Saturday, September 24, 2005

Away from Home--Alone

I spent a glorious seven hours away from my home--alone--frittering away time. I drove, I shopped, I ate, I saw a movie, I mentally scolded the parent who ushered her small child into a movie rated PG-13, then I shopped some more. I only brought home pants for my 7-year old and a pair of white canvas Bass sneakers for myself ($15 on sale from $49.99).

Now, I am procrastinating. I can choose from the following options:

1) Wash dishes in kitchen sink;
2) Straight up family room, including moving dishes to kitchen sink and straightening up couch cushions and putting markers away;
3) Prepare my preschool Sunday School lesson;
4) Check children's progress in stack of student books perched precariously on my desk.

I don't want to wash dishes. I am ignoring the family room. I really need to figure out some alternative plans for Sunday School because I loathe the curriculum I am forced to use (David C. Cook). (One activity reads: "Give each child a paper heart. Encourage the children to use the crayons and straws to make their family members on the hearts." Huh? Straws?) The children's school books can wait until tomorrow.

So, I thought I'd respond to a friend's blog in which she ponders the reasons mothers choose to send their little ones to preschool. Or not.

She says this of her twin 3-year old boys: "They seem to be strong, outgoing, independent kids, all three of them. That has to be one of the things I am most proud of, that they are not and have never been, clingy children. So, I wonder still, do mothers who refuse to leave their kids with anyone else, ever, do so because they need to feel like they are the be-all, end-all for those kids? Are they so over-protective because it gives them a purpose in life? Or what? What's the deal? Or perhaps I am just a reckless, irresponsible mother because I do not hover over the children and I do not dote on them constantly. Maybe that's it?"

I have never sent any of my children to preschool. Why not? When my twins were three, I began a home daycare, so our days were structured like a preschool, including craft-time, snacks, playing outside, and other activities. Plus, I lived in an very rural area. I am not sure there were preschool programs available. But mostly, I couldn't figure out a reason I'd want to send my kids to preschool. What would they get from preschool that they didn't get from being home with me? They were already interacting with other children their age because of the daycare children in our home.

When my next son was two, I began to fantasize about sending him to preschool. Mostly, these dreams were born out of my frustration. He was an active boy who quit napping early. He'd throw the most amazing tantrums in his overtired state. Yet, when he turned three and was eligible for preschool, I couldn't imagine sending him away. He was great company, a cheerful, extroverted, smart little kid. We spent our days going to the YMCA, running errands, picking up his brothers from school and playing. I started a little playgroup and a group of moms came over every other week to visit us.

I couldn't imagine any reason to send him to preschool. He's now in second grade and consistently earns high grades and praise from his teachers for his cooperative, cheerful attitude.

My daughter is a clingy child, the opposite of Smoov's "strong, outgoing, independent" kids. When my little girl was only three months old, she began to display her personality. I took her to my mother's house for Thanksgiving dinner and soon after we arrived, my baby started to scream. She cried hysterically and I was unable to calm her down. Finally, I excused myself and brought her home, where she immediately quieted and went to sleep.

She's a child who is slow to warm up to new situations. She's shy. When she was a baby in my arms at church, people would always crowd us, eager to say hello to her. Without fail, she'd cry at the approach of people. I never was able to pass her to anyone else as I had done with my boys. My 7-year old was so friendly as a baby that once I handed him over to an admiring stranger in Walgreens. Once, when he was about two, he insisted on sitting with a young couple we didn't know at Burger King. He has always been the kind of confident, strong, independent kid Smoov admires.

But that's not because of preschool.

And my daughter is not clingy and shy because of a lack of preschool. She was simply born with this personality and my response to her is not overprotectiveness, though I suppose it might appear that way to Smoov. I attempt to ensure that she feels safe and secure in her home. Gradually, she's become less worried about people approaching her. She talks to people at church sometimes. She chats quite a bit with adults she knows, like the mom of the baby was watch every day. She adores babies and displays an instinct for nurturing them. But she is a quiet, anxious soul.

But she is good with scissors and recites the alphabet. She dances and sings along with her CDs and cassettes. She recognizes about half of her ABCs and can tell me what they say. She talks, talks, talks all day long in the safety of our home. She has a sharp memory and shows a great deal of empathy towards other people and their emotions. She loves to help me do chores.

I can't figure out why I would want to send her to preschool. What would she get at preschool that she is not getting at home?

Smoov wonders about mothers like me. "So, I wonder still, do mothers who refuse to leave their kids with anyone else, ever, do so because they need to feel like they are the be-all, end-all for those kids?"

I don't leave my daughter with anyone else (other than my husband and occasionally, my mother) because of my daughter's personality. It really has nothing at all to do with my needs or wants. Sure, I'd adore twelve hours a week without children (mine and everyone else's!). But sending my girl to preschool so that I can be alone would be terribly difficult for her. Sure, if she had to go, she'd adjust eventually. But I can't imagine that she'd gain anything at all by going to preschool.

I don't think preschool is a bad thing. I think of it as a fun place, a safe haven for children, sometimes a safer haven for children than their own homes. Kids learn to play with other children, have opportunities to create and explore, experience the structure of a routine and all that good stuff. It's a great break for mothers, too, and really, who are we kidding? That's why most kids go to preschool.

And that's not a bad thing, either.

But lack of preschool does not necessarily make a kid clingy.

Preschool is not the only path to strong, independent, outgoing kids.

Mothers (like me) who do not send their kids away to preschool don't do so for one particular reason. Each of my kids has missed out on preschool for different reasons. Each of them have different personalities, which were not caused or formed by preschool or the lack thereof.

