Friday, October 21, 2011

We said goodbye to preschool

This post has been somewhat overdue as I've processed our decision last month to pull Mikko from his preschool.

Mikko, now 4, had been attending a language-immersion preschool twice a week for a half-day each for the past two and a half years. He started just before he turned 2, and I was ambivalent even then. We sent him for a few reasons: multilingual exposure (German and Spanish) to complement what he's receiving in his bilingual upbringing at home (German and English), activities that we didn't have to plan (crafts, games, songs), social opportunities with other kids (since we didn't have many friends who were parents at the time), exercise and playtime indoors and out, and time for Sam and me to work and have a little break from being on call.

These were all valid reasons, and I really wish it had worked out.

preschool class 2yo
Mikko at almost 3 years old, clutching the babydoll who was like his security blanket there, and ignoring what everyone else is doing as per usual. (I've blurred anyone else's face that's showing.)

Mikko has always been high-needs. As an infant, he had to be carried and bounced (standing up!) constantly. As a baby, he would scream at any disregulation in his comfort: peeing, pooping, being cold, being hungry — not insistently let us know but scream. As a toddler, it was always challenging to wind him down for sleep, and the rare occasions of leaving him with sitters were cause for tears on all sides.

Now, as a verbal and entirely charming preschooler, I love him to pieces but I still see how different he sometimes is from average kids (whoever they are). He won't go into the nursery at church without falling apart. He still sleeps snuggled against us at night, and if we try to put him down elsewhere (which we can do now), he'll wake up in the middle of the night and scoot his way back in between Sam and me. He abhors conflict, making it impossible to take him to children's movies that feature villains (which is — all of them). When we went to see The Wiggles in concert, he sat backwards in his seat, refused to look at the stage, and complained in my ear the whole time that it was too dark and too loud. He'll go days without pooping, and when he does it's a big dramatic production with weeping and running from the toilet. He's resistant to getting dirty or wet, even in the name of fun, and he'll only wear "comfy pants." He went through a long phase of wearing a fedora everywhere and pulling it down over his face when he felt threatened, such as at social gatherings.

In short, the kid is intense. He feels things deeply and is highly sensitive.

Which always meant preschool was a dicey proposition.

I don't think there's anything wrong with Mikko. I know I was sensitive as a child, too, and I turned out all right. Sam was, too. We still are. We all have to learn how to handle our reactions and emotions, and some of us take longer than others. Some of us need more support than others as well. I'm really not in a hurry to rush him through the process.

Apparently preschool was too much too soon for this particular child.

I was always envious of the other parents dropping off their kids with a quick kiss goodbye, the child sending a cheery wave over a shoulder. How come I was the only one with a kid who cried at every drop-off, for two years straight?

Oh, there were breaks. I don't want to exaggerate. There were periods of weeks where we'd get our hopes up and think, He's happy now! He's adjusted! And then he'd enter a new clingy phase, and we'd be back to square one.

Once he could talk well, it got worse. He'd spend all week telling us how he didn't want to go to preschool, and the litany would escalate in the car. "No Schule, no Schule, no Schule," he'd chant in increasingly higher decibels as we drove the familiar route. He'd burst into tears as we parked at the building. Or, worse, he'd do his stoic face, opening and closing his mouth to keep the tear muscles at bay, staring through the glass door in mute reproach as we walked away.

As he got older, he got creative. On one ride to Schule, he told Sam a story about how the building had burned down and been carried away by giant trucks, so they really, really couldn't go and they should just turn around. As we broached the topic of taking him out, he began bargaining with us, offering desired behaviors in exchange for unenrolling. For instance, he promised to be quiet as a mouse and let us work all day, just as long as he could stay home.

I don't think there's anything wrong with his preschool, or of course I'd have taken him out long ago. As I said, all the other kids think it's a kick. I mean, anytime a new, young toddler steps in, there's a week or two of crying and adjusting, but then all is well. I'm actually supposed to be reviewing The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley, and I've been putting it off because, even though I absolutely love the book, we hadn't had what I'd call "success" yet in terms of curbing this anxiety he's been having.

