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Kavya’s been going to the Christian day care down the street from us
since she was 7 months old. There, she went from wobbling around unsteadily
to crawling to walking to running. From drinking milk in bottles to asking for
sippy cups, and eating solid food with chopsticks and regular old cutlery. It’s
where she first started belting out songs like, “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,”
and where she formed her first friendships.
In the mornings at the day care her favorite teacher, Miss Ruth,
would often take Kavya in her arms, and be utterly engaged in her incoherent
burblings, which eventually formed into eloquent observations in the three years
she’s been there. All of the teachers from other grades knew Kavya. At the end
of the day, when we’d pick her up, sometimes the after-care teacher would take
the time to comb her hair into neat little braids again. When Kavya and I would
walk the one block back home, she’d tell me all about her day, with details.
Earlier this year, when Kavya became eligible to attend public
school (they only take kids 3 or older), it seemed like an easy enough
decision. We’d save more than $8,000 a year—a considerable sum of money. The public
school is dual-language, and it wasn’t very much farther to walk. As the date
started getting closer, and we’d watch her day care teachers hug her a little
tighter and tell her they were going to miss her, we’d have a momentary change
of heart. But with a second child on the way, we have to remind ourselves we
don’t rob banks for a living and don’t have an extra $16,000 income lying
around to keep them both in private school.
On the last day of her day care, the walk was really long, because me
and Sona kept pausing and feeling sad for Kavya. We even attempted to make her
feel sad by reminding her it was her last day. “I know,” she’d said, and just
like a usual walk, she pointed at the leaves, or at the house across the street
with a red door, which she claims she owns. In the afternoon, Sona and I went
into her class with freshly baked cookies. Her teacher, Miss Ruth, had made a
surprise art project book thing for Kavya, with photos of the kids glued
inside, and drawings other students made. It was really moving. For us, not Kavya.
She had a mini meltdown that had something to do with shoes, and refused to
pose properly for class pictures. So, her last day has her looking like a big
It’s been nearly a full semester since she switched to the much
bigger public school. It’s been a difficult adjustment. Again, not for Kavya. She’s
perfectly fine. I’m still having trouble, though. So is my wife, Sona.
For an infuriating week, we didn’t have a clue how she was doing, or even whether she was eating the school lunches properly.
The first day when I went to pick Kavya up and walked toward her
classroom, I was stopped by security. Parents aren’t allowed in the classrooms
when they pick the kids up. At Kavya’s day care, you had to be buzzed into the
building, but there wasn’t any official security desk. We could walk right up
to her classroom without having to sign in because everyone knew who we were.
We walked through the double doors of a large beige building with a
narrow staircase, cream-colored cement walls, and expressionless security
guards, who gruffly pointed at the sheet we had to sign. We walked down a
winding corridor to drop her in the classroom. There were two teachers, whom we
were barely able to say a few words to in the chaos of the first day of school.
For an infuriating week, we didn’t have a clue how she was doing, or
even whether she was eating the school lunches properly. The teachers didn’t
have the luxury of sitting down and writing out little emoticons with
personalized notes for Kavya, the way those at her private day care did. Kavya would
be so tired at the end of the school day that she’d answer my questions about
her day using syllables like a teenager: “Nothing.” “Fine.” “OK.”
A week after she started at the new school, her Sofia the First lunchbox went missing, and since we weren’t allowed
to go back to the classroom to look for it, it was just gone. A few weeks
later, one of the after-care teachers handed me some dinky, faux fur jacket,
with Kavya sulkily walking alongside her as I waited. “She keeps saying it’s
not her jacket,” the teacher said as she handed it to me. I looked at the
teacher and said, “That’s because it’s not her jacket.”
She tried convincing me that the jacket in her hands was indeed
Kavya’s jacket. It took a few days of me badgering the school, but they finally
hunted down Kavya’s actual jacket in some random coat closet. Drawn in fat,
black marker on the inside collar was the word, “Kavya.”
I still miss the sheets of paper her day care teachers would send in
her lunchbox, with emoticons and short Twitter-like updates to let us know how
Kavya’s day went, as well as the unfolding of the drama we weren’t there to
“In the morning, Kavya didn’t eat her cereal. But she ate all of her butter and
“During nap time, Suzanne pushed Kavya, then Kavya told her she
wasn’t nice, then Suzanne got upset, which made Kavya upset. They both cried.
Then they played ‘baby’ and had fun.”
When we went to the new school for orientation (a full week after it started), we had to point Kavya
out to both teachers. I was alarmed by everything. Her anonymity, a sign with
information on what to do in case of a school shooting (nothing), the dearth of
books and educational toys in the room. There were two really old picture
books, a couple of jigsaw puzzles, and a mish-mash of board games and action
figures, cars and dolls. I asked if there was a curriculum they followed, and
one of the teachers told me that there isn’t any actual learning objective for
the pre-K students, but if the students express an interest in things like
writing or reading or drawing, the teachers will theoretically encourage the
individual students to pursue it. It seemed pretty shady, like a pyramid
When we got home, Sona and I started to panic that we’d made the
wrong decision, that Kavya wasn’t being challenged and would forget everything
she learned at day care. Numbers,
letters, words. Because I’m the papa, I came up with a plan to fix everything.
I attempted to integrate some educational activities at home, culminating in an
iPad fiasco. (Turns out the Dora app
is not the devil; the Strawberry
Shortcake app is.) Kavya doesn’t like talking about the alphabet or school work when
she comes home, which is understandable. Her day is long.
Right before the
holidays, we were invited to her class for what turned out to be a little
showcase. The kids sang “Feliz Navidad” and “Here Comes Santa Claus,” followed
by a group painting exercise. Kavya was excited to show us her artwork, in
which I am set on fire, new family members are added, and mama is always
Just as we were leaving the classroom, a photo flashed up on the
computer screen. It’s Kavya, sitting on top of a horse. A real horse! She’s
wearing a helmet and frowning into the camera. Sona and I were gobsmacked. We
asked Kavya why she didn’t mention her first time on a horse to us. She
shrugged her shoulders and said: “I went on a horse.” All she told us about her
field trip to a pumpkin farm back in October was that she saw pumpkins.
The other day Kavya made me a birthday card. Sona dictated all of
the letters so Kavya could write: “Happy Birthday, Papa!” She managed them all,
upper case and lower case. Sort of. She even took my suggestion I gave her when
it seemed like she wasn’t listening, that the B and P look like they’ve got
eyes, and the R looks like a little monster. Kavya’s adjusted perfectly fine to
the new school. Maybe it’s time we did as well.