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Thursday, May 31, 2007

What Do You Do All Day? (Children Mentioned)

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.


Reproductive Jeans said...

I think its awesome that you keep the kids at home with you--your teaching them every-day lessons is a valuable tool! Such an inspiration Mel!
Im sorry you had to have a cry...Im sure its hard to "let go" ...

reichmann said...

Oh, Mel-- you know I understand how it's hard to let go (and the desire to spend every second with our children), but sometimes when it's best for them (not us, of course!), we need to put on a strong face and do what's in their best interests. I think he'll do great on his own- and probably get more out of the program- and you'll feel better once you see how much he enjoys it and is benefitting from it. I know firsthand how hard it will be, but just keep the purpose in mind: what your children need most. Hopefully that will get you through the toughest first days!

Rachel Inbar said...

I kept mine home until I felt that there was no "me" left (they were 18 months at the time). Then again, my twins were so difficult that I was afraid that noone else would be able to make it through the day with them...

I admire women who can stay home with their kids and still feel human. I love my kids dearly and enjoy spending time with them, but I need a little time for myself too, preferably when I'm awake...

Furrow said...

Hey, hey. Don't pick on Tennesee. That's what we have Mississippi for. Really, they don't mind.

I'm sorry this is so hard. I hope it turns out well for all of you.

Michelle said...

Don't listen to those people. (Some of them think that the right preschools lead directly to the Ivy League.) You do what's best for you and your kids. And your post illustrates perfectly that you're doing just that - even though you'd rather your son be with you, you know he'll benefit from the county preschool program. Even if that means that you have to sneak off and have a cry.

Incidentally, a friend of mine in the DC area is also enrolling her 3-year old in county preschool for speech services. I *think* you're in the same county ... in any case, I'd be happy to connect you if it would be helpful to have another parent to talk to who's dealing with the same system/issues. (So long as you preserve my secret blog identity!)

Ann said...

People put children in preschool at 2 1/2? Huh. I always thought it was 3 and 4, mostly 4. At 2 1/2, they're still babies! I tend to side with you--that that's just a bit too young. Just my two cents...

M said...

Remember that the D.C. area is very....uppity up. That's the best I can put it. People here are very wealthy and very into education. It is very normal for people here to enroll kids early, fight for the "best preschools" etc. So, I'm not surprised you got that reaction. Maddy is 8 months old and we haven't taken any music, swim, sign language, etc. classes yet. GASP. For this area, we are behind! Hahaha!

However, I bet he would love the independent socialization. Maddy goes to daycare and while I thought it would surely be the breaking point for us to move back to PA so one of us could stay home-- it's acutally turned out to be SO positive. She gets to socialize and be around other kids without me breathing down her neck. lol.

PCOSMama said...

I always thought preschool started at 3 or 4 too. Before that, isn't it just daycare?
Either way, I currently have no intention of putting my daughter (who will be 3 in August) in preschool. So far, she is doing very well with learning and I figure that if I can teach her the essentials while keeping her home with me then why not? Maybe after the new baby arrives I will feel different (more overwhelmed), but right now I can't see 'turning her over' to someone else like that. Yes, I get stressed rarely getting a break of any kind, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. And I find it so thrilling when she learns something new, because I know I had a big part in teaching her.
Plus, to be honest, I don't trust anyone else with her. She is extremely high energy, talks non-stop in a very loud voice, can't sit still, etc, and I figure that if I have a hard time handling her sometimes, then a stranger certainly isn't going to be able to do it!
I say do whatever works for you. Preschool is not a requirement to get into kindergarten or anything else for that matter. Some people just feel it works best for them - if no preschool works best for you, then that is the right way to do it!

Sorry for the novel... it's a topic close to my heart!

Samantha said...

I think your post has illustrated another example of how IF is the gift that keeps on giving... Here you are, after having struggled so hard to bring your children into the world, now having to step forth again and relinquish some of your hard fought time with them. It's not that other mothers don't also feel bittersweet about their children growing up, but I think it must be especially hard for women who had such a hard time having children in the first place.

Rachel said...

Keep your kids at home as long as you enjoy it. They will enjoy the memories and they can always learn school stuff in kindergarten.

There were 6 kids in my family. 3 went to preschool or a learning type program, 3 didn't. 5 of us went to the same college, we all graduated high school (except the one who is still a sophomore), we all read at about the same age, we all scored about the same on standardized tests.

As far as letting your children go, I doubt it is easy at any age. My mom had trouble with that when I moved out of state at 21.

~r said...

Oooh, I went through the same thing this year with G when he moved from at-home speech therapy to a classroom-based speech program... What do you mean I don't get to go with him?!

I'd like to say that it turned out all roses and sunshine.. but I'm not happy about it still. I really felt like he made more progress when I was part of things (even just by observation) and could reinforce his lessons at home. I mean, that IS sorta my job.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who has a hard time letting go in that sense.

