In the journey of parenthood there are some things I feel like I’ve done right, and by that I mean, right for my family! You are all intelligent and mature people and parents, so you understand that it goes without saying, what is right and works for my family is not for all. No judgement, dudes! Many times since becoming pregnant 6 years ago, I’ve had to stick up for my choices and stand firm in doing what I felt was best for myself and my child. I’m proud of those “accomplishments”, but like every parent out there, I’ve struggled with self-doubt and carried bucket loads of guilt over some decisions that did not work for us and today, I wanted to share one of those choices.
I regret putting our 3-year-old into Pre-School.
In our small community, the only licensed childcare is the local nursery school. They have 15 spaces for children either 3 or 4 years old and are open every other morning for 3 hours during the school year. Here is the thing. I was a stay at home mum. I didn’t require childcare. With two more years until he started Kindergarten, at 3 years old, my very attached, barely out of the toddler stage child did not stand to benefit from this separation. We would wait another year, and consider Nursery School when he was 4.
Then, things changed for me over that summer. An opportunity came up to apply for the Director’s position at the Nursery School. With a history in early childhood education, I was confident I could make improvements the program needed. This meant teaching in the classroom I had been avoiding putting my child in. I bet you see where I’m going with this.
Lo and behold, I was hired. So off we went to school, together. Getting to be my child’s first teacher, at home, and now at school, was a blessing and could only go swimmingly…..right? I was thrilled for the chance to have employment outside the home, while also keeping my one and only precious baby boy close and under my watchfu…..oh, ok I’m starting to think the problem here was me. That couldn’t be! You get it.
From day one I anticipated a challenging transition, hopeful in time it would calm down. I can easily chalk our challenges up to early mornings, Bear’s first introduction to some (loose) structure, over stimulation from a large group of energetic children, and most definitely big emotions about “sharing” his mama! But the truth of the matter is that, at 3 years old, he was NOT ready for Pre-School.
I spent months in denial. Oh he’s just struggling because he is tired. When he is used to the environment, things will get easier. It’s hard to not have mum’s undivided attention when it’s all he’s used to, he’ll adjust. I was so stuck in “making it work” mode, I missed what my child was clearly telling me all along. I’m. Not. Ready.
I didn’t see it clearly until the following September. My second year teaching, and his second year in Nursery School. Now, at age 4, I saw a change in his behaviour. Just looking at his first day of school photos, I’m floored by the physical change he went through over that year. I knew then, that the difficult time he was having the year before was not just an adjustment period. He was still struggling with early mornings, loud kids and sharing mum’s attention. But at 4 years old he was able to
cope with these big feelings that were developmentally impossible for him to handle at 3.
Our situation was unique, but I feel terrible that he struggled so hard and that I didn’t recognize why. And you may be thinking, “that’s lovely lady, but it is unreasonable to cater to my child because the option of staying home with them doesn’t exist for me.” Oh I feel you! I can’t say that I would have even changed our situation even if I did realize at the time, it was important to me that I take this job. I’m also not meaning to imply there is anything wrong with putting your child in Nursery School, or other childcare at any age. I certainly understand the need or desire to do so, due to employment, or to meet other needs.
My intended take away from today is: For those, like me, who felt, for whatever reason, that you HAVE to enrol your young child into school, but your mommy heart wasn’t settled about it. Don’t push it beyond your comfort level. If your child is currently enrolled in a program similar to this, and it is not a good fit, or you feel like this “adjustment” is taking too long, (but trust me, there is a healthy, and natural adjustment period for all these things) you are not wrong for making a change. Follow your instincts! Do what is right for you, despite what others may be telling you! I regret not doing that.
Many a time I’ve followed my “mommy gut”, (my intuition as well as the protruding belly I’m still making excuses for 5+ years after giving birth). Never has it steered me wrong. Every single regret that I’ve had, has been entirely wrapped up in NOT following it. Nursery School, negative doctors visits and passing on one of the delicious looking tacos from the food truck in downtown L.A. this summer… all regrets of not following that gut… and a pretty valid suspicion of street meat!
I am grateful in a way for that the difficult season, our first year getting our “school legs” (like sea legs, but with a lot more germs, and only slightly less water) because it helped shine a light on the wonderful moments of 4-year-old Nursery School. The biggest difference, I believe was that HE was finally ready!
Here are my 3 “I’d do that differently” lessons:
1st: If it was an option, I wouldn’t have let anyone (myself included) shame or pressure me into choosing something I wasn’t originally comfortable with, for him. What might be right for one child, just wasn’t for mine. I would encourage any parent to stand strong in what you feel is best! That gut has gotten me through so much, it won’t let you down now!
2nd: I would have put in more of an effort to ease Bear’s stress and anxieties at home, and give him more grace in the classroom. He really got a bum deal there. To avoid the appearance of favouritism, I swung to the other extreme, I was super hard on my kid. I had significantly higher expectations for him than the other three-year olds. The poor guy barely stood a chance. As the Nursery School teacher, I would make some changes to how I balanced that role, with my mum role. It was tough, and I could have done better.
3rd: I would give myself a whole lot more grace! It was a TOUGH year for us all! I went into survival mode, dealt with plenty of challenging situations, and came out on the other side a stronger person, but not without suffering a lot through the process. I’m grateful all the time for the wise words of Ms. Maya Angelou (2 posts in, and I’m already breaking out the “inspo quotes”… but this one is SO worth it… and I can apply it to almost any situation) “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -M.A. I would remind myself that this too shall pass, and nobody expects perfection!
In the end Bear promises me he is a happy, self-assured, well-adjusted weirdo who doesn’t seem to remember much of his first experiences in school. I on the other hand will struggle to forget some of those “shining moments” in both our lives! All in all, he continues to grow and is now tolerating Kindergarten for the sake of the bus ride! He “graduated” from my Nursery School class ready to take on the world…. or start his own hipster accounting firm. It’s ok. I’ll support his dreams, no matter what he chooses.
If you have had a parenting struggle related to starting school, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment to share your experiences, and if you have any tricks that made things easier for you, I know our community would love to read it!