If I ask Mikko whether he likes the teachers and kids there, he'll stare at me blankly. If I suggest, via a leading question, that he's having problems with them, he'll seize on that as a reason to keep him out. Even a four-year-old can tell what a valid excuse would be to leave a situation. I don't think he's having many or any of those problems organically, though.

Sam thinks the biggest downward curve was when Mikko was given a time-out by a teacher who's no longer at the school. It really upset him, for months afterward. And, if Sam's theory is correct, he never got over the breach in trust.

There are a couple kids there who are more boisterous and less gentle in their play. Sam saw Mikko get beaned on the head by one once at pickup, and there's a certain boy who fascinates Mikko as much as repels. "That Casey," he'll say, "he never listens to me!" [Note: His name's not really Casey.]

But I detected no hint of anything shady or ongoing, no bullying or abuse. The teachers always seem genuinely fond of Mikko and have been quick to reassure us that he's just fine, that he stops crying once we leave.

Although: That's not the point. He's been crying and whining and sad all week long about preschool, so the fact that the teachers have to deal with it for only five minutes twice a week isn't much of a salve to us. When we tried to have straightforward conversations with them about his separation anxiety, we just kept hearing the same party line — that he's doing better, that he'll get over it soon. I guess saying the opposite wouldn't be much of a business model, would it?

So we floated the idea to Mikko of stopping. We told him he'd have to go to the office some days with his father and play quietly. We told ourselves that we'd have to step up our unschooling plan. In some ways, it was exciting, this idea of starting our unschooling now, rather than waiting a year for kindergarten age.

Mikko, of course, was all for it. Sam and I had determined that we'd start slowly, experimenting with unschooling and office time in between his regular preschool days — that maybe we'd take him out at the end of the year. But, naturally, having told Mikko of our plans was our undoing. He heard "stop going to Schule" and wanted it to happen posthaste. If anything, it made his last couple weeks of preschool even harder, if such a thing were possible. Any hope I'd harbored of a miraculous change of attitude about drop-off died a permanent death.

preschool goodbye party 4yo
Last day
Without much fanfare and without sufficient notice, we informed the teachers of Mikko's last day. I made Sam bring cupcakes so Mikko could say goodbye properly, dang it.

I wussed out of the process myself. Sam took him those last few weeks. Sam let them know our intentions.

I sat at home and cried — yes! cried — and felt consumed by guilt and regret. I still got the newsletters and saw the happy kids in the photos, particularly the ones who'd stuck it out till kindergarten, when they were given a Schultüte and a befitting send-off. I didn't take the reminders off my calendar, so they kept popping up to give me a pang and a hasty reach for the delete button. I bore it as penance.

Because it was my fault, right? It was my fault that we were ever in this stupid situation in the first place.

It was my (prideful?) idea to raise him bilingually. It was my research that found the multilingual preschool opening right in our neighborhood, and my prodding that brought us to that first open house. It was my consent that started him off when he was not even 2 years old. I still can't look at pictures from that month without heartache. He was just a baby. What was I thinking?

And then letting him be miserable — even if only intermittently — for two long years. Ugh. And I feel like the choice of taking him out now, in the midst of his misery, only confirms that it was all a mistake, that the last two years were wasted.

I know many things logically. I know that he did in fact enjoy (some of) his time at preschool. I have photographic proof of him smiling (sometimes). Despite the odds, he's made friends there, and we now are forming playdates with them outside of school. I'm sad and nervous that I am now his main source of German and Spanish (eep!), because he did, quite naturally, learn a lot of both languages there. And it did in fact give us the quiet time we were seeking twice a week, and I miss it — I won't say I don't. I wish, really wish, he could be happy in preschool, so that Sam and I (and now Alrik) could have some preschooler-free time. I don't think that's a selfish thing to wish for.

