Posts Tagged ‘ preschool ’

When To Start Preschool?

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Emmett is 18 months. He’s a super active and happy baby. He absolutely loves going to the playground–not only to slide, but to also be around other kids his age. He is definitely a people person. But the thing I’ve found with my second child is that I don’t reach out to moms who have kids his age. I formed my close mom friendships when I had Fia and I actually don’t want to seek out new ones. I love the ones I have. And the person I’m closest with lives nearby. So we always pal around, either with our kids or without.

The other reason I don’t go on more mom playdates with Emmett is I’m often working around both their schedules. She goes to school 3 times a week, so there is pick up and drop off. He naps in the afternoons. On Monday mornings I take Fia to gymnastics. On Wednesday mornings I take Em (this is the class with the neglectful nanny). In other words, I’m juggling too much to have dedicated playdates with Emmett. Plus, this fall it gets even more hectic because Fia is switching to Montessori. Which is a whole other dilemma.

Nevertheless, I have sitters a few days a week for a few hours. When he turns 2, as much as I love my sitters, I think he might enjoy being with kids his own age. Fia’s current preschool allows total flexibility in terms of days and hours. I could enroll him for as few as 2 mornings a week. My pediatrician says she recommends some form of socialization for tots, starting between 18 months and 2 years. Granted, he gets a lot of socialization and stimulation from Fia and her friends. He’s not sitting in a corner all day. But this would be in a semi-structured environment.

It’s a no brainer right? Except, for some ludicrous reason, I have guilt. As in, shouldn’t I be with him? Phil says absolutely not. Do what’s best for him and me. And this is a guy who didn’t go to any preschool– his mom waited until he was 5 for Kindergarten. He’s perfectly social and well adjusted. (Well, sort of.) But I think it was a different time back then. I think there were more stay-at-home moms and preschool was more like daycare. Because the reality is, I’m not with Em every hour of every day anyway. And the reality is he would enjoy it. And I would get my breather.

I guess it’s the perception I’m worried about.  I felt judged when I enrolled Fia at 2 years old for 2 mornings a week (though I was hugely pregnant so that alone should have given me a free pass). Judgment by whom, I’m not sure. I just remember over-explaining it to anyone who asked. Which is also stupid since I generally don’t give a sh-t what others think of me.

At any rate, I’m curious to hear from the moms–especially those like me who don’t work full time outside the house, but need a break a few times a week. At this age, do you prefer sitters or preschool? And why?  Pros? Cons? Fill me in.

 

 

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Fia’s Preschool Dilemma

Monday, August 5th, 2013

This is such a stupid dilemma I can’t believe it’s taking up brain-space. But here goes.

Fia is starting at a Montessori preschool in a few weeks. I know she will be sad leaving her current one.  So my first question is: When to break the news to her? A week before? A day before? I once said it casually, as in, “Fia, you are going to a new school in the fall.” I didn’t think she would actually “get it.” I’m an idiot. My daughter is not. She immediately burst into tears. So I changed the subject. I didn’t want her obsessing months in advance. She tends to be a bit of a worrier and I don’t want her to have needless anxiety.

Okay, dilemma #2: This school will mean a lot more schlepping for me. She is at her current preschool 3 days a week. It is about 6 minutes away. They nap them there (which she loves because she gets to nap with all her friends then wake up and play). For that reason, she goes from 9-4. The new preschool gives you two options: you can pick them up at 1 or at 2:30. They don’t nap them. Either way it cuts into the middle of her typical nap time. Which isn’t a huge deal, except….I DON’T WANT TO LOSE THE NAP!

It’s a 15-minute drive home in which she’s likely to fall asleep then not go back down once we are at home.

But my bigger dilemma is what to do about Emmett. He takes a 2 1/2 hour nap everyday around noon-2:30 give or take an hour on either end. So his nap is going to fall smack dab in the middle of pickup time for Fia. Which means he will either have to be woken up from his nap, or he will fall asleep in the car to and from, thus, not having a proper nap. Which all leads to ME! Their naps are my sanity. It’s this great time when the house is all mine and I can patter around either doing productive things like writing this blog, or unproductive things like napping while they nap.

But even if I had to give up their naps during the week, the naps are a cherished time for us as a family on the weekends. We always do something fun in the morning, then when Emmett goes down, Phil, Fia, Wayne (the cat) and I crawl into our big king bed and snooze. It is heaven. By giving up naps during the week I’m worried that she won’t take them on the weekends either.

