Friday, September 26, 2008

Show and Tell

Preschool Show and Tell is seriously stressful.... for me. Each Thursday, Aidan is supposed to bring in something that corresponds to the letter of the week, something he wants to share, to tell others about, to impress his friends with..... and each week, I want him to have something that is "just right." Something that fits into the decorated brown lunch bag his teacher sends each Wednesday, a tacit reminder: "Parents, you'd better fill this thing with something for tomorrow's Show and Tell." Something he'll be proud to show... and tell. I want him to choose something that he can talk about without inhibition; something he really likes; something that's not too expensive (the camera he wanted to bring) too valuable (his lovey, Gladys) too cumbersome (his brother, Leo) or too strange (a photograph of the "nook", a corner of the family room that has two chairs. And a basket of toys.)

And so the pressure is on. This is definitely Aidan's thing; Aidan gets to decide what to bring. But still, the latent teacher inside me knows that the chosen object at show-and-tell is most definitely a reflection of the kind of parents we are. Or at least, that's what my latent-teacher brain has managed to convince the worried-mother brain of mine. So each Tuesday, we begin plotting what he might bring. I write big, bold reminders on the dry-erase board, because - god forbid - what if he FORGOT show and tell??? What would that say about me as a mother? We contemplate many possibilities. This week, the letter was A. He quickly decided on a photograph of our cat, Alice. I worried... would the teacher think he had his letters confused? Bringing a "C" object for "A" week? Would a small, gray, Lego cat representative be a better choice than a photograph? Should he draw a picture, his own rendition of his cat? Aidan insisted on a photo. When I could not locate a single one on our computer, he decided to take one himself. With our (expensive, highly-guarded) camera. I admit, I got impatient when he took forever to set up the pose, tell the cat to say "cheese," try to see her through the viewfinder, and finally snap the photo. I tried to convince him to let me snap a photo with him and Alice, and he'd have a "double A" picture. He refused to give up the lens. The kid's a natural, though. His photo was just right, ten times better than the one I impatiently snapped at the beginning of the photo shoot. We printed it in 8x10 format on cardstock; I tucked it away in his backpack on Wednesday night, and sent him on his way, confident that Thursday's Show and Tell would be all the rave at the dinner table.

"Aidan! What did the kids think of your picture at Show and Tell? How did it go?" I implored. "They liked it," he replied. "Oh yeah? What did they say? Did you tell them it was A for Alice? Did you tell them you took the picture all by yourself?? What did the other kids bring in???" "Um, I don't remember what they said...." I looked at him, perplexed. I prodded for more answers. I tried every trick in the book, asking "gateway" questions, naming specific kids, trying to get him to open up, give me the scoop on every detail of Show and Tell.

Clearly, and thankfully, Show and Tell is not quite the stress-inducer for Aidan that it is for me. So perhaps I should start my own Show and Tell, with my own friends. What would I bring? Well, for A week, I'd bring Aidan. Or a carefully composed photograph of Aidan. Or an Aidan representative, perhaps the outlined body portrait he's been working on for weeks. I'd bring Aidan, because he's one of my two biggest achievements so far in life. I'd bring Aidan, because of the humility, the joy, the love and laugher he brings to our lives. I'd bring Aidan, because, as my firstborn, he was the definining person in my emergent life as Mom. I'd bring Aidan, despite my earlier disclaimers. He wouldn't fit in the brown paper bag; he's too expensive; he's too valuable; he can be rather cumbersome and strange at times, he's still that forbidden F word... Four.... yet when I meet someone new, when I'm with my friends, when I'm around people I've known forever, the first thing I want to do is show and tell.... show and tell Aidan, show and tell Leo, show and tell Jeff and our entire family.

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