I also know logically that many, many parents don't have the luxury of not sending their kids to childcare, no matter how much either party might dislike it. I don't want to suggest any blame of anyone else for circumstances of needing or wanting (both are valid) outside childcare.

I also know (deep down) that I am not a bad mother. That I was not intending to torture my child. That I honestly thought and hoped he could be happy in such a nurturing and stimulating environment. That it's not my fault that his anxieties and sensitivities are so acute. That my responsibility is not to the teachers and other parents but to my child, even though I feel like I'm letting them down, implying blame (when it really is a lovely preschool — for everyone else), and severing our ties to the community we'd built over two years. I still fantasize about sending Alrik there in a few years, or even of persuading an older Mikko to give the after-school program a try. I feel this need, but fear as well, to write a letter to the directors explaining the turmoil of feelings I'm experiencing right now, to let them know it's not their fault, either.

Sigh.

When I try to bring up our decision to remove Mikko from preschool with other local parents, I typically get the same reaction: a recommendation of another preschool we could try. I don't think that's the problem, though. I mean, maybe if we'd started at the "right" preschool, maybe (maybe) Mikko would have been fine with it, but that ship has sailed. He doesn't even want his aunt Natalie to watch him, and he's known and loved her since birth. I poked at him some more yesterday to get him to tell me just what about preschool was so distressing to him. Was it the teachers? I asked. Were they nice to you? Did the kids not play with you? And he said, off-handedly, "I didn't like it when you leave."

So there it is.

I know eventually it won't matter so much to me what Mikko's preschool years were like. I know he'll grow and thrive and become accustomed to and crave separation from us — an ever-evolving dance of interdependence, where he moves further away at each turn but knows he can always come back. I'm enjoying these weeks of full-on unschooling more than I'd expected. It's kind of exhilarating for us to be our child's guides, and not have to make way for other people's schedules or directions or rules. With two kids, having one be away a couple afternoons a week didn't make as much of a difference, anyway.

For now, for us, for Mikko, pulling him from preschool was the right choice. Even when it feels like the last of a string of wrong ones.

How have you dealt with separation anxiety? Have your children had extreme reactions like this?

I feel presumptuous suggesting what you can and can't write in response to me, but I guess it's OK to give some guidelines of what I'd welcome and not. I don't want advice on how to get him back into preschool, or what type of preschool I should try next. I really hope not to hear more recriminations (I sent him too young, or too often, or to the wrong school, or I should have kept him in longer and tried X technique to help him adjust), because I have plenty in my own head. I don't need diagnoses of what's wrong with Mikko or suggestions on how to fix him, beyond letting him grow up at his pace. I don't really need much of anything but a hug right now. Mikko's fine — now that he's home — so really I just need to work through this for myself. If after all that, you're scared to comment at all, I don't blame you. I just wanted to be honest about where we're at with preschool, considering that I've written about the journey all along the way, starting from when it first unfolded, so it seems only fitting to finish out the tale as it's drawn to a close. Can you tell I'm feeling uneasy about this topic? I haven't even told my parents he's not in preschool anymore, because I already know they think we coddle him too much.

The good news is, Mikko's happy about the whole situation. He sometimes checks in: "We're not going to Schule today?" We're not ever going to Schule, we tell him. He smiles and skips down the hall.

37 comments:

Amy @ Anktangle said...

Oh, Lauren, I feel the pain and internal conflict in your words. I'm glad to hear that you've made some peace with this and I really appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts and feelings about this. I wish I could give you a hug! <3

theadventuresoflactatinggirl.com said...

