Grad school should be simple as preschool

By Helena Rodriguez: Local Columnist

My 3-year-old niece Marissa wants to bypass Head Start and go straight to graduate school. Unlike her mom, Julie, who marched into the principal’s office in Head Start at age 4 and announced she was quitting school, Marissa simply wants to jump ahead.

Marissa is in training right now — potty training that is — and we keep telling her: “You need to go to the potty so you can go to Nana’s school!”

Nana is my younger sister, a.k.a. Maria Yolanda, and she’s a teacher with Head Start, a preschool of which myself and all four of my sisters, as well as my daughter and many of my nieces are proud graduates.

The last time I said this to Marissa, she was busy coloring, and as usual she was trying to make excuses to not go to the potty. Potties just don’t interest her right now. So when I said, “Don’t you want to go to Nana’s school?” she’s like, “No, I want to go to your school!”

So then I tell her, “Well … we don’t do much coloring in graduate school, Marissa.” But that didn’t phase her. She kept insisting, “I want to go to your school!”

So then I’m like, “Well, I guess being potty trained is definitely one prerequisite for admission into graduate school.” Of course it helps to also learn your ABCs, colors and shapes and to also know how to read, add and subtract, the latter two of which I am still learning.

At her tender age, Marissa seems fascinated with the idea of having homework. By the time you get to graduate school, this fascination becomes more of an obsession. Lately, I’ve been telling Marissa that I can’t stay and visit or take her with me because I have to do homework.

She seems to think homework is fun. She wants homework just like her older sisters, Anisha and Stephanie. Of course, I didn’t tell Marissa that homework is all I do right now. It’s my life. I wake up doing homework. I breathe homework. I go to sleep doing homework. I have nightmares about forgetting to do my homework. I also have dreams about what my life was like before I had so much homework and I fantasize about what my life will be like again in about a week when this semester from hell is over and I have no more homework for awhile.

Then I start thinking about Robert Fulghum’s book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Being that I hope to graduate with a master of arts degree in December, I thought I should get back to the basics and give myself a refresher of what I learned in kindergarten, and even in Head Start. It just may help me when I take my written and oral comp exams next fall.

With all the scholarly knowledge I’ve acquired, I still forget sometimes to do the things Fulghum says we should have been taught in kindergarten, if not in Head Start, things like taking a nap every day, living a balanced life (what’s that?), playing fair and the big ones: Sharing, holding hands, sticking together, cleaning up your mess and watching out for traffic.

Life can be that simple if we keep things in perspective, but that’s easier said than done. In the world of a 3-year-old, though, I’d say Marissa’s got it down. At her age, she’s developed some remarkable linguistic skills.

When you ask her something, she replies: “Just because!”’
When someone questions her, she says: “It’s not my fault!”
And when my mom scolds her, she puts her hands on her hips and says: “Don’t yell at me!”

It would be nice if these three phrases would get me through my last semester of graduate school next fall. My whole thesis defense could be: “Just because.” If something goes wrong and doesn’t make sense, I’ll say, “It’s not my fault!” and when they reprimand me, I’ll say, “Don’t yell at me!”

It works for Marissa, but then again, I’m not as cute. One thing I do have going for me though: I am potty trained.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: