I’ve been feeling a bit guilty recently about not being more involved with DorkySon’s nursery. Because he only goes two mornings a week, he misses quite a lot of their big events. We did make it along to watch his nativity play before Christmas, but we didn’t make the Christmas Party or the Santa visit, and last week we missed the Easter Bonnet parade too.
So when one of the staff asked a few weeks ago if I would come in and do a twenty-minute storytelling session for DorkySon’s class, I felt obliged to say yes. We agreed a time and a theme, and I knew that with a couple of weeks to prepare I could come up with something fairly informative but entertaining too. All was well… until I shared the news with DorkySon.
He did not take it well. Not at all. All of a sudden, it was like my son was thirteen rather than three. The news that ‘Mummy is coming to nursery’ led to his first proper huff. Not a tantrum – those are a fairly regular thing – but a huff. DorkySon scowled at me, before stomping off to sit on his bed alone, and muttering to his stuffed animals under his breath.
After about twenty minutes, he called me through to his room.
“You can’t come to nursery Mummy, You’re a grown up.”
I tried to explain that I’d be there as a grown up, just like all his teachers. That I’d be reading some stories for about twenty minutes, and then I’d go away again.
But DorkySon was adamant. “No Mummy, you can’t. That makes me sad.”
I was fascinated by his reaction. I wished he had the vocabulary and emotions to explain it to me in more detail. Does he just like his life kept in little compartments, with no crossover? Did he think I’d embarrass him? Did he not want to share me with the other kids?
We had a couple of weeks to talk about it all, and things didn’t really improve much. He just kept saying “You’re a grown up, Mummy, you can’t come.” Eventually one of the staff at nursery spoke to him and explained what would happen, and he finally seemed to accept that I’d only visit for a short time and then I’d leave again… so I didn’t cramp his style.
Well today was the day.
I dropped DorkySon off at nursery this morning, and then headed back home to brush up my storytelling skills. I’d decided to combine a couple of fun picture books about polar bears with some of my own photos and stories about my time in the Arctic. I also chose a couple of books about the Arctic to gift to the nursery, along with some colouring-in sheets of Arctic animals that they could do later. I did consider buying some Iced Gems or Glacier Mints to take along too, but I thought that might be stretching things a bit.
It’s ridiculous, but I was incredibly nervous about the whole thing. I don’t usually have a problem with public speaking – put me in front of a room of adults and I won’t have a problem yapping on about just about anything – but kids are different. DorkySon is fine, because he’s mine, but other children scare me quite a lot, and I really didn’t want them to think I was boring or dull or just a bit crap. I can’t imagine there is a more judgemental audience in the world than a large group of three and four year olds. So I spent this morning practicing – a lot – while also mainlining Rescue Remedy in an attempt to calm my nerves.
It was fine. I was fine. No-one fell asleep, or walked out on me, or wet themselves. I don’t know that they were particularly interested in the Arctic, but they didn’t openly jeer, and I’ll take that. The kids all wanted to tell me about their cats, and their baby brothers, and their Easter holidays. One of them said in a very loud voice, just before I started, “When I’m in bed my Mummy and Daddy like to do funny things together!” which made all the nursery workers dissolve into giggles and broke the ice a bit.
DorkySon, bless his heart, sat there as quiet as a mouse, refusing to catch my eye but listening intently. So I thought it was all going fine.
But then I finished my wee chat. And out of the corner of my eye I saw DorkySon’s face crumple before he dissolved into floods of tears. Just as he had done at his nativity play, he held it together throughout the whole thing, and then as soon as it was over the emotions took over and he got all upset.
I felt horrible. Just horrible.
The kids hadn’t eaten their lunch yet, so I headed off for an hour to let them finish the morning. If I was the problem, then DorkySon would probably recover a lot more quickly without me there.
I crept back to the nursery at 1, not sure what kind of reception I was going to get.
“It’s my Mummmmeeeee!” I heard, as I walked up the path. DorkySon came barrelling towards me for a big hug. It seemed I’d been forgiven.
On the walk home, I decided not to mention his earlier meltdown, and instead just asked how it had been to have me there reading stories to all his friends.
“It was actually quite fun, Mummy,” he said, sounding surprised.
“But I don’t think you should do it again for a long time.”