We recently decided to take Peanut out of preschool too. Her reaction isn't quite as intense as Mikko's, but every day she tells me she wants to stay home, every day she doesn't want me to leave, some days she still cries when I do. She's in a preschool at my college and so it's a great situation for while I'm in school, but since I'm not going next semester (and then online only for the next 3 semesters after that), I wasn't planning on keeping her in the school. We toyed with the idea for a bit, but with the extra money and the fact that she's always sad to go (even though she's happy when she's there), I don't want to keep her in next semester. I feel some guilt, but at the same time, we'll have more time to go places that get her very similar benefits (like story time and the nature center and what not), when I'm not in school. Have you looked into bilingual story times around your area? We have a spanish one here, but I've never been.

bitt said...

What a painful process and I can feel your pain in the decision. As a former preschool teacher and elementary teacher, I have seen many kids in similar situations and it can be quite heartbreaking! I don't think school is a good fit for every child, sometimes it is the particular school, sometimes it's just school. I had a hard time with school as a kid to so I relate. I guess just be glad you have the luxury of being able to unschool him as some kids that need that don't have the parents that can make it work with their jobs. And a big hug to you too.

Rae said...

you have just described my son!! he is very intense and passionate and emotional and sensitive. he started preschool at age 2 as well and each morning was just as you had described. and we got the same comments and creative excuses for not going to school once he could talk. he is now 5 and this september we started home schooling him. i teach a couple of days a week outside the home and on those days, i get, "can i come to your class too? i will be very very quiet!" but he doesn't cry anymore when i leave. overall he is happier being with us. when pressed about why he didn't like school, we got a similar response, "because you aren't there." he generally liked the idea of being "at school" with the other kids and he got along well with the teachers...it was just our absence that he missed...

...sarah. said...

Lauren, I feel like we have the same kid! I see others feel the same way, as well... so, there is some modicum of comfort that we are not alone. I am sitting here in my office at work and my mind drifts to my 20-month old son: an hour away with his MiMi and PaPa. I have to sneak out the back door every morning while he screams in the other room, reaching out for me to come back: and I pray hard on the way to work every day that God will make away I can stay home with him. As much as he loves his grandparents, they don't replace the me that he needs. In the afternoon, we get the report. He was whiney today. He cried a lot today. He wouldn't eat today. It's always something. And I see the way his grandparents are doing with our nephew, over whom they have guardianship. I don't like their "parenting" tactics, but what can I say? It's free childcare.
When he's been in daycare, he acted much like Mikko. When he saw the road we are on, headed toward the daycare, he started the protest. His lip poked out and tears started falling. His and mine. The daycare personnel would tell us all was well, but we saw that he'd act out in the evenings afterwards. It was miserable for all of of. I have tears in my eyes thinking about it.
We quit going to church for a while. Then I was offered a position as a childcare worker for a small church an hour away (the other direction from work. So, two hours from my day job) from home. I took it to get back in church, since I could have my son with me in the nursery. Sometimes, I feel resentful about driving so much to get to church, and then I can't even participate in the service: I have to be holed up in the nursery away from the rest of the congregation. It can be lonely, even with half a dozen kids that need me.
Your post definitely pulls on my heartstrings, because I know exactly what you've been through: I am in it right now. I wish you well on your new journey!

Inder-ific said...

Ugh. I'm afraid of this with Joe. He's always had me or my husband around, he's never been in daycare, he doesn't do well with being babysat, he doesn't do well being left at the nursery at church, etc., etc. It's really hard, because of course everyone us suggests that if we could just let him get USED to being with other people, then he'd do better. But then when we try to leave him with someone else, that person usually ends up calling and screaming "UNCLE!" after like five minutes because Joe is inconsolable. So, seriously, what can you do?

Luckily (ha), we seriously can't afford preschool anyway. ARGH.

jenny of all trades said...

Wow - great post. Thanks, as always for your honesty. I, too, have a high needs son. He's 3 now, and since he was born, I would take him to music classes or paint-the-pottery class or gym class and he would cling to me and cry. Oh my. The feelings of "what did I do wrong?" or worse, "what's wrong with you?" were ever-present. I live in an area where all his little buddies are in some sort of preschool and have been since age 2, but it just never felt right to me. And the concerned stares I get when I say that he's not going to preschool this year embarrass me, and most often force me to follow up with, "well yeah, but he'll go next year...maybe even in a few months."
It's so hard to listen to that quiet mama-voice when it comes to making a decision that goes against the norm.

