January, 2014 Archive

Madelyn’s First Day Of Preschool


Mama’s got issues. That’s OK. It means I care too much. A lot.

The night before school, Bryan and I talked up the whole shebang.

“You sing songs ALL the time. You’re basically getting two-for-one voice lessons at Jewish preschool. Don’t you want to be the next Barbra Streisand?!”

“You’re going to make so many new friends! You LOVE playing with friends! It’s never too soon to start campaigning for Homecoming Queen Esther!”

“You get to eat lunch that we make together! Here, Madelyn. Let’s put in all your favorite foods like carrot sticks and organic apples, and baby broccolinis. Right? RIGHT?!?!”

We actually did make lunch together and it was fun! Normally I dread making lunches, especially my own for when I go to work AT school, but Madelyn and I teamed up. She held the bag and counted the carrot sticks as I dropped them in. And I gave her the choice of strawberry jelly or grape jelly on her sandwich. It was such a team effort.

And then I lost my marbles when I put her cute little owl lunch bag in the fridge. Because preschool!

"Oh, hi Cool Whip and eggs and grapes! I'm new here and I'm a hoot!"

“Oh, hi Cool Whip and eggs and grapes! I’m new here and I’m a hoot!”

So hard to believe that we have crossed the line into this little category. For months, BabyCenter has been sending me emails about Madelyn’s development because, you know, the Internet gods know everything, and the same folks who updated me on the produce in my belly, and the infant in my arms, and the toddler on my… everything… the same folks have been sending me emails subjected “Your Preschooler” since August. Eh eh — not so fast, Internet gods! My Preschooler was not in preschool because I felt she needed a little more time at home (i.e., we bought a house and we were po’!) but now those emails are like Shakira’s hips: they don’t lie! My little poppyseed has become a preschooler! I was so excited to watch her grow, make new friends (for all of us!), and, well, for me to get a manicure at 10 a.m. But yes, the whole thing was bittersweet because there’s something so unbabyish about taking your toddler to preschool. Madelyn is almost closer to kindergarten than she is to newbornhood. Crazy, that tick-tock of time.

My alarm was set to go off way too early on Preschool Day. Madelyn and I are used to sleeping until at least 8:30 or 9:00, so I was having major anxiety about what our morning would be like. Neither of us are sunnyside up when it’s time to wake before we’re ready, so naturally, just like you do the night before a super early flight and you have to get to the airport, I woke up every hour in a panic: “IS IT TIME?! HAVE I OVERSLEPT? DID WE SKIP PRESCHOOL AND ARE WE NOW AT COLLEGE?!”

I got myself up, managed to put on makeup and a bra — both things I usually don’t do before 10 — and then woke up Sleeping Beauty who was not impressed with the whole exercise. But I reminded her it was Preschool Day and she smiled super big. We got dressed, did our hair, and Madelyn was in a great mood. She had breakfast and we went over all the wonderful things she could expect.

Just before we left, we took The Picture in front of the door. Isn’t that a rite of a passage in and of itself? I’ve seen all my friends do this for years, and while I was tempted to do the same for Princeton before his first night of Obedience School, I skipped it and waited to be able to do this with my own (human) child. Today was the day!

Thankfully, she cooperated for the camera. Lately, she’s anti-paparazzi and has mastered giving “the hand.” She was in such a good mood, she posed and giggled and showed off her lunch box!

Memo to Alison in 11 years: This is for sure going in the Bat Mitzvah montage

Memo to Alison in 11 years: This is for sure going in the Bat Mitzvah montage

Madelyn's First Day of Preschool



Off we went to school where she frolicked through the playground to enter the bright and cheery classroom with her equally bright and cheery teachers and then it happened:

The Leg Hug.

Her arms gripped her Daddy’s leg like a hippie’s on a tree, and she would. not. let. go. OK, OK, so, she’s a little bit of a leg hugger and is usually slow to warm when entering a room anyway. No big whoop. We’ll ignore this behavior and get to know the room and the teachers and all that. Well, she gave the side eye to anyone who even so much as breathed the same oxygen as her in the room, and didn’t show any signs of unlatching.

Finally, one of the teachers got her to at least sit in a chair and she looked at the play dough while the other kids made museum-quality works of art out of it, but hey, at least she looked at it.

