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Betsy Block


The Policy

The Policy
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We'd tucked the kids in and kissed them goodnight. "Now don't come down," BD told them.

"Why do we have to go to bed so early?" they complained.

"You need to get back on a school schedule," we lied. The real reason we'd hustled them into bed was that we had a show to watch, and no kid was going to stop us (or join us, for that matter).

"So stay in bed," BD said sternly.

" Unless it's a real emergency?" asked 5-year-old P.

"Right," said BD, nodding reassuringly.

"What's a real emergency?" P asked, stalling.

"You know, if there's a bug on your wall."

"Or if a crack opens up in the ceiling and a big hand reaches down from it?"

That was when we realized P might be experiencing a little more kindergarten anxiety than we'd thought.

This was last Wednesday, the night before P's first visit to her new school. It would only be for an hour, and I would be there, so I didn't think it had registered as anything major. Besides, I've been through this before with 10-year-old E. I was sure that this time, the transition wouldn't be nearly as tough as it had been five years ago. I would calmly and lovingly lead P into the world of kindergarten, where she would feel safe and warm, and then I'd go on my merry way.

And so, horrific images of hands coming out of ceilings notwithstanding, BD and I watched our show. (P came down a few times, but we kept chasing her back up.) Afterwards, I went upstairs to check on her and found her still awake, with a haunted look in her eyes. "What's wrong?" I asked, now regretting that I'd ignored my child for the sake of TV - good TV, it's true, but TV nonetheless.

"You know," she said. "You say."

"It's kindergarten, right?" She shoved her hand into her mouth in an effort to stave off the tears, and I realized that P was having some feelings. "Let it out," I whispered, and the sobbing commenced.

These were no fake tears. These were the tears of loss, of change, of growing up. Not surprisingly, soon enough I was crying too, though trying not to let her see the extent of my own grief. P is my last child, my youngest. This peanut of a girl is entering the world now, and what a world it is. Since there was nothing else I could offer but myself, I lay down next to her in bed and wrapped my arm tightly around her until she fell asleep. Then I snuck out of the room to try and fall asleep myself.

But by morning, the storm seemed to have passed; I came downstairs to find P drinking juice and eating toast, cozy and content under a blanket on our comfy couch. In the light of day, life looked brighter, more manageable. A little while later, P and I took off for our hour's visit in her new class. It was, without a doubt, a smashing success. She saw a girl she knows; they played in the classroom kitchen the whole time. I'd brought a picnic for afterwards, which she wanted to eat in the car, so that's where we were, sitting side by side in the backseat, when suddenly she stopped eating to ask, "What's the policy here?"

"The policy?" I was confused. (Which naturally infuriated her and made her cry because - well, just because that's the way it's been going lately.)

"You mean the rules?" I asked. She nodded. What I wanted to say was, I'm still trying to figure out the rules myself, sweet girl. I'll have to get back to you on that.

But I didn't. Instead, I told her, "Well, the policy here is to be kind. And no hitting."

"Oh, just like my old school," she said, sitting back in her seat. She was content with my answer, at least for now.

And the two of us picked up where we'd left off, sitting in the back of a minivan across from school, eating some lunch.

Thumbprint Cookies
P, her friend and I made these cookies with the jam we'd made the week before on their last day before kindergarten. I sound like a real prairie woman, don't I? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1  cup flour

Cream the butter and sugar, then mix in the egg and vanilla. Add flour. Make 12 (sticky) balls, then slightly flatten them, then make "thumbprints" in the middle. (We used our pointer fingers, and we made the holes bigger than a thumb - as big as we could, in fact, so they'd hold more of the good stuff.) Cook them on a greased cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then redo the "thumbprints" and carefully fill them with jam. Cook for about 10 more minutes, or until lightly brown on the edges.