just a day

Need to get back into the habit of writing more often. Start with today, see what happens?

Tonight I went to my first “Parents Action Group” meeting at the preschool. Maybe an agenda item should have been what to rename the group. My sense is that it grew out of a time when parents were frustrated with administrators over SOMETHING or other and needed to see some ACTION.

There are fifty families whose children attend this school. I expected to see a crowd. I expected to meet other parents, do some bonding, make plans for playdates, coffee…

There were six of us at the meeting. Two administrators, one teacher (whose daughter also attends the school), two other parents (not a couple NO ONE gets babysitting to attend this) — and one of the parents is a mid-year starter like me, though in the bigger kids house, and by happy coincidence is someone whom I worked with several years ago and is lovely to be reconnecting with.

We sat in the tiny wooden chairs, around a low hexagonal table. I removed the vase of plum blossom branches from the center so we could see each other better. A square plastic bin of mini carrots and black plastic tongs was passed around. I’m the only one who ate the carrots.

We talked about starting a parents’ newsletter to help create community (my idea, and guess who’s going to be writing it? — pray it doesn’t consume me). We talked about making the preschool a CSA drop off for families whose kids attend. (Don’t know what a CSA is? Click here.) We also discussed the possibility of swapping veggies for those who don’t want what they get and/or collecting excess kale bunches (there’s ALWAYS too much kale) for donation to a local food bank. We’ll also be celebrating the two upcoming Jewish holidays at school (guess who volunteered to take that on; don’t worry, I’ll be recruiting help from the other Jewish families). We talked about worm composting, rotating bin composting (no, I didn’t volunteer for those). I somewhat jokingly suggested chickens but the administrator said it was unlikely because every animal project requires a teacher’s attention which takes away from students. Still — if there was a parent volunteer gung ho on the idea… give me a year, I bet I’ll get someone to build a coop. Maybe. And we also discussed having a parent be in charge of new-baby welcoming, to organize volunteers dropping off food during a family’s first few weeks — again, NOT taking that one on myself.

So that was all very exciting.

What else?

Jonah and I went to music class today. Today he put the drums away, both drums, at the end of the instruments song. No tantrum, no screaming, no desperately clutching, no begging to keep one. Had I told this story here before? The day he not only wouldn’t put the drums back but I decided that I had to not back down because once he starts a tantrum I can’t cave or something like that so the two of us stood next to the instruments bin, him SCREAMING, through two whole songs, to the end of class. At which point the teacher came up to us — we were down to one drum as I’d wrenched one out of his red little fingers (he entwines them in the ropes that hold the skins on) — and told me that we could just stay. Stay through the next class. Stay through the rest of the classes for the day. Eventually he’ll get hungry and want to put the drum down and do something else. Right?

I felt sick. It’s not uncommon that when Jonah is crying, and we’re at loggerheads, I feel like crying too. Actually, come to think of it, I was crying too at that point. And to have this man come and basically tell me to parent differently. I mean he meant it in the nicest way, he wasn’t trying to thwart, he was trying to help, and offering us free classes all day was no small gift. But still I had this feeling like I’d done it wrong by trying to get Jonah to go along with the program like, you know, ALL the other kids.

So I swallowed my pride or whatever it was and tried not to cry as we sat down in the circle for music class, round 2. Hello song, all the exact same songs as the previous hour, with Jonah clutching that FREAKING drum. When the instruments bin came out, he got another so he could have his set back. He didn’t even PLAY them. Just held them. You know. Because that’s what you do with drums, right?

At the end of that second hour, I asked Jonah if he would like to go get tacos. He said yes. He took the drums to the teacher who brought the bin down for him. He placed the drums in the bin. And… curtain.

The following week, we went back with a plan. In the car on the way to class, I discussed the ritual of returning the drums to the bin with him. I had a tambourine in the diaper bag to use as consolation prize after he returns the drum(s). I asked the teacher to help me by explaining to Jonah that this is how it’s done (this teacher rarely gives instructions to the kids, they learn by example, by following other kids who have taken the class before). And it all worked. Much to everyone’s relief. There’s been some backsliding — keeping one drum till the end of class. But no more screaming, no double-headers again. And today… Today! With only some cajoling (cheering from behind from me, gentle encouragement from the front by the teacher) he placed the second drum in the bin at the end of the song. Yay yay yay!!!!!