"Maybe if I look at this long enough, it'll do something."

“Maybe if I look at this long enough, it’ll do something.”

We had done all of our admin duties and made our way over to her for the kiss-off. A quick “goodbye and love you,” sealed with a kiss, and a promise that I’d be back in a little bit (three hours) seemed to do the trick. No tears. No hysterics. It was a perfect morning after all.

Love my big girl!!

Love my big girl!!

We drove off campus, Bryan and I looked at the “Schedule” the teachers gave us detailing a typical day of Madelyn’s class and we wished we were two, and then we went our separate ways for the day. I felt 28.7 pounds lighter when I realized I had a whole 2.5 hours ahead of me to do whatever I wanted and efficiently.

Bryan's going to propose this new schedule to his boss at work.

Bryan’s going to propose this new schedule to his boss at work.

Until 10:45 when I got a phone call that I should return to school. School gets out at noon.

Apparently, Madelyn had a bit of a roller coaster morning after we’d left. Thankfully, it wasn’t the tantrum kind, but she was sad and definitely asking for her mommy over and over again. She saw her beloved Mommy & Me teacher on the playground and had a hard time accepting the fact that she flew that coop, and was in a new nest with new wonderful teachers and new sweet friends. That adjustment must be hard for toddlers — to be at the same school, but in a different class with a different format and different faces — so I totally get it.

I came back in the classroom to find the kiddies eating lunch — and so well, I might add! — and Madelyn was a happy little girl. She was told that I was coming back and she perked back up. We ate lunch together and I was so impressed with her independence and the routines in the classroom which, as I could see, the seasoned teachers had well oiled.

Lunch time success!

Lunch time success!

We finished up the day with some circle time and some songs. I made sure she felt comfortable having me there, but didn’t want to participate too much and convey a Mommy & Me-type setting for her, so I gave her short cues based on her teachers’ directions to the whole class, and she settled in really nicely.

Madelyn participates at circle time at the end of the day!

Madelyn participates at circle time at the end of the day!

The end of the day came quickly, and Madelyn was in a great mood. Despite the rocky transition in the first half, I’d say the day as a whole was successful.

I’m so proud of my little preschooler and know we have many years of memories to make together in our preschool community. And she sang “Shalom Haverim” so beautifully, that Babs better be shakin’ in her boots.

  1. Pattie
    1/7/2014 8:17 AM

    I so look forward to your updates! What a little trooper…MOMMY! haha. New friends, new adventures, growing up. It’s all part of the plan for kiddies and a really hard transition for moms! Book those mornings! Lots of mani/pedi’s, lunches, movies (if they aren’t too long!) Enjoy your mommy time, while Madelyn grows to love school!
    Love you all….

  2. Mimi
    1/6/2014 10:02 PM

    Dear Sweet Madelyn! I’m so happy that you had a busy & fun day in your new pre-school class. I love your schedule of activities & that you will have very clean hands. 😉 It will be fun/funny to look back on this big event/milestone & see that you are still friends or even went all through your school years with some of your new classmates.
    Starting with today, I can’t wait to be able to go to lots of your school events!!
    I love you! <3

Jewish Identity

by Bryan Friedman in Daddy's Corner, Judaism

Some of my earliest memories of childhood are from my days on the playground at preschool with my then best friend, Jordan. I can still see Jordan and myself trudging through the sandbox and going down the slide, followed by an uncomfortable jaunt on the awkward metal tricycles that we rode in circles on what I remember as a blacktop. I have vague memories of other aspects of preschool too – I think at some point we actually had naptime on cots and I’m pretty sure we sang songs outside under a big tree with a woman playing the guitar. (I distinctly remember the Jewish classics “Bim Bom” and “My Bagel Lies Over The Ocean”.)


It is this exact same preschool that Madelyn will be starting at next week (with a brand new state of the art jungle gym on that neat rubbery surface and minus a few safety-questionable tricycles). Understandably, it has me reflecting on my early days there because even though this is the start to Madelyn’s 20+ year career in the education system, it is also the beginning of something else that I hope will become as important to her as it has for Alison and me – her Jewish identity. Sure, there’s an argument to be made that her baby naming was really the start of that, and certainly in some ways it was, but while I’m fairly confident she won’t remember that occassion too well (she was less than a year old), I’m hoping she’ll remember her preschool days as fondly as I do.


