Mikey would turn four by Christmas so he was old enough to attend the pre-school I, Kathleen, directed in the Free Methodist Church in Greenville, Illinois. It was 1971 and I held the school three mornings a week.
Mikey, the fourth son of a local doctor, had looked forward eagerly to the experience for most of a year because his next older brother, Matthew, had attended the previous year and Mikey had gone with his mother regularly to escort him to the church. He had seen what fun the children had in pre-school and also how much his brother enjoyed it.
Now, in September, at three-and-a-half, the big day came. He was standing in line with his mother to register. Several mothers and their children were ahead of them. The room was quiet.
Suddenly, he realized that one at a time, the mothers were leaving their children and going home. Mikey panicked, looked up into his mother’s face and said out loud, “I quit!”
He continued to whimper a bit as his mother instructed me to complete his registration. She intended to leave in spite of his protests but I persuaded her to stay until Mikey was comfortable.
She stayed through the play time. When the children went into the story room his mother told Mikey she would be just outside the door. Half way through the story, Mikey wanted his mother.
I quickly opened the door. His mother was gone. Mikey began screaming and sobbing. I tried to comfort him. An idea struck me, and I placed my expandable bracelet wrist watch on his arm. I showed him the small hand and told him that when it came to the top at 12 his mother would be there to pick him up. I then slid the watch as high on his arm as I could and it held. He stopped sobbing and entered into the morning’s activities.
When his mother arrived for him he was delighted. They started to leave but as they were about to go through the swinging doors he looked up and whispered something to her. She nodded and he ran back and gave me a big kiss goodbye. From then on Mikey came to preschool happy and unafraid.
Photo credit: Bridget Coila (via flickr.com)