I don’t want to hire a sitter for an hour-long window of time 5 days a week. Not that I could find someone anyway. I can expand into a few bigger chunks of time to make it worth their while, but not everyday.

Phil suggested pushing Emmett’s nap to 1:30. That way I can take him with me to get Fia at 1 and they both get home by 1:30. However, pushing his nap is easier said than done. I know he will fall asleep in the car. And once he snoozes for even a few minutes, I can rarely transfer him without waking him up, thus losing the rest of the nap.

So what to do? I know, it’s a huge problem. I’m sure you have all followed the puzzle on this and are ready to give me advice. The overachievers may have even taken notes. I mean, if it’s keeping me up at night, surely it will keep you up too. Then we will all need more naps.

 

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Is My Toddler Anxious? Shy? Or Is This Normal?

Monday, May 20th, 2013

I don’t get it. When Fia is at home she is the most outgoing, funny, confident 3 1/2 year old. When we have her best friend Teddy over, she is just as gregarious. One on one or with just a few of her friends, she is great. But when I take her to her preschool, she gets clingy and doesn’t want to participate. Yet, the hour leading up to preschool it’s all she can talk about. How excited she is, how she loves to nap at school, etc. And once she is there, I’m told she warms up. Though the teachers say it does take awhile and they have to push her a bit.

If it were just school, I’d think maybe the place wasn’t the right fit for her. But it’s also gymnastics. And with our cleaning ladies. And babysitter.

For example, every Wednesday Sheny and Lucy come to our house at 8 a.m. They are warm and loving. Yet it is a struggle to get Fia to say “Good Morning.” We started prepping her.

“When Sheny and Lucy come, what are you going to say?” we ask.

“Good Morning!” Fia declares with enthusiasm.

Then they walk in and nothing. She puts her head down and clings to our leg. It is somewhat maddening.

In gymnastics she’s gotten better at participating after we kept encouraging her–and a few times bribing her with the promise of a yogurt covered pretzel. But still, at “drinking fountain time,” 8 boys and girls run giddily across the room, laughing with one another. Fia walks. Now granted, she walks with a little sassy sway in her and I kinda dig that she doesn’t have to run with the pack, but I just wonder sometimes what is going on in her mind. I don’t want to project anxiety on her, and maybe she just goes to the beat of her own drum, but still…I am left puzzled.

With our sitter Michele, whom she loves, Fia greets her happily. But then she always comes to me and asks, “When is Michele leaving?” The exception is when Michele brings her twins, Maci and Cruz. Then it’s happy chaos all around. But If I am putting her down for her nap and the twins aren’t here, it’s the last question she asks before she goes to sleep and the first when she wakes up.

“Is Michele gone? Did you tell her to go home?”

I suppose part of this is wanting to know “the plan” and what is up. I can imagine in the world of a toddler, you have no control, so you crave it on any level.

We did have a breakthrough last Wednesday. We prepped and practiced for Sheny and Lucy to arrive. When they did she perked up and said louder than her usual whisper, “Good Morning!” Then she hugged them. When they left the room, Fia was beaming. I said, “How did that make you feel?” She nodded her little head, while bouncing up and down with pride. “Really good mama, really good.”

So I feel like we take a few steps forward, then suddenly will revert and go backwards again. Maybe this is just part of normal toddler development. Maybe she’s just a little shy, or it takes her longer to warm up to someone. I don’t think she likes chaos and I know at her preschool, when the whole pack is out playing and being wild, she tends to shy away. Two weeks ago I showed up and she was the only kid inside, quietly coloring. All the others were outside. On some level it hurt my heart. But again, if she’s not sad or anxious, then it doesn’t matter, and I shouldn’t feel sad right?

What do you guys think? Any insight or advice?

 

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When Do You Begin Toddler Chores?

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Fia loves tasks. Especially fun ones. Anything from helping me water plants to putting her stuffed animals to sleep. We had a little parent-teacher conference (yes, she’s 3. In preschool), and they suggested that over the break, give her a job to do. Phil and I thought feeding Wayne each night his dry food would be doable. She already does it with us a lot, so why not hand it over to her entirely?