I had a parallel thought - I wonder if Mikko's reluctance to use German at home (as told in a previous post) has to do with his negative feelings toward the school? Perhaps taking him out of the environment will actually boost his aptitude! :)

Shannon Hillinger said...

School decisions are so hard, I think because there aren't really wrong choices. There's no "bad" way to handle school, there's just ways that don't work for your kid or your family. Don't beat yourself up about this, because you did listen to him, and now you can move on.
We are having the opposite problem right now. Moira has been asking when she can go to school over and over. Our home based preschool, and the lessons I do with her on our own seem to be helping, but she still likes to tell me that when she's older she will ride the bus and go to school. I really think unschooling is the way I want her to learn, and a way that would work well for her, but I don't think it's fair to make that decision for her. I have been waging a campaign of mild anti school propaganda, but if she really still wants to go when she gets to kindergarten age, I guess I'll have to find one.

Becky said...

For now, I think you're doing what's best for Mikko. I remember hating 1st grade and even crying at the end of the day for my mom. My husband had similar experiences of refusing to go to school as well as being so shy that his teacher couldn't grade him in reading. We have a two-year old and I have the idea of sending her to preschool for two years before kindergarten to get her used being away from us and being around kids her age. We'll see next year how that turns out?? Hubby is against all home-schooling, but I once heard from a principal that he suggested home-schooling for all kids and to start public school at about age 10. He said that only thing that happens in elementary school until then is bullying. Yeah, I remember some bullying and in the back of my mind am nervous about that with my daughter as well (so I need to remind myself that she's not me.)
I like your thought of putting Alrik in the program and seeing if Mikko has interest of after-school programs then.
(I wish we had a similar program here, too.) I know you'll figure out the best solution for everyone!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@theadventuresoflactatinggirl.com: That's hard. We did have that same thought, though, that we can use the time and money we were spending on preschool to do other fun things (even things like crafts and science experiments at home as well as outings). We do have Spanish story times — I should give one of those a try. Unfortunately, there used to be a German one, but it's not on the schedule anymore. Mikko wouldn't go to it for awhile (wouldn't go in the room — maybe too much like preschool for him with everyone speaking German?), so I hadn't looked again till recently.

Fresh and Feisty said...

HUGS and more HUGS! Being a parent and finding the way is hard...each child is different and each situation is different. Don't should yourself...you just get should all over you :) Things will work out!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@bitt: I know, it really is a luxury. I'm really sad for the kids who can't handle school but whose parents don't have the option to keep them home. (I know that's most parents.)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Rae: "because you aren't there." — Yes! Exactly.

LindsayDianne said...

I have absolutely no answers for this. We practiced attachment parenting in the hopes that it would produce a independent and confident child... and it did. Abby was in preschool from 2.5 years old until last June, and then she was put into full day Kindergarten this September. She didn't really even care. Got mildly teary when she realized I wasn't coming in with her, but then hugged me and that was the end of it.
Sometimes I almost wish that she would be a it more clingy. At least then I wouldn't feel like she'd rather be there than with me.

I can't imagine how hard it is, not only to have persevered and made no progress, but also to have to give up that time that you had, even just for a little but each day.

I've never been a big fan of a lot of home schooling or unschooling, but generally that's because I often see parents doing it for their reasons, and not their child. No matter what you do, if you're doing what you think is right FOR THEM (not for you), then you're doing everything that you can. There is no one way to raise a kid. :)
Keep yer head up!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@...sarah.: Poor you, and poor him. :( That's hard when it's really your only option. We noticed effects later in the day from being in preschool, too — it took a toll on him.

