Thanks be to Zeus and George Washington Carver for that.
Tonight, Matt and I did what you should never do in a haunted house. Heh, we split up. He went to Curriculum Night for the fifth grade, which turned out to be fiendishly complicated, what with the switching of classes for different subjects and all the different teachers to find and meet, and then the having a list of 100 Latinate vocabulary words handed to him. Of which more about in a mo'.
So he did that and I went to the parents' meeting at Hank's new school. Now, Hank is not in Kindergarten yet, owing to his having just turned five and my wanting to guarantee his total shock-and-awe domination when he does finally matriculate, so he is going to a "young 5's" pre-K class at the big red church across the street from the medium white church where he went last year. The white church's school was fine, you know, nothing to really complain about except that they were a tiny bit DULL and he never loved going there. Cf, the blueberry incident. Meh. The big red church is supposed to be the bestest one, the one with the long, long waiting list for every year, conveniently, except the 5's. ('Cause most of the 4's go on to Kindergarten, I suppose.)
Anyway, it is a lovely place. Great outdoor space as well as a shiny, fancy indoor playground, a library, and a PE teacher. Really, a better facility than many, many elementary schools. Both of the 5's classes are headed by certified teachers. They have gobs of experience. I was thinking tonight, if this place were in Manhattan, it would cost 30k a year and there would be people trying to bribe their way in. And, if the program is as good as the staff kept telling us in their little presentation, it will be plenty good enough. Seriously, it was all, "Big Red Church is the premiere preschool in this area. Congratulations!" That was the pastor of the church saying that, not the director of the school. But okay folks, I am ready to be persuaded. Show me.
Then we went to our classrooms and I saw that on the class list posted by the door, they had Hank down as John. Understandable, because his name is John Henry, but I am sure than when I was filling out all the reg forms, I had "Hank" everywhere. I thought I'd better mention it to the teachers before they went crazy labeling his cubbies and folder and coat hook and everything. Hank is what he calls himself, Hank is what he can write, Hank is what he can read. Hank is, you know, his name. Hank the Tank. Hank Hank Hoobastank.
He is just such a Hank.
Also, you need to know that Matt and I regard the naming of our children as among our greatest accomplishments as parents. Sometimes we still high-five each other and say, "Nailed it." True fact.
So I introduced myself and said, "I'm John's mom, but you know, he goes by Hank. I wanted you to know before you wrote his name on everything." Well, they had already done just that--labeling it all "John Henry"--but the assistant teacher was making noises like they would just change everything. Then the head teacher said, "But what would you like him to learn to write?"
And that caught me up short. I mean, John Henry is his name, yes, and I do expect that one day he will write it and own it. So should he start learning that now? I didn't know what to say. What is the purpose of the labeled cubbie? Is it just so the child knows where to stow his bag? Or is proclaiming him back to himself? Reinforcing what he already thinks? Does a child need to be challenged by his cubbie label? Made to deal with the slight unfamiliarity, the momentary dislocation of realizing that, after all, it is oneself who that strange cubbie name refers to? I guess what I'm saying is, what is in a name?
Am I over thinking this?
Then the teacher said, "Because I do think it's good for him to learn to write his official name." And what I said was, "Well...I guess...that's right...it's just that we are nickname people..." (Nickname people? HUH? Meeting me, you would never, never think that I am smart.) So we buzzed about it a bit more and the way we left it, I think, is that they were going to put "Hank" in a few key places and he was also going to take on the mantle of John Henry. I was very clear that they need to call him Hank when talking to him or he will just not even turn around.
The version of what I just told you sounded like the following when I came home and told Matt about it: "They've got all his stuff labeled John Henry and they want him to learn that, so I don't know, I guess we will work on it." And he was like, "Okay." Reader, I concealed my inner turmoil.
Oh, and the teacher said that nobody in the class has a peanut allergy, which is good, because peanut butter is the base of Hank's food pyramid. And I think the class will be good. I hope it is not too rigid, I don't think so. I am hopeful. I hope they will engage his attention and let him play enough and generally have happy times, and that they will know he is my golden treasure. Also I met a few moms who were nice. One of them had a great Marc Jacobs Blake bag from several years back, and I thought, "Oh it is ON woman!"
You know, just a normal night of hopefulness, questions of identity, latent competitiveness, doubt, self-examination, surprising moments of connection, and yearning, like you get at literally any parents' night.
Oh lord the vocab list. Will have to tell you tomorrow.
Edited to add: Matt read this and said that in no way did I conceal my inner turmoil. Hmnph.