We explained this was going to be her “job” everyday–that at the end of each week she would get 25-cents to put in her piggy bank. She seemed really enthused at first. She wanted to start right away. So we decided to feed the insatiable cat early. She carefully went over to the Tupperware bin and measured out his food. Of course Wayne is a beast and always knocks his giant head against the cup, so you have to dump it in his bowl fast or else it ends up on the floor. What I’m saying is there is technique involved. My child may or may not prove her genius in this task.

She managed to get most of it in the bowl.  Then I explained how important it is to snap the Tupperware lid back in place. Wayne could happily eat himself to death. He probably has Prader-Willi syndrome. I helped her latch it, then we gave her her first quarter. She was so excited and proud of herself, she insisted we run right up to her room and put it in the bank.

The next day we reminded her to feed Wayne. She did, but I forgot to check the lid until I heard loud chomping. He had devoured half the bin. Whatever. He may not be my Biggest Loser anymore.

By day three when I reminded her she started to protest.

“Fia, it’s your job. Come on, it’s fun!” I said, trying to make it a positive thing.

I led her over to his food. She saw some crumbs on the floor and refused to move closer. I swept them up. She’s lucky her mom is OCD on the cleaning front. Then she saw the speckles in the wood floor. The same speckles that have been there since 1928. “I can’t walk on those,” she whined. What???? She wouldn’t budge. Started to tantrum in fact.

I pulled the bowl and the bin over to her and made her do it with me. I was clearly frustrated. She kept whining as if I were cutting off her hand.

The next day it was the same push and pull. Forget it, I said. This is stupid.

But it got me wondering when is it time to teach them chores? I always had chores and a modest allowance growing up. I think it’s a good thing. I often carry the laundry up to Fia’s room and while we’re playing, I turn it into a sorting game where she picks out all her clothes (To my friend Holly who did this with all 4 of her kids–I remember your wisdom from years back). Then we practice folding. She carries her folded pants like a fragile egg to her drawer. It’s really cute actually.

I also always try and do some sort of “clean up” during the day. I guess that in itself is a “chore.” Though sometimes I just do it myself because it’s easier.

My father was a stickler for rules. To an absolute extreme. As in “sign in and sign out” charts, a book of 86 rules and weekly “family council” meetings. Believe me, I’ll blog about it someday. I am uber aware of not wanting to be like him in that regard.  I know, I know, she’s only 3 1/2 years old. But I’m just curious when you begin planting the seeds? Fill me in.

 

Pic of girl doing chore via shutterstock

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(My) Milestone Monday: Why I Let My Nanny Go

Monday, January 14th, 2013

I’m going to do a complete 180 here.  I got rid of my nanny and my life is easier. This is  contrary to my post a few months ago when I wrote about why full-time help is necessary.

It has taken me almost 2 months to write about this. It was a painful experience and really hurt me to the core. These people become part of your family; they are taking care of the most precious entity in your life. And even though I know we made the right decision, and it was our choice, the loss hit me hard.

I don’t know why, but I just feel like telling my story. Maybe because I’m still hurt, even though at the same time I’m so relieved.

I won’t go into all the reasons. But the main reason was her complete inability to get here on time. I spoke to her former employers to find out if she was late for them. They claim she wasn’t. She also lived nearer to them, which, in LA traffic, makes a difference. They also had full time jobs in which they had to be out the door at a certain time. Phil and I work from home, so we naturally create a more laid back atmosphere.

I did every sort of tactic. I switched the times around to help her avoid rush hour (didn’t work), I gave her a cushion time, as in between 8:30-9. Not only did that NOT work, it backfired and made things worse. I gave her pep talks, threaten-talks, and on two occasions I lost my sh-t and yelled. And then she cried. And I felt terrible.  So after a year of dealing with this–yes, a year–I realized the situation was exhausting me.

It was time for a final ultimatum.

Phil and I told her calmly and clearly that one more time and she was done. Communication had been a problem in that her accent is heavy and she also doesn’t text (which was another issue altogether). I wanted to make sure she understood how high the stakes were. She said she understood and reiterated that if she were late again, it was on her. She cried saying she would miss our kids so much–the mere thought of it broke her heart. I could tell her feelings were genuine.

That’s the thing about her. I had such a soft spot. Yet she would drive me crazy.

