This will be the preschool edition. Here's a list of things that I have learned these past two weeks, the hard way.
1) When you drop your kid off, drop him off and go. They told me to do this. I didn't believe them. The first day I stayed for ten minutes or so, comforting them and telling them over and over again that I'd be back. Sounds like a good plan, right? The teachers know preschoolers, but they don't know mine, right? Mine maybe just need a little reassurance that everything will be okay.
No. Apparently (shocker, I know), the teachers do know best. Lingering confuses them, and, eventually, they'll cry either way. I stayed there for almost a half hour this morning, and when I left (and I was thisclose to taking the twins with me) they were still carrying on. I made the teachers' jobs much harder. And if they're going to cry and freak out either way, why tease them with your presence, leaving them in confusion as to what is going to happen next? Consistency is the key for three year olds. If they don't know how long you are going to stay, or when you are going to say goodbye, they worry it the whole time and make it bigger than it is.
I thought they would be comforted. That it would show them that I love them very much and will stay until they're satisfied. But in their ideal world, I would never leave them. And so the time stretches and gets harder on them, on me, and on the teachers. Drop them and go. If they are going to freak out, they are going to freak out either way. And I've watched on the other side of the window. It's true what they say. The kids are fine once you've left.
2) Find a half-day program, and if you can't, don't go pick them up in the middle of the day. I have been picking the twins up around 12:30 / 1 every afternoon. That's when all the kids go down for a nap, and I'm home and I'd rather them sleep in their own beds than on little plastic mats on the floor. After they slept and ate, I would bring them back for dance, or music, or drama or whatever specials class they had that day. This worked great for the first two weeks. I loved it. I got to see them in the middle of the day, they got to sleep in their own beds and I was sure they were well-rested and well-fed before bringing them back.
This drives the inconsistency of their day way up. If you are going to pick them up, you pick them up and bring them home full stop. They apparently don't appreciate seeing you and then having to go through the whole thing again in the afternoons. I've also been confusing them because I'll stay with them for the classes. This, again, worked well the first few times. The last time, one of my kids wouldn't let go of me and wouldn't participate in the class. The other always follows her lead, so I had two unhappy children not partaking in the fun class I'd signed them up for. They'd rather hang out up in my uterus, apparently.
3) Don't do a two-day program. Again, inconsistency. The teacher told me today, while tears were streaming down my face at the absolute monstrosity that was dropping them off this morning, that children who only go to preschool two days a week have it the hardest. She says it's because they never know what their day is going to be like.
I thought it would be a nice way to break them into this school thing. You know, gradually. A little at a time. They still get mommy five days a week, and two days a week they get extra-special-fun-extravaganza school. But toddlers don't understand days of the week. To toddlers, every time is the present. They are just grasping the fact that the past does exist and the future...they hardly understand it, although they try. As they work on getting the general idea down, there's no way they will understand that on Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to the preschool and mommy drops you off, then on Saturdays we go to the preschool and mommy stays with you because it's specials day.
A quick example of how bound my toddlers are to routine: Last week, Starbucks rolled out the Pumpkin Spice latte and I got one before picking them up from school. I gave them a sip. On that Thursday, I got another one. I gave them a sip. This Tuesday I was over it and decided I don't need to spend $4 every time I go out without the babies, so I didn't get one. I heard about how we didn't get coffee and we needed coffee for hours. After getting it only twice. My kids, at least, need routine.
They never know whether they are coming or going. Since staying home is their most comfortable routine, they cling to the monster they know, instead of braving a new, and quite fun, world.
It's the inconsistency that breeds fear of abandonment, not your presence or lack thereof. If you consistently drop them off and consistently pick them up, they know what to expect. And toddlers, above all else, need to know what to expect. Otherwise they are scared. And leaving a scared child at school is almost unthinkable to me.
So, now that I've made a royal mess of things, what is there for me to do? I plan on keeping on keeping on, but today truly broke my heart. Don't be me. I might know my children better than the teachers, but the teachers know childhood behavior better than I do. If you're going to do something, you've got to do it. Wishy-washy flip-flopping will only serve to confuse, agitate and upset your little ones...which I'm pretty sure will be the opposite of your intent.
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