30 September 2005

Leaving Lake Wobegon

Something I've rarely seen discussed in daycare, nanny, stay-at-home vs. working conversations is the real pleasure I've taken in sharing my child with someone else who knows her well. The issue of when or whether to put a child in daycare and what kind of daycare to choose is compelling; the decisions are tough ones and the opinions swirling around someone trying to make choices are many. Most parents have strong views about these issues, although I think many of those views are theories developed after the fact to rationalize choices the parent has already made. People who stay home with their children think that kids who get one-on-one (or one-on-three or whatever) attention from a primary caregiving parent do better. People whose children go to daycare at 6 weeks old think that day care is great for kids because it builds socialization. People who choose institutional daycare of one sort of another think that the routines and controls of a center are comforting, while people who have an in-home daycare, or a regular babysitter, think that the consistency of a single caregiver is all-important. I think they all may be right, and the issue is to find the solution that will let you and your child(ren) flourish, with the right combination of time apart/time together/time at work/time with others for your circumstances.

So there.

I don't know why there isn't more talk about the thing I love about Curious Girl's preschool experiences (which started at 15 months, just 8 months after the adoption, and I was a tearful wreck about it all to start): I have enjoyed sharing her with her teachers. In the baby room, and then the 2 year old room, in her preschool, she's had great relationships with other children and with her teachers, and her teachers really seemed to think that Curious Girl was splendid. I usually walk in to pick up Curious Girl (an old habit that started when we needed to go in to deal with some medicines before going home), and so I had at least some little interchange with one of her teachers every day. I love the fact that someone else was paying close attention to her, was noticing the cute things she says and does, was feeling proud of her increasing independence.

This year, Curious Girl is in the three year old room, which is a big step up from the playful frolic of the two year old room. It's all still fun, but much more organized. The room has some kids who are already 4 and others who won't be three until next July, so there's a big developmental spread. They have classroom chores, they play on the computer, they help set the table for lunch. All this seems so much more mature! (no more mature than our house, where CG has been helping to clear the table for several months now, and where CG puts the silverware away when we empty the dishwasher.) Her teacher this year is very tuned into the kids, and Curious Girl is having tons of fun. But the communication back from this teacher has been a little more negative: CG is sharing her pacifier with someone else at naptime; please tell her not to do this. CG kicked someone in circle time today; please tell her to stop. CG isn't doing somersaults safely; maybe she needs more help with it at her gym class.

Don't get me wrong: I don't want her to share a pacifier (in fact, this week we stopped sending it to school since she's not napping there anymore anyway). And I certainly don't want her kicking people, and I am coming up with all kinds of creative ways to help her be more calm at circle time. But I miss the warm and fuzzy affirmation of what a splendid little being my girl is. (to be fair, the teacher told me about her wiggly qualities today when I asked if she was still kicking at circle time, and she did point out that CG is a happy girl who just likes to be physical, and she's trying to show CG that there are plenty of other times in the day to be physical.)

So maybe i'm just hearing the negatives and not the positives. I don't believe that every child has to be extraordinary all the time (Politica wisely observed,after the kicking incident, something like "Well, I'm glad we don't have a child who is perfect, or feels the need to be perfect all the time, even if I feel awful about the other kid getting hurt." I'm not quite sure what I"m feeling today: I want to rise up and defend my kid (Of course she knows how to do a somersault!), I want to be irritated at the teacher (Can't you tell me something cute she did?) ; I want to play games with CG to reinforce how to be good sitting neighbor (Hey! Your stuffed animal is kicking me while you're reading a story. I don't like that!). Part of me says "be realistic: three year olds are wiggly squiggly and just need to learn physical limits. Part of me worries: will she never be successful in school if she can't sit still? Part of me worries about me: why are you worrying she's won't be successful in school! Get a grip!

So there you have it. All mixed up after a 5 minute conversation with CG's teacher today, not sure how to sort out all these feelings.

But looking forward to the afternoon I'll get to spend with my splendid and wiggly girl.


Yankee T said...

My children each have had at least one teacher over the years who didn't realize how perfectly precious and outstandingly brilliant they were, and I HATED it! I don't think some teachers realize the impact their lack of enthusiasm about a kid can have on the mother, especially the mother of such a young child. I can tell you that CG is brilliant, beautiful, adorable, and sure, wiggly-she's THREE, dammit! Have fun with her!

susan said...

Yankee Transplant, I love you!!! This comment lifted my spirits (as did similar things said by a few in-real-life friends).

I am trying to keep an open mind about this teacher. Every year, in fact, I have ended the year feeling way more warm about her teachers than I did at the start. And CG said this weekend she wants to invite this teacher to her birthday party, which is about the highest form of praise she has these days. So I'm not writing off the whole relationships, but I am sure missing the warm fuzzies.

Phantom Scribbler said...

I totally empathize with this. We got tons of positive feedback from LG's daycamp this summer, but have heard almost nothing from the preschool teachers, positive or negative. I wish I had the comfort of knowing that another adult thought the sun rose and set on my kid!

CG sounds just perfect. We'd take a playdate with her any day.