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10 reasons why I think my preschooler is in the CIA

Estelle Sobel ErasmusDear parents of preschoolers,

I’ve been dealing with this for a while, but I think it’s time to share my concern with the rest of you for your own good. So, here it is:

I believe my daughter’s preschool is some sort of top-secret early CIA program that parents are kept in the dark about.

And I don’t believe that I’m the only parent in this situation; I am just the tip of the iceberg.

I also believe that the kids have sworn an oath to secrecy as good citizens protecting our country and they take this responsibility very, very seriously.

Think about it parents: if you have enrolled your children in preschool full-time, they are in there for at least five to six hours a day! But what do you really know about what they are doing, except for seeing their pre-selected weekly pics, a few art projects, and hearing about the occasional party to throw us off track?

They are very clever, but I have figured it out. So, to prove I’m neither crazy nor delusional — and neither are you fellow silent sufferers. Here are my top reasons why I think my preschooler is in some sort of top-secret government CIA program.

1) They Do “Stuff”

I recently asked my 3-year-old daughter about her day at school and here is a synopsis of our conversation:

Me: “So what did you do at preschool today?”

Her: “We did lots of stuff and then we did more stuff.”

Me: Um, OK.

Stuff, stuff and more stuff. It’s just what they do. My daughter’s vocabulary normally includes words like actually, think, happy and love. She is clearly a purist with a preference for using the word ‘stuff’ when it comes to describing her day, coupled with a matter-of-fact expression that further serves to thwart me (her intention I believe).

I even bowed to the assumed wisdom of one (possibly brainwashed) parent with older children, who admonished me that I was not asking specific questions, such as, “Did you paint today?”

Dutifully, I asked my daughter that and got a slightly pitying look from her and a resounding — wait for it — head shake, no.

2) She’s Sworn to a Code of Silence

It’s as if their school’s theme song is the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed.”

Whatever I say or do, I’m unable to get any specifics from her about her school experiences.

For example, ask me about my day, and I won’t shut up. You’ll get tons of details. Just ask my husband. Her, not so much. Not right away anyway.

3) Photos are Verboten

I receive photos of her from the school each week, but for some reason, known only to them, all the photos show her with her eyes cast down or averted from the camera, as if she is hiding something.

Very suspect. Because. She. Never. Looks. Directly. Into. The. Camera.

4) Circle Time is Code for “Bad Behavior Explored”

I have a theory that circle time is when the kids get instructions to test the moral fibers of their parents, determine our reactions and assess our empathy levels. They do this by exploring scenarios of unacceptable behavior and gauging our responses.

For example, I asked my daughter about circle time yesterday. She paused, in her relentless goal of watching as many episodes of “Dora the Explorer on Demand” as she can before going to bed, furrowed her little face and then proceeded to deflect like the true professional she is.

“Somebody ripped the book, and it was ruined,” she told me, solemnly reporting this reading-related incident. Another friend told me that her daughter reported a stolen Elmo juice box intrigue.

Undaunted, I tried again yesterday.

Me: “What did you do in circle time today?”

Her: “Bob (name changed to protect the maybe not so innocent) cried.”

Me: “During circle time?”  Thinking to myself: I know this boy, and he seems a hardy type.

Her: “Yes.”

Me: “Why did he cry?”

Her: “I think he missed his mommy.”

Repeated plaintively, head cocked, staring me down. “He missed his mommy!”

Very interesting. She threw in deflection and added in a heap of mommy guilt for good measure just to throw me further off the track.

Well played, daughter. Well played.

5) Are Legos Legit?

Indulge me and ponder the concept of LEGOs for a moment. They are in every preschool. For what purpose? Why/what do children need to build so bad, and who needs them to build it? Is there a secret LEGO building factory that they are a part of?

Ask yourself that question. I do.

6) I Believe She Has a Double

According to her teachers, my daughter is a true gem:  polite, helpful, very sociable and shows lots of empathy for other kids.

Obviously, she has a double acting on her behalf during the day. How else to explain the tantrum I’ve deemed the “I Want More Goldfish Crackers Caper” when she went crazy for an HOUR AND A HALF over her overwhelming need for This. One. Specific. Food. A demand that she repeated over and over in an endless litany that felt as long as my pregnancy was.

She had clearly honed this skill somewhere and was now testing it on me. It was the kid equivalent of Chinese water torture — or water boarding. Behavior that was designed to make me, um, crackers.

7) Unexplainable Stains On Her Clothes 

One day it is an orange stain that confounds me.

“Did you paint with orange today?” I ask her.

“No,” she replies, “I used green.”‘

“Green?” I asked tentatively. “I don’t see anything green. Did one of the kids use orange paint?”

“No. Mommy. No. Orange. Paint,” she yells back.

“Did you get an orange as a snack?”

“No.”

And so it goes. Confusing me and making me question my very sanity.

8) Snack Time Syndrome

There is one bright spot for me in all this. My daughter is great at talking about what she ate at snack time. That’s why I’ve figured out the code for it. The code for snack time is, “you’ve got to give the grownups something or they’ll break.”

One friend says, “If I ask over and over, I can often get a result about snack of the day. But that’s it.”

Hard to believe. Although she is out of the house for hours, the only “nugget” of info (or Intel) she can provide is about snack time. Usually it’s to tell me that she didn’t like what I provided.

“No more yogurt, mommy.”

“But you used to like yogurt, honey.”

“Mommy. Mommy. You need to be a good listener. No. More. Yogurt.”

At least she’s sharing info about something, I tell myself.

But, what I “get” often adds to the mystery.

9) All Thoughts Dora Aside, They Still Can’t Relinquish Their Backpacks

The backpacks must have top-secret information. My daughter won’t let it leave her body not even when she gets in the car. When we get home, she empties it out first (probably checking that no confidential documents have been stashed where I can get access to them), after which she keeps it arm’s length away from her for the rest of the day.

10)  They Carry Nuts or Peanut Items as a Weapon

My daughter goes to a nut-free school. Why then, every morning, do I have to wrestle some peanut-containing granola bar or breakfast bar, or cereal container out of her hands? A fight that does not go easily until I manage to grab the dangerous item. Why then, oh why, do I see her in the back of the car, with a tiny piece of the food “weapon” still in her hand, or sometimes even secreted away in her mouth? Why is she so determined to hang on to the toxic-to-other-kids morsel? For what nefarious reasons does she need to protect herself?

And let me leave you with one last thought. Nap Time?

Does your child EVER nap at home? No, I didn’t think so. I know mine stopped hers more than eight months ago. So why only in school? And what makes them so agreeable to do it?

You mean to tell me that the child, who fights her bedtime routine tooth and nail, simply says ok, and goes right to sleep when told by the teacher? What mind-control sessions are occurring during this so called nap time?

That’s the next conspiracy I plan to uncover. Who’s with me?

— Estelle Sobel Erasmus

Estelle Sobel Erasmus is an award-winning journalist and former magazine editor-in-chief who blogs about her sometimes serious, often humorous but always transformative journey through motherhood, marriage and midlife at Musings on Motherhood and Midlife. She was recently the featured blogger at She Speaks. Her writing was recently featured in the anthology, What Do Mothers Need? Motherhood Activists and Scholars Speak Out on Maternal Empowerment for the 21st Century (Demeter Press, 2013). She is a 2012 BlogHer Voice of the Year, a Circle of Moms Top 25 Winner for Best Family Blog by a Mom and a proud “Listen to Your Mother” NYC alumni.  You can find her writing at Kveller.com, Weightwatchers.com and WorkingMother.com. Estelle also can be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

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