This post is important for me to write as it involves almost not listening to my intuition, almost letting exhaustion run my mind instead of logic (not that logic isn’t a fair weather friend of mine), thereby almost resulting in sending my son to the wrong preschool instead of: the fantastic, nurturing, sun shines out of its a**, Waldorf-got-nothin’-on-us, creativity promoting, we-help-potty-train preschool he is currently attending.
A month before his 3rd birthday, my son switched from sleeping through the night until 6am OR LATER, to waking up several times during the night and for good by 5a.m. I should say, he reverted to this brutal waking hour, one I have yet to (3 years later) get used to. With the addition to our family of a 2nd toddler, Tucker, my sleep once again constantly disrupted, my husband and I considered preschool for our early waking, determined to test his parents, adorable son. “I’d rather have a sane wife than—well, than not,” my husband told me as I stared dismally into my 5am coffee mug, having forgotten to put coffee into the maker’s filter, thereby brewing myself a pot of hot water. “Just need more, um, what’s that called. Sleep,” I whispered, my head crashing to the table, snores louder than the dog’s erupting.
My son and I visited several schools. One in particular struck my fancy as it is close to us, thoroughly gated and full of teachers. This school’s Mission Statement extols enriching the lives of 3-year-olds and helping to potty train them, if necessary. Miss A was soft-spoken and when she sang songs, her students listened. However, on the 2nd day of visiting, misgivings plagued me. Miss A had 10 little ones and no helper, despite all of the teachers-teachers-everywhere. On our 2nd day of visiting, Miss A’s class arrived and wouldn’t behave or follow rules and this took a huge toll on Miss A—she was stressed out after the first hour. Understandably so! How could she watch 10 rampaging toddlers AND help some with the potty, change diapers, have them make their Mayflower boat painting, read to them, sing to them all by herself? Bless her. She did her best and I admire her. She should be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and receive free spa visits for what she does.
But the fact that she had no assistant worried me. Furthermore, when the kids were outside in the fabulous playground, teachers seemed to manage kids vs. play with them, or make games with them. This “managing” crept deep into my subconscious and troubled me.
That evening, I once again fervently Googled preschools in the San Fernando Valley, my heart sinking when the schools I hadn’t yet visited and was most attracted to were Montessori or Waldorf based and $10,000/year. Not do-able at this time. So I started resigning myself to sending my son to Miss A’s class, because how different could preschool programs really be, anyway? Perhaps managing children was what happened to children his age, no matter WHAT a Mission Satement insisted (and the Mission Statements school to school, whether pricy or modest tuitions, were all similar). Instead of teachers dressing up like fairies or historical figures or wizards or animals and introducing students to acorn art and really wild stories and fun songs, perhaps the reality was a class like Miss A’s. And besides, Miss A was a nicer teacher than at any of the other schools I’d visited, she was closer to home and———I slept on it.
The next morning I decided to visit one last preschool near us that I hadn’t checked yet. I was 99% resigned—yes, resigned!!!—to Miss A’s school, despite my guts twisting every time I thought about it, despite alarm bells and sirens wailing through my brain, trying to shake me up, trying to order me not to settle for anything less than the best for my son, trying to tell me I was going to have to start from scratch and check out schools farther away if I had to—advice hard for a Mama with bags under her eyes to take. Alarms did penetrate my fatigue, though, because we did visit. Here’s what happened.
The second we were shown into the secure preschool area, I was greeted by the Director, a friendly woman wearing a tye dye summer-ish dress. She gestured to the play area and encouraged my son to explore it, which wasn’t necessary, as he was already RUNNING over to join in the activities. As my son engaged with children, the Director showed me around and second by second I was swallowed by the happy vibe of the place, it’s cheerful student artwork proudly displayed on walls, it’s library, its toys and homey feel and outside, its sand and bubbles and teachers moving here and there with the packs of kids, instructing, suggesting, stimulating minds. Correcting, yes, there was correcting going on by the teachers, but it was obvious they were there for the children in a way that the previous school’s teachers were not. My son held Miss M’s hand within the first hour of our being there and accompanied her to the potty, went potty and returned wearing a pull-up beneath his jeans instead of a diaper. I almost threw myself into the Director’s arms and sobbed relief into her tye dye. I had almost made a huge mistake. No—preschools are NOT all the same and the right preschool IS out there. We had definitely found ours.
So I’d like to thank my own personal nagging and alarms for not giving up on trying to alert me. I’m glad I listened. The return for listening is priceless. I must never forget to listen, never excuse not listening, never settle. Now pardon me as I try not to weep in my car, having left him at preschool for the first time. My little big boy! Mama is going home to nap while you paint, make giant bubbles, sing songs, make art with acorns, sit for storytime, enjoy snacktime, make messes and help to clean them up. I promise you, my son, I will be a better mother for extra sleep and some time alone—and you have some new things to discover and tell me all about when I pick you up in 3 hours. Sniff, bawl. I love you, baby! (cue that Carly Simon song that plays at the end of “Heartburn” with Meryl Streep).