday activities at school. The trend began back in October, when the school hosted its fall carnival a few nights before Halloween. (Perhaps you’re familiar with my October 27th post?) I thought his overall apprehension to participate was explainable by the fact that, in the dark, the school’s otherwise familiar and comforting surroundings appeared spooky and intimidating.

But that quaint theory was quickly shattered upon our arrival at—and Finn’s immediate boycott of—the school’s Thanksgiving banquet. This festive spread, held in BROAD DAYLIGHT, featured a long banquet table where miniature pilgrims and Indians dined on sliced turkey, fruit and biscuits. Finn wouldn’t even sit with his
classmates—you know, the ones he laughs and plays with each day at school without issue—let alone wear the feathered headdress that he had made himself just days earlier. He clung to my leg while we watched his friends eat—and the suddenly shy boy no wear-um fancy headdress.

So I harbored great optimism when I overheard Finney practicing his Christmas carols around the house last week in preparation for the school’s annual Christmas pageant. Some of the more outgoing students at school, the ones who are able to bring themselves to speak aloud among mixed company, volunteered to be part of the nativity scene. The rest of the children, including Finney, were to play a chorus of angels, dressed all in white with silver garland around their waists and halos on their heads.

The first sign of festive fallout materialized a day or two before the show when Finn said to me, “I don’t want to be an angel; I want to be Darth Vader.” I let him know that Darth Vader probably didn’t make an appearance at the first Christmas, but I assured him that he could play any type of angel that he wanted. “I want to be a race car angel, then,” he retorted, speeding off in one long screech around the kitchen corner and out of sight. Great, I naively thought. Problem solved.

Are you predicting how this turns out, yet?

The night of the show, as John and I attempted to dress Finn in his pageant costume, you would have thought we were trying to outfit the lad in a straight jacket lined with porcupine quills instead of an oversized Hanes beefy tee by the way he writhed in protest. Despite our most earnest attempts at coercion and pleas for compliance, Finnegan morphed once again into a holiday humbug and a pillar of shyness, rigid and unmoving. No silver garland belt, no halo, no way. I don’t wanna. No race car angel. No angel. No nothin’. Even Grandma, who with Opa was in attendance to witness their grandson’s first holiday performance, couldn’t work her magic and persuade him to join the heavenly host of toddler angels.

So, together as one big family, we watched the charming Christmas pageant unfold from the 14th pew of the school’s chapel. Finney too, who was still being held in all his unrelenting resolve on the sidelines by Grandma.

Afterwards, from the safety of the parking lot, Finn assured us that, yes, he would definitely participate next year with his classmates. Yeah, that's right, I'll do it NEXT YEAR! Especially once he noticed that all the little angels, shepherds, animals and even the baby Jesus himself came back from the pageant chomping on the candy canes they had just been given by Santa.

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