I love children. But it is the five year olds that scare me. My anxiety and fear are not so much over what they do, but what they can say, where, and when. This was brought to me recently when I had to interact with a group of very cute five year olds. My son’s kindergarten class was having a “parent(s)-eat -lunch-with- their-kids” program. As a precaution, I made sure I wasn’t dressed as a clown. I took a bath, wore a regular nice shirt, shoes, pants, and even a tie. I drove through the rain and made sure I had an umbrella to avoid being a soaked father; then I could have looked worse than a clown.
As soon as 1 walked into the class, I was greeted like a celebrity and was surrounded by excited kids. 1 felt like 1 was a rock star. 1 could see my son was very proud to have his dad there.
“So you’re Mike’s dad!?” one kid asked or sort of stated.
“You look Just like your son. Mike”(not his real name) another kid quipped.
“You must be twins.” (Ever hear of twins being born thirty years apart? one asked me.)
“Why do you have balls in your hair?” another kid asked. (I have very curly hair.)
Then my own son said:
“My dad’s hair is turning white. He is an old man.”
They all giggled.
With my son joining in the offensive, I felt helpless and vulnerable.
1 was saved from this bombardment when another male parent walked in. Then one kid said to another; “My dad is bigger than yours”.
A courageous parent tried to smooth things over and said:
“Com’on Joe, dads come in different sizes.”
The continuous action and body movements the children made were incredible and made me momentarily dizzy. We ate an enjoyable and amusing lunch as the French fries were in the shape of letters of the alphabet. We took the opportunity to ingeniously brush up on the letters of the alphabet. One of the children took some liberties and reversed the order of eating and started with the ice cream dessert. Predictably, she never made it to the main course: a meatball sandwich. Being a responsible parent, I was tempted to report the kid to the teacher and write down the kids’ name and his home address, and phone number so I could inform her parents of the naughty behavior. But I thought better of it.
I commended the teacher for doing such a wonderful job handling these active but curious kids. I had enjoyed the visit. But as I left I could not help but feel relieved that I had escaped just in time to avoid becoming a P.O.W. of that class of kindergarten kids.
****A version of this article appeared in: Mwizenge S. Tembo, Kids Scare Me, The Bridgewater College Talon, February 11, 1991.