We've started going to church again after some time off. We had hoped to find a truly family-friendly church that welcome kids in the service, but all the churches we can find that align with our beliefs are very quiet. We finally just gave up and chose one we liked for other reasons. Mikko won't go into the nursery (0-4) or the children's church (4 & up), so he sits with us in the service and is kinda sorta mostly quietish. But it's a strain for him. I've been waffling on volunteering for the nursery for the same reasons you say — I'll be holed up in there with the kids instead of in the service, but then maybe Mikko (and, of course, Alrik) can be with me. I hope things change for you and your little one soon, and that you'll find a way to balance both your needs. Hugs to you, too.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Inder-ific: Yeah, no kidding — maybe you can point to our 2 years of trying without having it get better! I really think, for the most part, it's the personality of the child, not the amount of exposure they've had to being left. It would be nice to get some time away, though, wouldn't it? Sigh.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@jenny of all trades: No kidding. That's what's been weird — all our conversations about preschool lately have been started by other people. They just expect that of course he's in preschool and think it's odd that he's not.

You're very astute about the German thing. I was hoping speaking German at home and school would be like a bridge to make him more comfortable there. But if he associates German with school, I can see how he'd resist it. Here's hoping he becomes more comfortable with the language now that it's home-only! Thanks for that thought.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Shannon Hillinger: Wow, I can see that being hard from the other side, too. I think I'd have the same reaction if one of my kids wanted to go to school after we'd decided to unschool — and yet feeling that same need to honor that desire. I hope the right path becomes clear to you guys.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Becky: That's really intriguing that a principal said that! It will be interesting to see if your daughter has the same school anxieties that you and your husband had. I hope preschool goes well for her!

Brenna @ Almost All The Truth said...

This parenting gig is rough. My oldest was incredibly intense, but also could be fiercely independent as he got older, so that by the time we got to preschool he was ready. My youngest, very intense little one, had much more of a struggle. I opted to not put her in a toddler class like I did my middle son (who thrived there) because she had such separation anxiety then. When we started this year it was rough, but then, suddenly, she was ready.

To each in their own time and in their own way. I am glad that you seem to be at peace and like you said, he is fine. Hugs to you.

Terri said...

Hey Lauren, I enjoyed reading this post as another more personal 'angle' in your choice to unschool (I read a couple of your other pieces on that topic) I can hear that the preschool experience and move was a rough time and one of those parenting moments of turmoil questioning all the decisions made thus far. But I'm totally cheering you on down the unschooling path - partly because I think it's a great choice and partly because we are on that road with a 2yo & 3yo and your insights will be great. Huge cyber hugs Mama!

Gaby @ Tmuffin said...

This is such an honest post. There is something so heart-wrenching about the whole preschool/daycare/childcare thing. I used to go in and notice how all the babies except for mine were so "Well-adjusted." That was the term I used. And I was talking to my friend about it, and she said, "No. They are detached." And I truly think that's it. I think that attached kids do have more confidence to become more independent, but I do feel like it happens later than many many other kids. At least for a full day like that away from the parents. But that's ok. And you know you are raising your kids right. You are such an inspiring mother. And person. The end of this post made me smile. I'm glad Mikko is happy. I hope you are too.

Jenn said...

Thank-you for writing this Lauren. I have a 2.5yr old (and a 5mth old) and we have been attending a kind of preschool where the caregivers attend with the children. We all really enjoy it, but various people have been telling me I need to get our eldest into some form of "real" preschool so she gets used to being away from me. She is a sensitive, gentle soul, and my gut tells me she just isn't ready for any kind of forced separation from me...Its nice to read that someone else feels the same..Your post has given me the courage to keep her close for a bit longer, so thanks :)

Mama Mo said...

@...sarah.

Sarah, I hope you don't mind some unsolicited advice. One of my twin boys has a hard time detaching from me, and would cry and scream whenever I left. Upon the advice of my mom, a preschool director with about a million kids' worth of experience, I created a song and a routine for leaving. I always sing the goodbye song. Every single time I have to leave. For a morning or just to go out to get something from the car while hubby's with him. It is amazing how much that song helps. I always end it with "Mommy always come back!". Then when I return, I say, "Look! Mommy came back!"

