e’ve just finished three weeks of what the Italians call “l’inserimento.”
In English: the insertion. Which sounds painful or like someone is about to lose their virginity. Or both.
In Italian it is the arduous process of introducing your child to nursery school. And it takes three weeks. Three. Did I mention it was slow? Painful? Just checking.
Because it was. Excruciating. For me and for my son.
Nursery school in Italy is basically all-day kindergarten.
I was a nursery school drop out. Six times over. (I had issues. Did I say, ‘had?’)
As the big day approached the dread inside me swelled. How could I send my first-born in to the den of wolves that I had so hated? But day one actually went well. We stayed for one hour. He sniffed around the room and made sure that I was in his view.
Second day. Again, one hour together, and a half-hour of him flying solo.
He was practically inconsolable when I returned 27 minutes later.
Day three. Half-hour for us. One hour for son Oedi.
His screams made him infamous throughout the school and made my stomach turn. I left the compound sobbing.
Days four and five did not get any better. The crying jags were out of control. Finally I said, “You have got to get it together!” I stared at myself in the mirror and tried some ujjaiy (ooh-jeye) breathing. I also contemplated taking a Xanax.
We took the weekend to regroup.
Week two (school days six-10).
New tactic: Daddy drop-off. Marco would take him to school and I would swoop down and rescue him after a couple hours. This procedure seemed to be less traumatic because like any good Italian son, my boy loves his mamma a little too much. Not to mention that said mamma (me) is also having some mixed emotions about cutting the chord.
On Wednesday of that week, after listening to Oedipus kick, scream and cry before my lips had even touched my morning caffeinated beverage, my anxiety reached stratospheric heights. Marco and I begged him to put on his little uniform and close-toed shoes. (Relax. He does not own a pair of peep-toe sling backs. Just flip-flops. We have issues… just not any dealing with cross-dressing. Yet.)
He was now sensing that this school thing would be a regular occurrence. Desperate in his attempt to return to my uterus, he pulled out all the temper tantrum stops. We were now in a full-blown battle with the wee one.
Week three came and the situation seemed to worsen. “How did it go?” I asked the teacher on Monday (day 11). “Well, he ate all his pasta for lunch.” I was relieved that his first day of institutional eating went well. “And an entire apple.”
“Yes, he loves apples.”
“No, signora, he ate an entire apple.” Core and all. She seemed upset.
“That’s okay. More fiber,” I joked.
Then she said, “But he also bit three people.”
Classmates were not on the menu. I was pretty sure.
I was mortified and apologetic.
It was as if he had decided to take hostages making it more like a war on terror than a mommy to mini-man to man combat.
Days 12 and 13 were full of maternal torture but better scholastic behavior. I was growing weak and weary and wondered why we had to continue this gradual process. I wanted to scream, “Just rip off the band aid!” We all know it hurts less that way. I had no idea why this cockamamy system took three weeks to do what most American schools do in one day.
By the end of week three, (day 15) something sort of miraculous happened.
He woke up. Got dressed. Asked for a banana. Got his backpack and went off to school.
When I remarked to his teacher that he was happy to come to school that day she said, “That’s why we do it this way.”