Friday, February 5, 2010
Mikko's been attending a German-immersion preschool for almost a year now. I've always been a little conflicted over our decision to have him go, but as it happens, it's been a really good thing for us to have those two half-days a week for Sam and me to get some toddler-free work time in (today, for instance, Sam is shrink wrapping DVDs with the dangerous heat gun and I am editing Carnival of Natural Parenting posts), and for Mikko to have regular contact with more energetic and creative caregivers and a sweet group of kids.
Lately, though, we've been going through a regressive phase of "No Schule, no Schule" (see? — bilingual! Ha!) as a litany throughout the car or bus ride and major waterworks when we pull up to the building. I feel awful. I don't know whether it makes sense to let him stay home for awhile or not. It's not a question of "giving in" vs. "showing him who's boss" (ugh!), more just that sending him to preschool is a decision that works best for our family as a whole and so it's our long-term goal — in that sense, then, isn't it better to stay consistent and upbeat about school rather than emphasizing his current anxieties by taking a break?
With that in mind, we're trying to determine how best to make drop-off less traumatic for us all. I know for a fact, both from discreet spying and from the teachers' reports, that Mikko calms down as soon as Sam or I exit, and when we come to pick him up, he's having a good time and doesn't want to leave.
The main teacher's suggestion, and my mom's as well when she was visiting and witnessed the breakdowns, is to drop him off as quickly as possible. Lisa at Edenwild already wrote a perfect post explaining why I don't like the drop-and-run style of leaving my child. It seems disrespectful to him to sneak away and not explain that I'm going and when I'll be back and say a proper goodbye. That said, I do understand the concept of not lingering, something that's very difficult in this particular preschool, since the teacher (the same one telling me to leave quickly) is very chatty (often about what he thinks I should be doing better as a parent, you see!) and I seem to be always stuck trying to talk with him at the same time as I soothe Mikko and get him interested in some toys. Now, when I do make must-leave-now noises, the teacher steps up to hold Mikko and wave goodbye to me and then find a new activity, so I'm pleased with that; I wish the teachers were as sensitive to Mikko and the other kids as Lisa is as a nursery volunteer, but I'm glad at least they've bonded well with Mikko. Still, dropping your child off quickly can't happen unless the teacher cooperates with you! I can't just drop him off crying with no one standing by to calm him.
BUT, the other tip the teacher and my mom gave me for drop-off worked a treat today! So here it is, finally:
If your child is old enough, have him or her walk into the school.
It's so simple, isn't it? Mikko gets clingy when he's feeling threatened, which is understandable, and I automatically was picking him up to cuddle him close as we walked in. But my mom and the teacher pointed out that if he walks by himself, he takes more of a responsibility for entering the school. Then it's not his parent dragging and forcing him into the school — he's now chosen it for himself. I also offered him his backpack to wear, but he chose to have me wear it. Still, I think the general concept is a good idea, particularly for a two-year-old who's asserting his own autonomy anyway. I let him choose which door we went in, and he chose the one (of course) with an elevator just inside. He pushed the buttons on the elevator, and when we get into Schule, he takes his own shoes and jacket off, with some help.
I think all of it together helps make him feel more in control. He knows what's happening and when it's happening, because he's performing it himself.
So there you have it. I know it won't work with pre-walking kids, but it's worth a shot for the rest!
If anyone has any other ideas on how to gently separate from your child, please let me have your tips. We've started our babysitting co-op, so soon Mikko will be exposed to new caregivers and environments, and we'll see how he responds to that!