Just sit for a bit on a little chair, suddenly you're 4

October 17, 1994|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun Staff Writer

Many men call themselves Dad, but only the few and the

proud can call themselves Snack Dad.

The other day, I was Snack Dad at the pre-school at Pinewood Elementary in Timonium, which my 4-year-old daughter Sam attends. (Parents who send their kids to co-op pre-schools know what a Snack Dad or Juice Mom is. They spend the morning or afternoon in their child's pre-school class helping out the teachers.)

This should be easy. Stand around and watch my adorable daughter interact with her inferior schoolmates and listen as the teacher issues a slew of compliments about Sam. My, what a well-behaved girl! What dimples! And she must get those sea green, stop-my-heart eyes from her dad!

But, no. The teacher, Miss Maureen, is oddly focused and intent on leading the children in planned, useful, and creative activities. In fact, absolutely no class time is spent discussing what a wonderful job I'm doing raising my daughter.

Instead of playing hooky for three hours, Miss Maureen puts me to work for three hours. I take a seat and cut one-inch bits of white yarn, which become the cheese for paper pizzas the kids will make later. The seat I take, by the way, comes up to my ankles. The second you plunk down in these seats, you have checked your adulthood at the door.

I am 4 years old again.

I await further instruction from my pre-school teacher. I don't move without permission. After cutting up the fake cheese, I await approval. "Good job," the teacher's assistant tells me.

I feel good about myself. I'm somebody!

Miss Maureen, who doesn't look or act a thing like my mother, asks all the kids to sit on the blue rug, as she sings a few opening numbers. Today's letter is P. Some of the boys say P, P, P, P and giggle like crazy. Miss Maureen looks at them once and once is enough.

"P stands for Pumpkin. Sam's Dad is going to carve our pumpkin today, friends," Miss Maureen says. She calls the kids "friends," which is kind of nice. I want to be Miss Maureen's friend.

Three kids are assigned the pumpkin-carving table, which I head. Explosive disagreement and mutiny arise on the issue of round vs. triangle eyes for the pumpkin. I thought the maniacal slashing of pumpkin flesh would attract the boys, but they drift off to encircle Miss Maureen. I'm left with one girl. Katie and I settle on the pumpkin's markings. Even my daughter doesn't drop by.

Katie and I decide to put a pencil-thin mustache on the pumpkin. The pumpkin looks more like a barker from The Block than a scary jack-o-lantern. I feel like a failure, but Miss Maureen says all the right things. "Friends, look at the pumpkin Sam's Dad carved for us. We've never had a pumpkin with a mustache before!"

I feel good about myself. I'm somebody!

Sitting back down on the blue rug, I consider cracking open "The Little Engine That Could," but Miss Maureen announces that Sam's Dad will now be manning the boy's bathroom. Two at a time, the boys file in. Things get out of hand when three boys unlawfully commandeer one urinal and all simultaneously take aim -- although I'm using the word "aim" loosely here. Strafe is more accurate.

I'm not doing this job well, either. Then, Miss Maureen (you should see her hair, her eyes, her grown-up skirts!) silences the boys with that magic verbal wand of hers. The rest of the boys make their pit stops without incident. Again, I manage to save face in pre-school.

I want to ask Miss Maureen for permission to use the bathroom myself. But I'm too scared to ask her for anything. What if she says no?

At snack time, the Juice Mom fills 17 paper cups with Juicy Juice. As Snack Dad, I put 17 chocolate-chip cookies at 17 little settings in front of 17 little seats. The friends consume their snacks at Coneheads-like speed and exit for the playground. I can't wait to play on the monkey bars with my new friends.

But no. Miss Maureen asks Sam's Dad would he please wipe off the tables, sweep the floor, take the Pinesol over there and clean up a trail of sticky junk on the floor, and when I get a chance, could I paint her shutters, too?

Of course, I will. I'll clean and paint her gutters and mop her kitchen floors, if she wants.

I have a crush on my pre-school teacher.

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