Bronwyn at three and a half was already a Montessori scholar. Daily she trudged to an enlightened classroom where a teacher who genuinely liked children taught her how to scrub her desk with soapsuds, mess it up with fingerpaint and repeat the process. She was understandably enthralled. So much so, that Cee Cee at 2½ wanted to study soapsuds, too.
We arrived at the registrar’s office promptly at eight, on the theory that if I caught her early she might be groggy enough not to notice Cee Cee’s callow youth, for three years was the requisite age for admission to Montessori. My determined and very articulate 2½ year old marched in briskly and headed for the lady in charge, not waiting for me to explain our visit.
“I would like to go to this school, please. My sister goes here and I can do all the things she can do.” The angular middle-aged woman had the characteristic pallor of the classroom. She adjusted her glasses in an official gesture and turned to me; teachers, I’ve noticed, prefer to speak to grownups.
“How old is your daughter?” she asked slipping an admissions form simultaneously into the official typewriter.
“She’s 2½, but she’s very capable and unusually articulate. . .”
“I’m sorry, we have an absolute rule here that no one under three is permitted. You see, a 2½ year old can’t possibly do the things the older children do. We have an admission test here that children under three haven’t the ability to conquer.” She pulled out a tray of plastic blocks in star and circle and square and cross shapes and a board meant to contain them, a plastic Gordian knot for toddlers and plopped it on her desk, like a fatal judgment.
Cee Cee began to cry, restating her case. “I want to go to this school,” she sniffled. “If Bronwyn can go to this school, why can’t I go here, too”
“I’m very sorry, Cee Cee,” the lady said in large letters, as if speaking to a baby. “You are just too young. You’ll have to come back next year.”
“You see,” said the woman, “she’s just not suitable.” She pulled the registration form emphatically from the typewriter. “This test will make that perfectly clear.” She pointed to the board that matched the blocks, where suddenly… Thump. Thump. Thump. Cee Cee was plopping plastic crosses into cross-holes, circles into circular ones and squares into squares. With precision. With resounding thuds. Perfectly.
Having finished the task in a nano-second, Cee Cee looked the astonished woman in the eye, and said with theatrical dignity, “Did you think you were playing with kids?”
I should have known then that I was in for a wild ride.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2014