April 24, 2003 - Thursday
I don't get to speak with Harry's second teacher, Carrie, very much. She moved into Harry's Preschool room in January, but her schedule almost never overlaps with my drop off and pick up routine. So, today when I did speak with her we talked about a lot of the general, fill-in-the-blank kind of stuff that new friends often cover. With Harry, that means talking about how comfortable he become at school since he started there and how well spoken he is for a three-year-old.
"All the other teachers are always saying how cute he is," she says referring both to Harry's round face and the relatively eloquent and articulate way he speaks. No parent can reset that kind of stuff. I don't know how specific to Harry the comment really is - it's the kind of comment that people around kids can make in their sleep - but I sure don't mind hearing it. (I always had to chuckle when one of the maternity nurses at the hospital would call Harry or Jeremy a "cute baby." Well, that's not true: at first, as new first-time parents, we really thought they were seriously evaluating Harry and making a special effort to tell us how lucky we were, but that wore off pretty quickly when we realized just how freely the compliment was given by anyone with a baby. By the time the ultrasound nurse called Jeremy a cute baby two days before he was born looking at the green skeleton that appears in an ultrasound image, we'd long since started to believe that they teach the phrase in nursing school and have reminder signs in every maternity nurses' lounge.)
Carrie added, "he's so enthusiastic when he talks."
It's true: Harry's confidence with speech is part of what makes him so endearing. His youthful turns of phrase, his unabashed attention to tenses (regular or irregular the verb: "you forgotted," "he winned the race," etc.), and his surprisingly clear articulation compared to just about anyone in the class, even those almost a year older, all make him a veritable preschool orator.
I love hearing that stuff about my son, but as a parent I worry, too. With Harry, that enthusiasm can also sometimes be more emphatic and directive than benevolent. I know at home there are times when Harry will snap some kind of sharp retort and wave his finger and I can't help wondering whether he learned that from me. Have I scolded him too much? Did I teach him that it's the way to talk when you're serious about something? I worry about much the same thing when people, be it Carrie in our continuing initial review of Harry or strangers out in public, are nice enough to compliment me on how well-behaved Harry and Jeremy are. Are we too hard on them at home? Do they know the rules too well for such little people? Are they stifled?
Of course, I don't know the answer. I've never done this parenting thing before. Heck, I didn't really even like spending much time with kids before Harry came along. But, I guess this is how it should be. It's great hearing that stuff and nice to be able to feel proud, but the doubt is healthy, too. It seems to me that as a parent the moment you start to feel comfortable and satisfied, the moment you start to feel pleased and forget to evaluate how well you are teaching and how well the children are learning, that's when times take a turn toward trouble.