Some of the advice on how to deal with the music class came from a session with the sleep consultant. We went back to her again to find out what the heck we were doing wrong with naps. Nothing, it turns out. Jonah has a will of iron. We’re just supposed to keep trying to give him quiet time midday, and ask the preschool to keep him in a low stim environment if he doesn’t nap. Which may or may not work because for them, if he doesn’t nap, one of the teachers has to basically sit with him for an hour and a half, so he doesn’t disturb the other nappers. This, they are NOT happy about. He is napping for them occasionally — about a 50% success rate. Including yesterday, when one of the teachers sang him to sleep in Spanish, which only took 5 minutes. He is LOVING learning Spanish apparently and when I mentioned that to this teacher, she decided this might do the trick. Although on a previous day she’d sung to him for 40 minutes and he hadn’t gone down, but at least he wasn’t throwing a tantrum.

I think I’m starting to love our preschool. Even though it doesn’t have a “strong parent community” — like one of the top schools we’d visited boasted — (yet). Even though it doesn’t have chickens (yet). Even though it isn’t play based, or “emergent curriculum,” and as a Montessori, the kids rarely do collaborative projects if at all (something the sleep/childrearing consultant had asked about). It doesn’t ban licensed characters. (Yes, we love them at home, but at home I can control his exposure. I fear Dora/Diego. And I need his envy of his classmate’s vinyl Thomas-the-Tank-Engine raincoat like I need a pvc-coated hole in my head.) It isn’t technically a bilingual school (like the super-powered Montessori next door), but three of the six teachers are native Spanish speakers, so that is going well for Jonah who now says agua and gracias and bien and seems delighted every time we talk to him about Spanish, ask him if he knows a word, or teach him a word. Now I’ll have to learn Spanish.

But I also love that they celebrate holidays. Valentine’s was a huge hit. Jonah wasn’t actually in school the day of the exchange so we tried to drop by but our timing was off and we missed it. So the teachers put everyone’s decorated shoe boxes (14 of them) in a row and left Jonah’s valentines in a little pile and we went in together (the kids were playing outside) and deposited his Thomas (yeah, I know, hypocrite) valentines in each little box, and took his home. He LOVED it. Especially loved going through the received valentines, sorting, reading, putting in the box, taking out. Heaven.

Next week we’re going in on our off day to participate in the school’s Chinese New Year parade.

A Jewish preschool we’d considered said on their website that they do not celebrate Valentine’s Day or Halloween. That children can wear costumes at Purim. I’m sorry, I’ll make Purim fun for Jonah with crowns and noisemakers and hamantashen, but suggest that as a viable substitute for HALLOWEEN?????????? Yeah, no.

Similarly, I’d visited a top top top impossible to get into preschool, play based, emergent curriculum, developmental philosophy (feel free to Wiki-search these terms, I’m too tired to explain) on the cutting edge of the latest child-centered research — and I asked the director about Halloween and Valentine’s (now that I know it can be an issue) and she ACTUALLY snorted.


(Are you kidding me?)

No, no holidays. “365 days a year, a child can decide that he wants to express his love for his mother by making a heart card, IF he WANTS to,” she said.

How could I be so fascist?

Um, yeah. Crossed that school off my list.

Jonah does still cry in the morning when we drop him off. For a few moments. And then he’s fine. He had a day with his old nanny last week. His BELOVED nanny. And he cried when I left him with her too. For a minute. So I think it’s okay.

He’s also starting to talk more about the other kids there. Even if he may be making the stories up. He said, “Schuyler put you on the tire swing and he pushed it.”

I mentioned this to the Director tonight. She said she thinks Schuyler is probably too small to lift Jonah. But I like the direction his imagination is going.

2 comments for “just a day

  1. February 19, 2010 at 6:50 am

    It is so good to hear that things are going well.

    They all say they have a parent community, but when you go to the meetings it will be the same 6-12 people that are always there. At least that is how it works at our school.

  2. February 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    “sorting, reading, putting in the box, taking out. Heaven.” I can totally relate. Neat paper, friendship, container… All the things I’m addicted to!

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