Aurelia said...


Quite apart from the preschool issues and your feelings about that, cause I'm with you 100% on all of that, there's another one.

In 7-8 years of speech therapy, over several different programs and therapists, individual offices or hospitals, I have NEVER once heard of parents leaving their kids alone with the speech pathologists.

Never, ever, ever.

When they wanted to observe them without parents present we watched from behind a two way mirror.

Otherwise, you truly will not have a clue how therapy is going for him, if the therapist is any good, or if your child is even responding to this style of therapy. Honestly, this sounds like some sort of control issue on the therapists part, which does not speak well to their professionalism.

Solo preschool for socialization and learning is a completely different thing from medical treatment, and speech therapy IS medical treatment. I did send my kids to daycare and kindergarten at 3 but I would no more have let them get speech therapy without me, than let them get an MRI without me.

Totally different situation. Talf to them again, or find someone else.

Michell said...

I think it's great that they stay home with you but then I am on the west coast and I don't think the whole getting your child into the right preschool so he can get into the right kindergarten thing has really happened here. I could be wrong though. I remember my mom staying home with me until I was like 7 and I thought it was great. I'm sure it is hard also to leave your son there and be gone all day. I think I would try to talk to them again.

Matthew M. F. Miller said...

I went to preschool, and the only thing I got out of it were years of tortured memories.

Do what you think is best: just make sure they're learning and progressing.

decemberbaby said...

*patting you on the shoulder*

I have to disagree with Aurelia, though. I worked as a therapist (not speech, but similar) with children, and parents never came in with the kids. The therapy sessions went more smoothly, and the children participated more freely, without the parents present. We were always happy to tell the parents everything about the session, and where possible they watched through one-way glass, but I never had parents sit in on any of my sessions. I don't think it necessarily speaks to the level of professionalism you're dealing with.

Oh, and I love that the kids are at home with you. I mean, you had them because you wanted to enjoy them, right? So enjoy! And tell the other parents to go shove a kindergarten acceptance letter up their a$$.

ms. c said...

I'm sorry this was difficult for you.
I really understood the feelings about being pregnant/ not being pregnant and the relationship with being able to let go (if just a bit.) Very well put.

Jen said...

When I read your post, I had to laugh at all the stories I hear from my very pregnant best friend, who happens to teach the 3-year-old preschool class at a local synagogue...

She makes lesson plans and they learn about Purim and Passover but really her day is about herding the kids in and out of the bathroom for those fully potty trained or changing the undies of those who aren't, running around on the playground and getting them to nap tossed in with a couple of book readings.

As for the parents, or the more infamous ones I hear about, it seems more that preschool is interchangeable with the word babysitting and a half- or full-day escape from the kids.

Maybe it's just her school or the parents there.

I think it is interesting though that she is unlikely to send her babies there...

But I think it is fabulous you have the ability to stay home with your kids and enjoy their childhood with them.

carole said...

I used to get the same thing with Zak. He didn't go to preschool until 4 1/2 when it was free through the public school. Kindergarten came and so did the panic attacks (for me)...he was blissfully unaware. :)

Thinking of you...

Bobby and Ivy said...

I have the same issue with my three year old. People freak when I tell them that I feel the best place for her is home. I tried preschool for (gasp) a week last year and we both freaked out. That was when I decided that it's up to us to keep our children happy and content and by george staying at home and watching sesame street with MOmmy keeps her happy. ANd get this!!! She's not deprived of any kind of education! She knows her shapes and can count! She's learning colors! Wow!

Karaoke Diva said...

My hubby is the stay at home parent and we get the same thing from moms in their playgroup. Sometimes it's disappointing that so many of his friends are in preschool because it keeps them from being involved in the activities the playgroup does on an almost daily basis.

There are benefits to both sides. My son has a real problem with keeping himself under control in group settings, being in one place and following directions, which are some things his daycare and preschool friends mastered a long time ago.

However, instead of being in school, our son is playing outside, going to the zoo or botanical garden or science center, reading books, playing games on his computer, and spending quality time with his dad. He's rarely sick and is the only one in his playgroup who's reading at age 3. So obviously, being at home has its benefits too.

(We are considering starting our son in preschool part time if we manage to get (and stay) pregnant, just so my husband can have that same one-on-one time with the new baby.)

butterflyanla said...

I didn't attend preschool. I spent a lot of time doing activities with my mom. When I was 4 we moved to a farm (parents weren't farmers)in Ms.I spent a lot of time exploring the farm and the small town with my mom. I learned about animals and ducks and it was great. When we moved back to La I was almost 5. In Ms at the time kindergarten was not required. In La it was so I had to wait a year to go to kindergarten instead of just starting first grade. When i started kindergarten at age 6, having never been to pre-school, I new more than the kids who had. I could read, my vocabulary was larger because I spent a lot of time conversing with adults, and I although I may have lacked in socialization with my peers I easily made up for it. I think it is great that you keep your kids at home.

butterflyanla said...

