My kids don't...(try not to gasp when you read this)...go to preschool. This somehow marks me as a freak and people gently broach the topic with me as if I've announced that I've decided to stop all medications needed to control a disease. The question comes up every time I encounter a group of parents--at a social gathering, at a board meeting, at synagogue. Here is how the conversation sounds:
Woman 1: So, how old are your kids?
Me: They're 2 1/2.
Woman 1: Oh, where do they go to preschool?
Me: Actually, they're at home.
Woman 1: Are you waiting until they're three?
Me: No...we're not sending them to preschool.
Woman 1: (a look of confusion crossing her face as if I've told her that we constantly brain our children while they're eating their morning yogurt) Ever?
Me: We may do a part-time program when they're four or we may skip it altogether.
Woman 2: Are you homeschooling them? Is it for religious reasons? My sister-in-law's best friend's sister did something like that in their cult in Tennessee.
Me: No, it's not for religious reasons. We just want them at home.
Woman 3: What do you do all day?
Me: Well, tomorrow we're going to the library to pick out new books and play with some of their toys. I don't really know what we do all day. We hang out. We colour. We bake cookies.
Woman 1: That sounds...interesting. Aren't you worried that your kids won't be able to get into a good school?
Me: A good college?
Woman 1: No, a good kindergarten.
I hate the fact that people look at me strangely when I talk about wanting my children at home. I hate when they shake their heads knowingly and say, "oh, when they hit two or three or four, you'll want them out of the house." I hate that they make me feel like I'm clingy and possessive if I want to be the person who teaches my children shapes and numbers.
It is possible to be standing in a large group of mothers and feel very much alone.
Today we took my son to be evaluated for the three-year-old speech program through the county. He has been receiving speech therapy via home services for the past year though that program only runs until age three. After that, all children go to sites inside the local elementary schools.
It looks like an ordinary classroom complete with a play kitchen and blocks and puzzles. He immediately jumped into playing with one of the speech therapists while I spoke to the other one about the program. Everything was sounding great until I asked whether or not his twin sister could come with us to the program.
"It's not a problem if you need her to stay home," I explained. "I would just need to arrange babysitting with my mother."
"Actually," the speech therapist said, "you can't come to the class. You'll just drop him off and you can take that time to run errands."
"I'd really like to stay," I heard myself say. "I wouldn't know the exercises to practice at home if I didn't observe."
"Parents really don't stay in the room," she repeated firmly. "We'll go over the exercises with you when you come to pick him up. Will this be a problem?"
And what could I say as I started to have a panic attack? Yes. This will be a problem. All this time, I've snickered with Josh over the women who ask me if I have my children in preschool because if I didn't, I'd have to admit that I'm not ready to let them go off on their own. I'm not ready for my house to be empty during the day or to have someone else enjoying those hours with them. Those are my hours and I did the hard work to earn them. And when she told me that I was going to have to drop him off, it was almost as if she had said that she was going to rifle through my jewelry drawer and steal a few choice pieces...if I didn't mind.
I wanted to tell her that I know I need therapy and that this is my own problem, but I really didn't know if I could drop him off and walk out of the room if I wasn't pregnant by the time services started in the fall because he could be the only babyhood I get. If I was pregnant, I could release him for those hours and let him grow up knowing that my arms would still be full. But if I wasn't pregnant, I was not going to be able to watch him walk into that classroom and have her close the door on me and have me on the other side. Because that's exactly how it feels to not be able to conceive. To have a door close on you while you still need to watch the scene unfold through a little window.
So this was not going to work to have her take my child and teach him how to speak when I want to teach him how to speak, regardless of the fact that I have no speech pathology training.
But I told her, "no, it's not a problem."
And then Josh took the kids to the car while I had a short cry in the teacher's lounge bathroom.