if you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it

(a.k.a. corrupting the youth of tomorrow)

I was starting to feel old for a while this morning. And you know that never happens.

It happened this morning, while I was sitting on a little wooden chair reading to my cute preschool kids. We were making our way through a story about a farmer who planted what turned out to be the most enormous potato in the world. Problem was, he couldn’t dig it out of the ground on his own. I like interactive reading, so the kids were having major fun calling out the story sequence here: the mouse pulled on the cat, who pulled on the dog, who pulled on the daughter, who pulled on the wife, who pulled on the farmer, who pulled on the potato. And wouldn’t you know it, the potato finally came out! ::round of applause:: The townspeople dropped by, bringing salt and pepper and butter and forks and knives. They washed and baked the potato, cut it all up and ate it, and then stood around talking about how good it was. The last page of the story showed the farmer and his wife and daughter smiling widely at this happy ending, their thumbs and index fingers joined in a circle, their other four fingers slightly curved.

The preschoolers looked on in puzzlement. “So what did they think of the potato, you guys?” I asked. They scrunched up their faces and looked even more confused. I held up my right hand, my thumb and index finger joined together. They followed suit. “You’ve never seen this before? Really, no one? What do you think it means?” One little boy, staring at his own hand, hazarded a guess: “Really small?”

I started laughing. “You guys have never seen the A-okay sign before?” They shook their heads. “It means, A-okay, like, everything’s okay. Everything’s good. A-okay.” Of course, “A-okay” was the new favorite word for the rest of the hour. But, dude, I thought everyone knows the A-okay sign. Or am I really that old? Whoa. (Just for the record, I don’t use the A-okay sign in real life. Yeah, I guess that would be kinda old-school. Or not?)

And then, while all the girly-girls went off and played dress-up – with long aprons, feather boas, and enormous hats – and poured pretend-tea, I opted to play with the guys, as usual. I shoulda been a boy. Ha. We made paper airplanes, held matchbox car drag races on the classroom floor, and had some messy times with play-dough. I love play-dough. There’s nothing like sitting elbow-to-elbow and molding play-dough to make my day. Plus, all the boys presented me with play-dough hearts. Yes, I feel all special now.

As I was leaving, I leaned down to say good-bye to one of the boys. (Hair closely cropped, he looks like a cross between David Beckhham and Lance Armstrong. Seriously.) He looked me right in the eyes and advised gravely, “Be careful out there.” I just nodded seriously while struggling to keep a straight face.

Oh, and my morning at the preschool only confirmed a suspicion I’ve had all along: 4-year-olds think “underwear” is the funniest word in the whole entire world. They can – and will – chant the word for hours, laughing non-stop at the sheer ludicrousness.

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