Today was the first day of preschool for Thing 1. Yes, he’s 4-years-old, and no, he’s never been in any sort of structured program. The closest he’s ever come to attending daycare is spending an hour in the “clubhouse” at the gym while I run for 10 minutes and stand around looking cool for fifty. Some people flip that, but I like to play to my strengths.

As it was his first day I volunteered to be one of the plethora of parent helpers that are present during each class. I figured it would ease him into the program. We were there roughly 6 seconds before he forgot me forever. That’s cool. He was just slowing me down anyway.

He was fantastic. I sat in the corner cutting out stocking shapes for future projects and occasionally reaching things that the other parents, all women, couldn’t. That’s my lot in life- height and uncomfortable good looks. So I sat there, and I cut, I reached, I watched and I listened.

He was the only kid new to the program and it didn’t faze him. He’s something of a lone wolf. He’s also something of a ladies man. Whenever groups were broken apart the majority of the kids tended to side along lines of gender. Not my boy. He grabbed his juice box and sat down at a table full of girls. He gave them a nod and went about his snack business. He is cool and aloof. It was business time.

There were other kids there that weren’t so controlled. I was a bit surprised by a) the fact that the worst kid was also accompanied/ignored by a parent, and b) the teacher has the patience of a saint. I ran a childcare program for 10 years and I was more of a disciplinarian. Granted I had a much larger group and for the most part they were a bit older, but I had a knack for bringing them to Jesus pretty damn quick.

As I sat there I realized that kids are easy to sort. Being among them for less than an hour had already presented me the tools to label and pigeonhole them. There were tough kids, sissy kids, kids who climb on rocks. I found myself approving of possible playmates and thinking up excuses not to play with others, for surely the invitations are inevitable.

Is it wrong to judge a book by its cover? You betcha. Do we do it? Hell yes. Of course, the trick is to be open enough and big enough to realize that a first impression should not be the only one. Some of those kids might be quiet in class but will cut you for milk money, and others might be loud and bossy when it isn’t appropriate then be caring and polite when it matters. This will all play out.

In the meantime, my boy has a day of school under his belt and it looks like it fits.