Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Filling Out Your Pre-Schooler's Resume

One of the comments made about my previous post, included a question about how to fill out your pre-school's forms. And, given the fact that my brain has been (maybe permanently) sunburned by too many hours at the local pool this summer to think of another subject, I will indulge my dear reader's curiosity.

Well, as many of us are learning, many schools are taking a very serious approach to education; at least, the education of their student's parents. It is no longer sufficient to only fill out lengthy health, dental, and vision forms. Nope. We are also required to fill in the EXACT SAME information on emergency cards and the dreaded Child History Form. Which is the topic of my post today.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that for some schools, this "tradition" has been occurring for several decades already. In fact, in the 1970s my own mother was required to fill out these forms for myself and my siblings when we enrolled in our Montessori school. AND, it is still a point of contention for one of my brothers.
My mother, being a well-trained schoolteacher, kept copies of all the forms she filled out and "filed" them in our baby books: her first mistake. My brother recently discovered his child history form that was filled out when he was three.
And I quote: "Mike is very unreliable.".
In my mother's defense she claims that this was meant to be a response to the toilet-training question (i.e. "Mike is very unreliable at remembering to go to the bathroom"), but she "accidentally" wrote it in the "your child's personality" section. Hmmmm.
Coincidentally, this comment is right next to a photo of a three-year-old Mike shoveling our front walk after a snowstorm; a VERY reliable thing for a three-year-old to be doing!
Needless to say, Mike is still highly offended.

But, I digress.....

It's this very same "personality question" which gives most parents some pause. What do they mean? What do they want to know? What do they really WANT you to say? And, your secret fear: Is this a personality test for me and my parenting skills?
Admit it.
You HAVE gone that far in your mental wanderings/wonderings.

At the Montessori school my children attend, parents are required to fill out this form only once, upon your child's enrollment. Since my children begin attending school (2 mornings a week) at age two, this makes this form even more difficult to answer. After all, how much "history" does a two-year-old have? Hey, I'm still getting to know this kid, and he's still getting to know me!
And, what is his personality? Come ON! He's TWO!
Do you know how many different personalities even one of my two-year-olds has had on any given day?
For my daughter, I was tempted to just say, "Have you seen 'The Three Faces of Eve'?"

In my many coffee-breaks, playgroups, and margarita-sessions (kidding! sort-of.) with other parents, I have heard answers to the Personality Question that have run the gamut from apologetic to humorous to outraged.
Here are some of my favorite examples (some I may even be able to take credit for!):

"She's like every other two-year-old."

"House-Angel, Street-Devil."

"I try to encourage his free-spirit, but his father encourages
his neuroses."

"Why do you need to know this? Aren't you, as the teacher,
supposed to figure her out and then deal with her?"

You identify with all these answers, don't you?
I thought so.
So do I.

It's not that I don't sympathize with these schools and teachers. I very much do understand that they are acquiring an unknown entity in accepting each child. But, what do they really expect to gain from the answers that parents provide?

How truthful will any parent be, for better or worse, about their own child? Right?

Which leads me to believe that the sneaking suspicion I've harbored all these years is true: they don't really want to know about your child... they want to know about YOU. Which is even more frightening, when you think about it. A toddler can be excused from almost any behavior, but an adult? Forget it.

The accepted (unwritten) cultural belief is this: if you were foolish enough to enter into parenthood without having a "plan" for how to handle these small beings, you are a failure....and, (the most important part!) don't let anyone else know it!

Because, as we all know, in our society you have to have all the right answers before the questions even come up.
You didn't know that two siblings could be so completely different from one another, and you can't discipline #2 with the same techniques that worked for #1? Too bad. You should have known about this before you ever conceived any children. You get an "F" in parenting.

I'm joking, but only mostly.
Isn't that how it feels sometimes?
And, doesn't that feeling really come into play when you are asked to write it all down on a form that goes into your child's PERMANENT FILE?

So, that's what I've finally decided is the answer. The next time I am faced with one of these forms (another year, or so!), I'm only going to write down those things that would please my child when he is an adult. Wouldn't you love to dig into your FILE and see that your mother thought you were "a joyous and cheer-filled child, who is kind to others"? I would, and I bet my kids would, too.

Don't believe me? Ask my brother Mike.


  1. I'm pretty sure Mom's assesment of me as a 3 year old has had no adverse effect on my adult life:

    Example: Last week, while I was driving, a cabbie cut me off, and instead of flipping him off, I just screamed "You can't make me angry sir! I am a the most reliable person you could ever meet, despite what my Mother wrote in my pre-school application!"

  2. then you asked him if he'd like to see your shovelling abilities? Stick with me, bro, and I'll get you into a book! It may be a psychology case-study book, but that still counts!