Of course, despite learning the Hamotzi and how to say “Shabbat Shalom,” my time at Temple preschool was a short-lived Jewish experience that ended when it was time for Kindergarten. My parents, though raised Jewish, weren’t overly religious, and while we celebrated Chanukah and Passover, we also celebrated Christmas and Easter (for a few years). So even though my Jewish identity started with the temple preschool, it wasn’t until I was in third grade when I explicitly asked my parents if I could go to Hebrew school and have a Bar Mitzvah. I had attended a conservative temple’s Friday night services with a friend, and I don’t know if it was the sprinkled sugar cookies during the Oneg or what, but there was just something about it that intrigued me and had me wanting more. When I went to my parents about this, their reaction was positive, despite my dad’s self-described bad experience with his own Bar Mitzvah. I think they realized much better than me at the time that the conservative temple was probably not the place for us, so they did some legwork for me, researching two reform congregations in the area – one of them where I had attended preschool years earlier.


We ended up, however, joining the other one and leaving my preschool temple behind. My parents really connected with the Director of this congregation, and in all honesty, I think part of the decision was also driven by cost, given that this alternative was less expensive (something I understand all too well in my current reality). I started in the middle of third grade, needing private tutoring in Hebrew until I caught up with the rest of the class. It was only one day a week, but it wasn’t long before I was caught up and then some. By fifth grade, kids and teachers alike started poking fun at me, calling me Rabbi Friedman because I took to things so well and actually really liked and embraced Hebrew school. Before long, my whole family got very involved – my sister started classes, my mom became a 2nd grade teacher there, and my dad played guitar at services. I had my Bar Mitzvah, went on to Confirmation class, and then continued as a teacher’s assistant for that same teacher who I started with in 3rd grade. Even when I went off to college, I would come home for High Holy Days services and watch my dad blow the Shofar. When I met Alison, I found out she had gone there too and my dad had even played guitar at her Bat Mitzvah. We had the same rabbi for our Mitzvahs and he officiated at our wedding too. This congregation and everything I had built with it completely defined my Jewish identity.


And then it went away. Suddenly. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I think the Director/Owner had just decided that she was burned out after all those years of running the show, and the whole thing just disbanded. It was very quietly devastating for me. I felt lost for a short time. It was like everything we had built together had meant nothing. I selfishly felt abandoned.

When Alison got pregnant, we knew we wanted to join a congregation so we would have a Jewish home for our family. We were not planning to force feed the Torah down our kids’ throats, but we did want to build a foundation of Judaism that we grew up with and allow them to grow and choose how they wanted to celebrate – to define their own Jewish identity. We checked out the Friday night services and did some research on a reform temple in the area – the one I went to preschool at. We loved the musical atmosphere of the services and the warm feeling of community that the temple congregation, staff, and clergy brought. So we decided to join, and Alison and Madelyn began attending Mommy-and-Me classes and Tot Shabbats there. Madelyn got her Hebrew name, and we attended services whenever we could. I felt my Jewish identity shifting and changing from what it was in the past to something new and different, and I liked it. Whereas before I looked at Judaism with much more youthful eyes, now I viewed it from the eyes of a father and a husband – a family man. It’s been three years and Alison and I are really starting to get involved, joining some committees and starting to carve out our own place in the temple.



All of this is to say that Madelyn’s latest milestone has made me realize that I’ve been on an endless journey of discovery of my own Jewish identity since I started preschool, just as she’s about to do. In fact, she’s a part of helping me define it even still, and she’s just beginning her journey as I did (and as her mom did too with help from Jewish summer camp in her case). I’m very excited to watch Madelyn make her own discoveries about religion and her heritage, even if it’s only “Bim Bom” and the Hamotzi for now. I know she’s starting off right because when I ask what she did at the temple, she always right away mentions one of her favorite things – “chaaaallaaaah”. Plus, she’s already made a name for herself at services by dancing to some of the more upbeat prayers. Next week, she will continue the Friedman preschool legacy that started thirty years ago, and my Jewish identity couldn’t be prouder.