April 18, 2013 2:49 pm The Happy Plan
Denny was working on a painting. He loved vibrant colors and for someone so young, his color sense was matched only by his love of doing art. Friends and relatives always looked forward to receiving examples of his work. Denny would paint on anything — plywood scraps, cardboard, shells and even stones. Once he painted them, they were gorgeous.
Summer was ending and Denny knew he would be beginning kindergarten soon. He had loved nursery school where he had been an adored little student. Thinking about going to a new school, Denny had butterflies in his stomach for days.
At last, the big day came. Kate, Denny’s mother was as nervous as he was, but feigned enthusiasm and comforted him as much as she could.
“You’re going to love Hamilton School, Denny, just as much as you loved nursery school. You are a bigger boy now and you’re ready for a bigger school. It will be fun, and you’ll meet lots of new friends.” She could tell Denny was unconvinced because he was so quiet and kept twisting his hands together.
As they pulled up to the beautiful old building, Denny began to cry. Kate parked, walked to his side of the car, opened the door, and looked at him. Big tears were in his eyes. Kate kissed his head and gently unbuckled his seatbelt. Denny wanted to stay in his booster seat a bit longer.
“What if my teacher is mean? What if she doesn’t like me? Maybe the kids won’t be fun.” Tears began to roll down Denny’s tan cheeks.
“Mean teachers aren’t allowed to teach little children.” Kate bit her lip as she realized that was her wish rather than a fact. “Some of the children will be fun.”
“We don’t want to be late.” She had to firmly take Denny’s hand. As they began to walk, Kate asked Denny “What would you love to do after school?
“An ice cream at The Cone House would be fun,” she continued.
“Maybe Mommy, if I’m not sad then.”
“It might be nice for you to have a happy plan to think about. It will be fun for me to think about it, too.”
“Good morning!” Tanned parents were calling to one another, looking a bit tense as well. They were at the school’s big white open doors. Right there stood Mrs. Reardon, the principal, greeting the children and parents. She was a smiley woman with a gentle, open manner.
“Good morning,” she said to Kate and Denny. “I’m Mrs. Reardon.”
“This is Denny Maher. I’m Kate, his mother.”
“Welcome to Hamilton School.”
Miss Reardon flipped through her papers. “Denny, your teacher is Mrs. Buckley in room 14. She is such a nice teacher. You are lucky!”
Denny’s face brightened. Kate felt relieved.
They entered the building, went down the hall to room 14 and walked into the big sunny classroom. Mrs. Buckley was at her desk, talking to a mother of twins. Denny asked Kate what language they were speaking.
Kate said, quietly, “I think Norwegian. They probably just moved here.”
Denny thought how lucky he was to be able to speak English on the first day of school. Sitting at a table, he opened his green backpack and took out a box of eight crayons and a small notebook. He began to color. A little girl looked over at his notebook. “I like your picture,” she said, smiling shyly.
“Thank you,” Denny said with the beginning of a smile.
“May I sit next to you? My name is Scarlett.”
“Sure. I’m Denny.”
A huge feeling of relief came over Kate. Her little boy was settling into the newest piece of his life. She felt he would be all right. She kissed Denny’s head and patted Scarlett’s shoulder.
“Bye, honey. I know you will have a fun day.”
“Bye, Mommy. If you miss me, you can think of the happy plan.”
“I will. You too.”
On her way out, Kate stopped for a word with Mrs. Buckley, an older woman with a framed photograph of her young grandchildren on her desk. She had some bright zinnias in a small blue bottle too. Mrs. Buckley smiled easily and Kate pointed out Denny.
“He looks like a great little boy. I look forward to our year together. I read your information sheets and will be sure to give him time for art. I love a boy who draws and colors.”
Kate felt instant gratitude. “Thank you Mrs. Buckley. He’s been a little worried about starting kindergarten. That will make him feel great. ”
“You’re welcome. Think of something nice you two can do after school.”
“I will,” Kate said, smiling. She felt a million pound egg lift off her back. The day flew by and before she knew it, it was time for school dismissal.
Denny was standing with Mrs. Buckley, Scarlett, and a few other children.
“Mommy, hi. I like my new school.”
Mrs. Buckley said. “It was a great first day. We had art and Mrs. Peluso loved his designs.”
“Thank you again, Mrs. Buckley. I am so glad we both have you this year.”
“See you tomorrow, Denny. I’ll bring colored pencils we can use.”
Kate and Denny got in the car. “Mommy, when I started to miss you, I thought of the happy plan. I like Scarlett a lot, and the other kids were nice, too.”
“I missed you too. What kind of ice cream do you want, honey?”
“Mint chocolate chip!”
“Cone House, here we come!”
“Can we do this again tomorrow?” Denny asked.
“Kate laughed, “We’ll see. Maybe we’ll come up with a new happy plan.”
Having something to look forward to makes such a difference for all of us. It makes a hard day happier in advance. If a child is having a difficult time, making a happy plan for later offers comfort to his heartache and helps to soothe his worries. Believing in a happy time ahead can become a simple, wonderful support for children and parents alike.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
We welcome your comments and questions.