The Beat of Our Own Drums

Today we went to see Jack's preschool at our nanny's request. This is the fourth preschool we've tried (mostly because the nanny hasn't been thrilled with the others for various reasons: too small, too crowded, too dirty) and so far, she seems happy with it and so does Jack. So John and I left work around 10:30 and headed over to the school, which is in an old Soviet building next to what I believe is the governor's residence.

It's difficult to accept that this place is the best the city has to offer, especially after three weeks of the Embassy daycare in Moscow, which in the U.S. would be considered pretty normal, but was a veritable palace by comparison. Still, I've learned not to judge things by their appearance here, so we kept an open mind. First up was the "music lesson," which consisted of the teacher playing a song on a stereo and demonstrating the dance steps to the three other kids (plus Jack, who looked about as lost as I felt). Eventually he seemed to catch on, even if he was at least one dance move behind everyone else.

But even when he was doing the moves, Jack enjoyed putting his own spin on things. Head bobbing, knees bending, mouth open, arms waving, Jack was using his whole entire body, while the other kids followed along with the teacher, moving mechanically in imitation. I was cracking up watching Jack, whose hair was a mess, who was laughing and clapping and having a blast too (the other mom there was also laughing; I don't think you could watch Jack and NOT laugh).

The next lesson was making beads out of dough. Jack, however, didn't want to make beads. He wanted to make dough snakes. And unfortunately, that wasn't on the agenda. The teacher, to her credit, was very patient and continued to tell Jack, in Russian, how to make a bead. I'd like to blame Jack's disobedience on the fact that he didn't understand what was happening, but I was sitting next to him explaining and demonstrating and he still didn't want to do it that way. John and I were frustrated and a little embarrassed when we left the school. The Russian kids were so obedient and well-mannered. They never stepped out of line or challenged the teacher. They were like little Russian robots. Meanwhile, our kid was more like a tiny tornado, a destructive force that refuses to stay in one place.

In the U.S., Jack would probably do very well in one of the several exploration-driven curricula (is that the right word?) that are popular now. In Russia, I'm sorry to say, Jack is a screw-up. In the U.S., Jack would probably be called a free spirit, independent, creative. Here, he's the weird kid in class who can't get with the program. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized something: I'm okay with that.

First of all, we're not going to be in Russia forever. And second, if Jack was the kind of kid who only knew how to follow the rules, to do what everyone else was doing, to be one of the crowd, he probably wouldn't make for a very good third culture kid. The Foreign Service lifestyle only works if you can be flexible, if you can adapt to new surroundings, and if you can get over the fact that you're probably going to make an ass of yourself 99% of the time. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a proper little robot child who did exactly what was asked of him. But then I realize that even though that might be more convenient or make life a little less hectic, it wouldn't be very much fun (and it sure as hell wouldn't make for good blog posts).

In the end, I'd rather Jack marched - or danced, or flopped around like a maniac - to the beat of his own drum.  


  1. Beautifully written, M <3 As kind of a weirdo I can honestly say having supportive and loving parents is all the direction Jack will ever need!

  2. This is awesome. Go Jack! And I agree with you--just let kids be who they are. I snuck into my son's daycare class a few weeks ago, and while all the kids were dancing to really funky Turkish music, I watched as my kid sprinted across the room and dove head first into ball pit screaming, "Yay, I did it!" Fun times :)


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