If you have to leave your little one (and some of us do), I would highly recommend a routine that involves saying goodbye. He will still cry, and it might be harder on you than sneaking out, but he will know that you are leaving and not have to look for you during the time away. Letting him know you will come back, and then always coming back will help him create expectations and a routine. Good luck to you, mama!

Jamie said...

I love all the positive support you've gotten here and don't have a lot to add- others have said it much more eloquently, but here goes anyway- you've done what's best for your kid and it gives me confidence to say I've done what's best for mine by sending him to school at 3, even though we have no real need. It feels very indulgent to have him there when I'm here, but he wants to go. He requested it and I think he craves the structure that they provide rather than the variety we have in our day, depending on circumstance.

In any case, I'm glad that Mikko is happy and doing better at home. Don't feel the need to defend your parenting choices to anyone. He's yours, grew in your belly. You've known him longer (and know him better) than anyone else. Take the flack for your kid- he's well worth it! :-)

morethan2stars said...

Big hug! that is all :)
It sounds like you have definitely made the right choice (although you know that)to pull him out, and you really hoped you were making the best choice when you had him in. We will always have things to second guess and beat ourselves up about. (So far, mine is every.little.thing. I may or may not have done wrong in the first two weeks of breastfeeding that led to my milk supply dwindling/supplementing with donor milk (for a little over 2 weeks)/pumping to increase supply/feeling like I was failing and/or starving my baby. She is now 10 months old, has been nursing like a champ since 4/5 weeks, eats any food we put in front of her, is bright and active and talkative and amazing, and yet I look at her sometimes and kick myself for doing things wrong in the very beginning. Maybe I should hug myself, too.)
To you, Lauren-(((((((HUG))))))

Michelle said...

My oldest is Mikko's age and he went to preschool for exactly 1 week when he was 3. I would not leave him there if he did not want to go, and he didn't the next week, so that was the end of that. Now, we attend a homeschool co-op once a week. He happily goes to his 2 hour class while I play with his sister in the nursery. I am in the building and he knows that I am there if he needs me. The teacher is very compassionate, an AP parent, and does bring the children to their moms if they need to see us. Both my kids will happily stay all day with Grandma. It is not about separation for them - it is about who is taking care of them and if they trust that person. I can't blame them really.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

I feel very similarly to what you've felt, but just so you know, there's angst on the other side too. I often feel guilt pangs b/c I've never *tried* (that much) to push Kieran into doing outside care. I'm not sure why that feels important to me, as we're planning on HS'ing anyway, but it revolves around the fact that he's so sensitive and dependent on me - and I feel like maybe I'm doing something to promote that by not helping him expand his horizons. (sigh) Anyway, you know our experiences with our one caregiver and the recent screaming and crying and me not being able to leave him - so know you're not alone, and you're not a terrible parent. We're all just trying to find our way the best we can.

MrsH said...

Your post made me cry - my daughter was like "mommy, what's wrong?!" I think what you wrote about is so much in the hearts of all of us: are we making the right choices for our kids? How much do we push them, and how much do we listen to their pushing back? It sounds like you've read some of the Highly Sensitive Person material from Elaine Aron, which talks a lot about that personality trait in a very positive manner. You're not alone in all these tough questions. And Mikko is lucky to have sensitive, caring parents like you!

Olivia said...

Just hugs from me. What an incredibly difficult decision. Everyday I am grateful that my daughter loves and thrives at her daycare (especially because there is no other choice). She started at 20 months and there were about 2 weeks of tears at drop off, but since then not once in almost a year. She talks about it all the time, what she did, her classmates, her teachers... Even as I'm planning (hoping) to stay home with our next baby, I know I want to still send her at least two days a week. It will be a good for both of us. I really wish that is how it could be for all children who spend time away from their parents.

melissa said...

