So, the thing is... Iím filling out Anaís preschool application.   

Confidential

Name: Ana Katherine Cooper 

Age: 3.25 years (or, as she says, "Not quite four.)

Fatherís name: Daddy

Motherís name: Moms 

1. List siblings by name and age: Jane Elizabeth Cooper 10/11/2000 

2. Was your child born prematurely, or were there any complications?  Ana came two weeks early, by emergency c-section after some twenty-four hours of labor during which her mother refused to dilate.  (I'm stubborn that way.) 

3. Does your child have any special needs such as a medical condition, allergies, hyperactivity, or learning disabilities?  Ana experiences Low Blood Sugar of Epic Proportions when hungry and she has a very hard time eating breakfast before 10:00 AM so she will be basically unbearable for the first hour and a half of class. 

4. Describe your child's personality as you see it.  Ana is ferociously bright; a virtual sponge.  But she's an assessor and won't participate unless the merits of said activity have been proven to her.  She has, as my mother says, A Whim of Iron. 

5. Are there any circumstances in the child's life that would be helpful to the teacher in understanding the child? (i.e. parent divorce, step parents, step brothers/sisters, grandparents living in the  home, etc.?)  Ana's grandmothers were both born in foreign countries and do not have English as their first language.  Her Mima is Cuban and her Mutti is German and you can understand how this could lead to some confused genetic impulses.  For example, if she really wants a nap after lunch but not unless someone sanitizes the nap mat with antibacterial wipes, you'll understand.   

6. How does the child help in dressing himself/herself?  Ana has no real interest in dressing herself but she can undress faster than you can say "letís go swimming."  She did once "help" me put on her pants, steadying herself by grabbing the skin under my chin and hanging on. 

7. What tasks does he/she help with at home?  Ana is very helpful in directing the placement of her little sister at any given time.   

8. Does the child ever have problems with toileting and bedwetting?  Not unless you count the fact that during an average nap, she will need to get up and go pee-pee at least seventy-five times. 

Interest and Abilities:

1. What are his/her favorite play materials?  In addition to her pop-up space shuttle and large collection of Thomas trains, Ana prefers the salad tongs above all other toys. 

2. What is his/her favorite activity indoors?  Finger-painting and taking toys away from her little sister. 

3. Does he/she have an opportunity to play with live animals? What?    Well, Ana lives with a dog and a cat but neither one of them is exactly playmate material.  The dog can be counted on to eat any dropped food, though, and the cat would take too much room to explain here. 

4. How often are stories read to him/her?  What is his/her favorite story?  We read to Ana constantly --before nap and bedtime and frequently throughout the day, especially during potty time.  Right now she has a particular fondness for a book from my shelf called "Recipes From an Amish Country Kitchen." 

5. Has he/she shown any interest in music?  Ana loves the Beatles more than the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney above all Beatles.  She reached these decisions independently of her father.  I promise. 

6. Has he/she had any experience with clay, scissors, easel painting, blocks, water play? Yes, but I'd rather not talk about it. 

7. Does he/she have a favorite playmate outside of the family? Do you count her inflatable astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman? 

8. By nature, is he/she friendly, aggressive, withdrawn, etc.?  Well, please don't tell her father I said so, but Ana is S-H-Y.  We try not to label her, afraid the labels are self-fulfilling prophecies, but the fact is, she's either an introvert, or she just doesn't find new people worthy of her time. 

Emotional

1. Of what things has he/she shown definite fears?  Ana is apparently afraid of all cheese except extremely sharp, aged Parmesan cheese. 

2. What has been done to remove these fears? We remove the cheese from her pizza and replace it with aged Parmesan cheese. 

3. How would you describe his/her position and relationship in the family?  Recovering Queen of the Universe 

4. What points are most often at issue between parent and child?  The appropriateness of bonking her sister on the head. 

5. What do you feel is the best way of handling him/her?  Since Ana is so incredibly verbal and, well, intractable, I find that having my lawyer negotiate with her works extremely well.  If he's not available, ominous threats have proven effective but only sometimes. 

6. How does he/she react to discipline?  Well, it depends.  If I do something truly dire like sending her to her room for a time out, we have tears.  If I try to use guilt or other mind games (as were so effective when *I* was growing up), she ignores me completely. 

7. Who does most of the disciplining?  She does but I'm working on it. 

8. What is one of the strongest assets in your relationship with your child?  I love her more than my own life and she tolerates me because I know how to drive. 

9. What are the childís abilities and potential and how may the school help with these?  Ana has stated the objective that she would like to learn to be an astronaut this next school year.  Anything you can do toward this end would be very helpful. 

10. What hopes do you have for your child this year and how can the school assist your child? 

Oh, gosh, where to begin?  I hope that Ana has the time of her life.  I hope she finds a group of friends and that she'll grow into her big brain and out of her shyness.  I hope the other children are nice to her and include her in their playground games and I hope that this year will begin the process of fostering a love of school in her that will last a lifetime.  I hope she stays as whole as she is now --full of optimism and joy and trust that the world is a happy place.  I hope you'll be gentle with her when she hangs back at first.  I hope you'll see how smart and sensitive she is and how she responds better to encouragement and belief in her than she does to rigid rules.  I hope you'll see how advanced she is academically and cheer her on in the less familiar pursuit of socialization.  And I hope that she loves it so much, it's like a second home to her.  I hope she bubbles over with enthusiasm, which happens to her sometimes.  I hope that some day I'll come by to see her and find her shrieking with glee on the playground.   

I hope you'll love her.  It's easy to do. 

So, I'm going to drop her off on August 27th and I'm going to smile and create as much of a party atmosphere as I can about the idea of her going to school.  (And then I'm going home to listen to Etta James and cry but that's another column.)  I promise to do my part. I promise that she'll only see how thrilling and never how hard it is for me to watch her take her first steps down the road that will eventually take her far from me. 

But your job is even harder because it's not YOUR heart running around on that playground.  I'm just asking you to act like it is. 

 

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(c) Barbara Cooper 2001 

Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (3) and Jane (eight months).  She lives in Austin, Texas and (rather regretfully) has no fear of cheese of any kind.