Sign of the Times


I took Me Too to her 一日入園 on Wednesday. This is a day where the kids go into a preschool classroom and do some activities for an hour or so while the parents listen to the principal talk in the auditorium. Most of the kids entering are a year younger than Me Too, so three or almost three years old. That means there is lots or crying, gnashing of teeth, rending of clothing…choose your favorite biblical scenario.

The fours class had no crying this year. Unlike when Brother was four and I carried Sister in a baby carrier on my back and him in hysterics in my arms to the preschool, where a staff member peeled him off me. I’d go home exhausted and so unsure of myself. Was I doing the right thing? Did he really need to go to preschool?

For four months this continued. Until one day it stopped. I haven’t thought about it much in the two years hence. Blocked memories=good survival strategy.

Hopefully this time around will be different.

The meeting in the auditorium was different. The principal still had her raven colored, cleopatra-esque bob. In spite of her age (she must be close to seventy) there is no sign of gray in that mop. Wish I were so lucky.

Much of her schpeel was the same: not pressuring the children by saying things like “You had better learn to feed yourself because you’ll have to do it at preschool,” and a thousand other things that make up the majority of a Mother’s conversation.

But then she went on to say that they had purchased a machine to measure radiation, were measuring every day, had rethought their evacuation plans and would be presenting those to us at a later date.

I haven’t had much to do with the preschool proper since Brother graduated in March, but this is a total turnaround from last spring. On the days when the radiation was the worst, they had the kids playing outside in their short sleeves and short pants. When the aftershocks were still near constant and terrifying, we didn’t have a clear understanding of what the evacuation plans were.

I left the meeting feeling grateful that this school seems to care about the children’s safety.

I don’t get the same vibe from Brother’s school. I get it; they’re part of the government, it’s not as easy to change. Even if the teachers do care they’re limited by being part of the Yokohama school system, which apparently has no qualms about ignoring concerned parents as demonstrated by the mayor walking out on a group of them the other day.

Maybe things are changing, though. Brother said they had a class about radiation at school today. He didn’t understand most of it (hell, neither do I), so I have no idea what was said.

I feel kind of nostalgic for this time last year, when earthquakes and tsunami were just an abstract possibility, when I didn’t have the vocabulary of a nuclear physicist, when we were more innocent and less scared.

But I guess this is the new normal.


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