I, for one, think you have made an excellent choice. And that you gave it a good shot! You had good intentions, and Mikko was challenged, and now that it is clear to you that it is not working out, you responded. Don't feel badly! Really, don't. You are an excellent parent to Mikko and he looks like an awesome bundle of energy and happiness. That's because of YOU and Sam. =)

My church has this mixture of young families who mostly are responsive and warm and healthy as parents, and older women volunteers who push us to leave our babies to CIO in the nursery, or drop off our toddlers as quickly as possible 'because when you hang around you only make it worse.' It makes me so mad I want to spit. Once or twice I've picked up Amarys in the nursery and she was crying, but they didn't page me. WTF is the pager FOR?! Why on earth should any baby be with strangers, cry for her parents, and be refused when they are only 50 feet away and happy to come back if she needs them? WHY? Why is it so important? What does it teach them? OMG. It drives me nuts.

This post made me think of that because of your desire to respond to your child, and your parents thinking you 'coddle' him. Ugh. Love is somehow bad? Jeepers.

[[[hugs]]]] you're a wonderful mama.

Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings said...

@Shannon Hillinger Yes, I hear you on this, Shannon! Emma is also very pro-school and pro-kindergarten. I guess from books we've read? And maybe TV? I always intended for her to go to school, but her enthusiasm was palpable for literally years before she started K. I've had to wage a similar campaign to get her to accept and be okay with half-day, which is an option our district offers but one nobody but us in her class has chosen. Ha.

Lauren, wonderful post, thanks for sharing your journey with this. I am sorry it didn't work out for you, but I wouldn't consider it "wasted" at all -- now you know so much more about Mikko, yourself, and have a good idea of what works for you all right now. You made the right choice!

Joy@WhenDoesDaddyComeHome said...

Do NOT feel guilty! Your sweet Mikko is a unique individual and he will get there if you do ever decide to put him in a public school setting again. I have four children and the oldest is my sensitive girl who needs to come around to new ideas in HER time, when she's comfortable. As she's gotten older it hasn't been as noticeable, too. It was more prominent when she was a baby and toddler.

Anyway all that to say - I don't think there's anything wrong with Mikko either. Some people are so quick to put a label on children because they don't act like a carbon copy of other children they know. Don't listen to the negativity and keep doing what is BEST for YOUR baby! ;-)

Summer Kinard said...

Sounds to me as though you all did the right thing for your family. I have a highly sensitive, introverted firstborn as well. Ever since I figured out that he's an introvert (what took me so long?!) and started adapting to his needs rather than trying to get him to act like an extravert, he has just blossomed. I have never heard of a preschool that was introvert friendly, but they sound so good on paper that I see how so many parents of introverts go through the experience hopefully.

I hope that you can lay aside the guilt and focus on your present joy with gratitude. I've only started reading your blog recently, but it sounds as though your children and family are super happy. Yay!

Anonymous said...

I think you did the right thing. I was an EXTREMELY sensitive child. I never went to preschool, but I was put into kindergarten when I was 5 (too early for me). I sobbed every day and was afraid to speak. This continued for years. Teachers hated me, I hated them. I needed the teachers to be quiet and friendly or else I would totally panic. In fact, even in college I had to run to the restroom to occasionally cry.

I wasn't coddled or spoiled. In fact I was neglected and spent years in foster care. My sister, who had the same upbringing, was a tough leader and A+ student. I was the sensitive one. Unschooling would have been right for me, but not my sister. I'm glad you're looking at your son for who he is. Please don't feel guilty and follow your gut. No one knows your child like you and he himself.

Laura said...

I am reading very very late, but I wanted to share a movie you may want to vet and maybe share with Mikko. Because it DOES have stressful moments but it DOESN'T have a villain.

The movie is "My Neighbor Totoro" - and if you can, get the original English translation. It's much more magical than the Disney version, IMO. Either way, however, it is a sweet film with a distinct plot but without a "bad guy."

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