When Archie went to pre-school he had the best teachers who were not only amazing, they created a wonderful, relaxed and happy place where all the care and education was given without bureaucracy and rule-books getting in the way.
Twelve years later when Alfie went to pre-school (a different pre-school) things had changed. More rules were in place like at Archie’s pre-school everyone had to bring in a piece of fruit and this was cut up and presented on platters for the children to share and it was drummed into them, ‘The one you touch is the one you take’. At Alfie’s pre-school no food was allowed to be shared. At Archie’s pre-school all the children had their own hand towel hanging in the bathroom. At Alfie’s pre-school hand towels weren’t allowed and the children had to dry their hands on disposable paper tissue.
And the directors were different too. Where Archie’s had been so relaxed and carefree, Alfie’s director loved bureaucracy and political correctness and the ever-expanding rules of OH & S.
One day, a few hours after I had dropped Alfie at pre-school, I was driving my car when my mobile rang. It was the director of the pre-school. I was immediately anxious thinking something serious must have happened. She said she was calling because Alfie had been rude to her. I said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.’ She told me he had been playing outside and she had asked him to come in and he looked at her and said rude words. I wondered if she was going to tell me what the rude words were. ‘He told me to shut up’, she continued, and went on to tell me how that is inappropriate and how he needs to learn respect for authorities and how she can’t have four year olds undermining her authority and where does he hear such language.
‘From the teenagers is what I was thinking’, but didn’t say. I knew that what Alfie had done was wrong and as serious as the infringement was I thought this conversation could have waited until I collected him at 3pm.
‘I just wanted to tell you that he’d been very rude to me’, she continued.
‘Oh, okay. Well, I’m sorry about that. I’ll talk to him about it tonight and tell him that’s unacceptable behaviour. And uhm, is that all?’
‘Well yes, but we could probably talk about it some more when you collect him this afternoon.’ And I made a mental note to run in and grab him and run back out before there was any opportunity to again workshop the crime.
On another occasion she suggested I have him checked out by a medical examiner. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. ‘Oh well, it’s always the boys with the blond hair and blue eyes and fair skin that I’m suspicious of’. Like that comment wasn’t going to offend me. I had him checked out by our doctor who could find nothing wrong with him. I took him back to pre-school and said, ‘There’s nothing wrong but they do think he’s very intelligent’. She looked a bit disappointed. She asked me to take him to a naturopath to see if he had sensitivities to certain foods.
I trekked down to the naturopath. The naturopath thought that as Alfie sometimes gets asthma and excema that he should avoid strawberries as they are heavily sprayed and the toxins on the strawberries could trigger asthma or excema. I reported back to the director and she smiled and nodded her head enthusiastically. ‘I knew there was something’, she said, ‘It’s always the boys with the blond hair and blue eyes and fair skin that I’m suspicious of’.
‘Yes, so you keep saying’, is what I wanted to reply.
A few weeks later there was a class party and we were all asked to bring in something for everyone to share. I made fruit sticks that included strawberries. During the party Alfie reached out and took a fruit stick and it was smartly ripped out of his hands with a no-nonsense comment of, ‘You can’t have strawberries’.
Alfie was in tears. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked him.
‘She says I can’t have any fruit’, he cried. I reached over and grabbed two fruit sticks and said, ‘Well your mummy says you can’.
On another occasion when I went to pick up Alfie I was asked to see her in her office. ‘What now?’ was what I was thinking. She sat me down and told me there had been an incident in the playground. Alfie and another ‘child’ had been fighting over a toy. The ‘child’ tried to grab it out of Alfie’s hands but Alfie wouldn’t let go. In the ‘child’s’ frustration he had bitten Alfie. ‘Oh, okay. He seems fine. Was he okay at the time?’
‘Well it was quite a bite and the skin’s been broken so I’ve filled out an incident report and the other mother has been advised that her child has bitten another child but due to the privacy laws I can’t tell you who the other child is and I’ve told her I can’t tell her who her child bit’.
Those might be the rules but they’re stupid rules. While still at the pre-school I asked Alfie how his day was and he said, ‘Good’. I asked, ‘Did anything happen today?’
‘Did anyone bite you?’
‘Marcus did bite me’. But I already knew that Marcus had bitten him because the mother of Marcus was so mortified she immediately wanted to know who her son had bitten so she could apologise. It’s not helpful when rules are in place to prevent this from happening. Anyway, of course Marcus told his mother he’d bitten Alfie because ‘Alfie wasn’t sharing’ so that ended the mystery.
And that was a good thing too. Marcus’s mother and I had a lovely and sensible chat where she apologised on behalf of her son and I told her not too worry, Alfie was fine and like life, there won’t always be plain sailing in the playground.
I was relieved when my blond haired, blue eyed boy with the fair skin finally graduated.
Here’s something I make for school lunchboxes but these would definitely not be allowed at Alfie’s pre-school.
Carrot and Pineapple Cake
Makes: 8 mini cakes
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: This home-baked cake is very inexpensive and uses easily sourced ingredients
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup grated carrot
- 1/2 cup crushed pineapple
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 180C (375F).
Grease a cake pan that holds 8 mini cakes.
In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Add oil, eggs, carrot, pineapple and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
Spoon into cake tins.
Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Leave in tin for 5 minutes then turn onto wire rack to cool. When cold, ice with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 250g cream cheese
- 60g butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla. Gradually add sifted icing sugar. Beat until smooth. Ice cakes and top with chopped walnuts if desired.