I also wanted to add that I did attend a very exclusive high school that I earned an academic scholarship to attend. I also attended an Ivy League College. Not going to preschool didn't hurt me one bit.

Jackie said...

Mel, your post made me cry and long for babies in a whole new way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have no idea what decision I will make when the big day finally arrives (I stopped trying to predict my behavior long ago) but it helps me so much to hear your words. To hear the reasoning behind hanging on to one's kids defined so clearly. *sniff*

Sunny said...

I am so sorry about the speech teacher moment. I am sure she doesn't want you there because she needs his full attention. That being said, it doesn't make you feel any better. I wish I was a speech teacher. I would help. BOY I have cried in the teacher's lounge bathroom many times. What a yuck spot!

Pat yourself on your back for keeping your little ones at home. It is my dream. More kids need to be home with their families. You are an amazing mom and give your little ones WAY more than teachers can. I am a teacher so I can say that! HA!

Carol said...

I guess this is one of the situations that you never really think about having to face when you are trying to get pregnant - we get so focused about the singular goal of just getting pregnant.

I'm sure that leaving mine with someone else will do way more long term trauma to me than it will to them.

Natalie said...

Add this to the list of "things I never thought people would think was weird." I never went to preschool. And I loved kindergarten and almost all of school and went on to graduate top of my class in college. My brother went to preschool only because my mom thought he REALLY needed the help socializing.

I didn't even know they had preschool for kids as young as 2 1/2. I think my brother was 4? I certainly don't plan on sending my kids to preschool unless something changes between now and then.

Pretty Kitty said...

As a former teacher, now a school counselor/case manager I must tell you that you should not be excluded from your son's speech therapy sessions. When I taught preschool, we encouraged parents to come, stay all day if they wanted, and help out. It seems quite odd that parents must drop off their 2 1/2 year olds.

Those judgemental mommies should just keep their mouths shut. When will people learn to stop foisting their lifestyle and choices on others as what is the right way. You keep your babies home; I am sure they are learning just as much if not loads more under your tutelage. I hope we can figure out a way for me to stay home without going bankrupt, because that is what I feel will be best for me and my child.

bleu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bleu said...

(trying this again)

My son is 4.5 and still with me, still co-sleeping, still nursing even. I went through a lot of guilt with not signing him up for pre-school or lots of classes etc. Then this man came to speak locally. Let go of the guilt, your instincts are truly spot on.

Bea said...

I'm another one who thinks it's odd people would *expect* you to drop your kids off somewhere before they're 4 or 5 years old. It's just not how it's done here. For the working mums, of course, but that's seen as a personal choice or necessity, not as *they way you do things*.

Having said that, I'm going to go with "the day was going to come sooner or later, I'm sorry it's here already, and who wouldn't cry the first time they left their kid, no matter what the age?" Sounds pretty pat, and I'm sure it doesn't ease things, but it's not like you're dropping him off to do something you could do - and better - at home, so I don't see a better choice.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry this is so hard for you. I think it's great that your kids are home, never mind what other people thing. Your son will be fine, it's usually the moms that have the problem. My sister cried all the way to work the first day she had to drop off my niece for day care.

Tina said...

I WISH, so wish I had the situation you do. I have to work right now (full time, for insurance) and I feel I have lost soooo much time with Chris. My mother and mother-in-law have raised him...and my mother-in-law has him more days during the week than I do. So, I don't blame you for not wanting to let go yet.

Some of the other posters mentioned that although this change will be hard on you, it will be best for him in the long run. They are correct in that he will get the speech therapy he needs... But, I also think this is an opportunity for you to share with him the events of the day, engage him in real conversations and share in a new way.

...And, it is okay to cry... I have shed many tears myself.

katd said...

Oh, Mel, don't you ever feel bad for wanting your children at home with you. Lily is only 2 months old and I'm looking into homeschooling her at least for kindergarden:) Your babies are only 2 1/2, that doesn't seem old enough to have any concerns about not letting them be independent. If you're still blogging about keeping them home at 16, then we'll talk:)

Isabel said...

Can't they make an exception? I think you're great for wanting to be with your kids. I want to be that kind of parent to my kid. Can they videotape the session for you, at least?

Teendoc said...

Boy it's interesting hearing someone admit that they wouldn't be able to leave her child for a few hours. Most of the women I know are careerists who must make that decision long before 2.5 years. It is hard to imagine, so thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm sorry that you are struggling with it. Good luck.

Beagle said...

There is too much judgement among women. I don't see anything wrong with keeping them home if that's what feels right for your family. My nephew is in speech therapy and I'm pretty sure my SIL is allowed to stay so (as you said) she'll know what to practice at home.

Being left outside the shut door, now that I can relate to.

I'm sorry it's so hard.