Her life hadn’t been easy. Her mother pulled her from school at a young age in El Salvador so she could care for her handicapped sister. She crossed the border when she was 17. Now she’s 50, a legal resident, and has 5 grown kids. But even though we paid her well above the market rate, money was tight (in part to bad decisions that drove me crazy–though I know–none of my business). With no formal education she is part of the true working class.

She became my project and my boundaries went out the window. I was going to teach her how to read and write (she was extremely limited in that regard, which I found out after hiring her). I offered to give her time off for ESL classes. I told her I could help her learn.  She cried, saying it was her dream to read the newspaper. Never happened. I mentioned it from time to time and she’d say she was going to do it. Then nothing.

There were other things too, because as we all know, no one is perfect. But as mad/frustrated as I’d get, at the end of the day, she did a lot of lovely things for us and ultimately, loved my babies as her own. If there were an earthquake, she would throw herself in front of a crashing beam to protect them. She is that kind of person.  I would tell myself that that is really all that matters. But it’s not. She was still an employee. And there to make our lives easier.

The ultimatum came right before we were giving her a week off (paid) for Thanksgiving.  That following Monday morning she was supposed to be at our house by 8:30. Fifteen minutes later I see a missed call on my phone. Phil called her back. She said her car battery died and she was just leaving her house. Wait, huh? If your battery had died, you would have known before 8 and called us. Which is what Phil said to her. No response. He hung up the phone and looked at me. We both shook our heads. He called her back and told her not to come. I haven’t seen her since.

I then sent her a check for 5 weeks severance. My friend Delia is the one who coaxed–and coached–me on that. I was just going to send her a week’s worth. Delia said, “Jill, there are the haves and the have-nots. We are the haves. You won’t ever miss the money. Consider it one less charity donation. To her, it is everything.”

I remember when I was in Al-Anon; there was a saying about detached compassion. “When the alcoholic is passed out on the cold, hard floor, rather than leaving her in anger, or trying to get her back on the bed, just drape her in a warm blanket.” So, even though I’ll admit the check was a little hard to write, I felt like that was my version of detached compassion. I wanted her to have a nice Christmas. I know how excited she was to buy gifts for her grandkids. And I know what a relief it would be to pay her rent.

She left us a message a few days later, after receiving the check. She thanked us profusely. I could hear her voice cracking. She knows she messed up.

I guess I felt betrayed. Hurt. Why didn’t she call us at 8 that morning? Why, after having a week off, would she not show up on time? On some level, my mind says, “Did she not love my kids enough to get out of bed on time?” But then I know: You can’t change someone.

I did get word that she found another job close to her house. In fact, I gave the woman the recommendation before all this happened, as we were going to take her down to part-time anyway and help her find a family to share with.

I’m sure this post sounds like an “upper class problem” to many people. Some would tell me to just get over it. And I am. But dealing with another human being on a deeply personal level is tough. I’ve never had a nanny before. And I doubt I ever will again. She was with Emmett from the day he was born. He is a special baby and I know she must miss him dearly. But at the end of the day, we are better on our own.

I have now hired a few sitters to work a couple times a week. They are young college graduates from New York. I won’t be taking on their problems. My boundaries are in place.

I also realize I’m utilizing my time far better. Instead of napping when my kids nap, I write or pay bills or make phone calls. I think having full-time help without a full-time job myself gave me license to be lazy. Now, every minute counts. Energy begets energy. I have cleaned out closets and organized photos that have sat for a year. I feel good. I have spent more quality time with my kids in the past 2 months than I did all year. I still don’t have any regrets in how we did it. I had some crucial time to myself and I needed it. I had plenty of delicious moments with my babies. More than most people probably. But now I get even more.

I’m looking forward to 2013 knowing we’ll have loads of adventures. Even if “adventure” means a trip to the grocery store with both babes in tow (something that 6 months ago sounded impossible to me. Granted, Em is almost a year now, so having him older makes all of this a helluva lot easier).

My mind goes back to a line I read not long ago. It’s from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and gives me great perspective when I do get tired from the daily grind.  ”The days are long, but the years are short.”

Like I said when Fia turned 3,when my kids are older and out late with friends, I will be watching the clock, wishing they were home.  I will yearn for these sleep-deprived nights. They are all mine (almost) all the time. And for now, I don’t want it any other way.

Took Em to a fun playspace the other day. Making it a weekly thing now because he had so much fun. And  I had so much fun watching him!

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