Most children go to preschool these days for various reasons. Some moms seem desperate to ensure that their children will not lag behind other children. Some moms are eager to reclaim a portion of their day for themselves. Working moms graduate their little ones from plain old daycare to preschool. I have no quibble with any of those reasons.

But I would rather keep my kids close to home during the short years before kindergarten. I see no compelling reason to send my kids to preschool.

Even though I would like to be home alone sometimes. I admit that.

(By the way, I think Smoov is one of the most amazing mothers I've ever known. She's energetic, involved, passionate, patient, creative and brilliant. If you aren't regularly reading her blog, you might want to ask yourself "why?")

8 Comments:

Anonymous Simply Coll said...

In the scheme of things preschool is a rather new trend. My children are now in their early 30's. When they were young, at least in my community, there was no preschool. Their first experience with being away from home was kindergarten.
Now thinking back on my own life.. and believe me.. that is along time ago, I first ventured away from my home to attend grade one. This was before there was kindergarten. I think it is all relative to the times and the trends.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Just to say it....Mel, I didn't have you in mind when I wrote that. I had the mothers in mind that I know that say things like, "I would miss him sooo much if he went to preschool!" and "No one can take care of him as well as me." or "What would do while he was at school?"

I understand about the personality thing, and I also know that preschool doesn't make one strong and independent. My kids are that way because of their genes mostly! I didn't mean to sound as if I thought one led to the other or that you couldn't have independent kids without preschool. I was just being thankful and proud, out loud, of that!

And I certainly know that they will be wonderful students regardless of whether or not they go to preschool. They are intelligent and I can see that for myself. Mine go to school right now for many reasons, originally I had hoped they would begin to speak more to other people if they were in an environment other than home, and they did. I also wanted them to have a bigger experience, outside of being home with me all the time. I am great to be with of course ;) but I want them to know there are other great and wonderful people out there that can teach them things and love them. And you make mention of the break for mom, which I guess you think is the main reason most kids go to preschool, and maybe in your experience it is. I have never sent mine for that reason. Mine go on Mondays so I can sleep as opposed to being a raving lunatic after having worked all night long! The other days they are there, I work and/or study. So, it isn't really a break for me, rather time for me to pursue the things I need or want to pursue. Is that a break? Maybe it is. I know for sure there are other moms of kids at their school that go home and clean, or go have coffee together (I have been guilty of doing that once or twice!), or go shopping.

In any event, I know why you don't use preschool, in fact, we may have talked about it before. And I don't know why I felt the need to defend myself! I wrote the entry in my blog after being really touched at how happy the kids were at school and how loving and caring the teachers there are, and wondering why anyone would want their kids to miss out on more love and happiness!

11:39 AM  
Anonymous jackintheridge said...

I have been reading your blog for a few months now and just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy it. I've even gotten my husband hooked on it every once in a while. Just wanted to say hi since I'm peeking into your world!

12:52 PM  
Blogger Reloaded said...

"Preschool is not the only path to strong, independent, outgoing kids."

That sentence says it all. Each of us (and our children too) have our own unique bend. For some preschool, for some not.

4:42 PM  
Blogger tab said...

when my oldest was 3 and we lived in town, I did send him two mornings a week to preschool---but only because I felt that "he" needed it. He thrives in social/school settings. I do feel that it did benefit him since he needed the social interaction (loves being around others).

My middle child did not go to preschool for several reasons. Main one I'm too cheap and didn't want to drive 10 miles to town and get him 2-3 hours later. The other is I'm not sure he was really "ready" for preschool and since he would stay with others with no problems that was not the reason why he wasn't ready. He just needed more one-on-one time (and he loves his mommy!).

Baby girl will not be going to preschool due to I'm too cheap and it's a major inconvenience to me to drive the 10 miles to town only to have her there only 2-3 hours. Now if it was an all-day thing--maybe once or twice a week but I seriously doubt it.

It never occured to me to send them so I could get time to myself--I don't see that as necessarily a wrong thing since moms have to take care of themselves in order to take care of others---however if the child does not do well away like that, then I think it would be best to find another way to get your "me" time.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Shelly said...

I'm on board with those who don't think the child needs preschool. So many I know, it's the mom that wants their child in preschool.

I've been a little overprotective with my 18 month old and want him to get the socialization, but feel he can do that in playgroups and nursery at Bible study and church. Anything else that preschool is offering, I can do at home. And you know what? I have fun doing it.

No, I haven't left him in the sole care of anyone outside the family,yet but that's more because my husband's shift work allows us the luxery of not having to do that. Although we are now getting to a point where we want to have someone that we are able to leave him with if necessary.

Parenthood is a growing process right along with childhood!

12:02 PM  
Blogger Shelly said...

I'm on board with those who don't think the child needs preschool. So many I know, it's the mom that wants their child in preschool.

I've been a little overprotective with my 18 month old and want him to get the socialization, but feel he can do that in playgroups and nursery at Bible study and church. Anything else that preschool is offering, I can do at home. And you know what? I have fun doing it.

No, I haven't left him in the sole care of anyone outside the family,yet but that's more because my husband's shift work allows us the luxery of not having to do that. Although we are now getting to a point where we want to have someone that we are able to leave him with if necessary.

Parenthood is a growing process right along with childhood!

12:03 PM  
Blogger Vashti said...

I think that our job as parents is to really disect and figure out each of our children's personalities. To do our best to figure out what is best for them as an individual. Each child is so very unique and not everything works for every child. Each family is unique and the choices for the children have to work in the family structure too. This is really hard to do. Just when you think you have one of your children figured out the next one presents a whole new personality to nurture.

9:36 PM  

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