Pre-School Visits

Last night was bad. Very bad. Without grossing you out, let’s just say my body REALLY wanted that bug out of me. I felt as though I were being ridden and I just had to go with it. The part of me that has one eye on my family, constantly delegating and seeing who needs what, felt like I was underwater,doing my best to surface. At ten pm, after puking, I asked Tom to bring Johnny in for his “dream nurse” (as per our doc’s orders). We lay there together in the moonlight, and I have to say, even in my condition, I was aware of such happiness and peace. Perhaps because I am so keenly aware that this is my last baby, or perhaps just because this particular one is so so sweet, it’s much easier for me to be 100% present in these moments than it used to be. I just felt so grateful to be in this particular phase and time in my life.

“That’s an amazing sight,” Tom whispered, watching his little son.

“I know,” I said. “This is the most magical time, ever.”

Around 4:30, Johnny woke again and this time I padded down the hall to bring him back into our bed. I noticed I wasn’t quite as sick. By 6, I even felt hungry. So the gig is on, and so were the preschool visits. I am shaky, but stable.

So. The preschools. First of all, I am completely overwhelmed by the thought of letting Lila go anywhere at all. But as much as I love having Lila with me, it was pretty obvious from my visit to School A last Wednesday that the teachers and more importantly, other kids, would be far better for her than her long solo days with me. She needs to be around kids her own age. She craves that, and I am just not always able to make that happen for her. I try to take her to the Y where she can run around at Tumble and Play, and of course I take her to HooteNanny, but it’s probably not the best thing for her to be in an environment with her mother being the teacher all the time. I try to get in one play date a week, but even that has been too much most weeks. So it was with a lot of faith (wondering all the while if it were bad faith) that I wrestled her into tights, a pretty white blouse and a purple corduroy pinafore this morning. She screamed and kicked her legs and wanted to wear her pajamas and bring all three of her full sized blankets, and if I hadn’t already called my cellphone-less babysitter and told her we were on (her drive is considerable), I would have abandoned the plan and called in sick. But we are up against a deadline: we have to let the schools know by early next week. So I did what any harried mother with no scruples would do: I bribed her with the promise of a Big Cookie (cereal bar) and Real Sesame Street. It worked.

When I saw School A last Wednesday, I had been so blown away by its beauty and tenderness and sensitivity to children that I had left in tears. The way the kids moved from activity to activity reminded me of a ballet, or church. They were also so kind and courteous to each other. The place felt right to me, in every fiber of my physical body, and as a life coach, this is the kind of reaction I always tell my clients to look for. Also, I recognized many of the kids from HooteNanny and elsewhere, and I love them and their parents. I could totally see myself happily ensconced in happy community.

But…this is about Lila, not about me. What would her reaction be?

Fabulous, as it turned out. She dove right in, playing with puzzles, exploring the playhouse, running back and forth between her father and me (we were told to sit on opposite sides of the room). She even painted her first painting, which one of the teachers said she would mail to us after it dried. We had to drag her out of the classroom when our visit was over.

And off we were to School B. School B was also wonderful, but much smaller and without the particular philosophy of School A. There were only thirteen kids in the classroom at School B––and they were all the same age––, whereas at School A there were 20-23, with 3-5 year olds mixed together so that the older ones “mentored” the younger ones.

Also, there was the matter of the soundtrack. At school A, the kids played in silence, and in fact were very quiet for a roomful of pre-schoolers. At School B, the CD in the background sounded to me like the kind of “children’s” music that I most abhor: a group of little kids so well-rehearsed there won’t be a single snag or hint that they are discovering anything at all in the moment about their voices or the tune they are exploring, and also who sound like The Chipmunks singing “Row Row Row Your Boat.” Now I am the first to point out that, “Row Row Row Your Boat” is a deeply spiritual song with a philosophy that I adore (the ultimate “Go With The Flow.”) But my reaction to hearing it in that context was strong. First of all, the kids and teachers had to raise their voices to be heard over it. Second of all, I hate it.

There, I’ve said it. I hate most of what passes as kids music. Perhaps that’s why it seems as though I am destined to be best-known in this lifetime as a maker of kids music. And should that be the case, I accept it completely with abundant gratitude. But that does mean that I am going to react more sensitively to what enters my kids’ ear space (and my own) than another mom might.

There was also a tremendous amount of plastic at School B. At School A, the materials were almost universally from the natural world. See here about why I don’t want my kids playing with plastic (too much. I break the rules all the time. You should see my back yard.) School A also was so tidy and organized, I wanted to weep with relief just to breathe in the atmosphere. I wish they would come to my house and make it look like one of their classrooms.

Fortunately, Lila loved School B as much as School A. Here too, we knew lots of great kids and great parents, and she also didn’t want to leave. She jumped right in with the puzzles and the added attraction of an aquarium. And I could tell Tom loved School B. We haven’t talked about it yet, and we will tomorrow on our weekly Saturday walk into town. We have to make our decision and embrace it. I just have to keep remembering that this isn’t about me. As I said before, my parents sent me to a progressive Big Philosophy-based school and I hated it because my best friend wouldn’t play with me there. Lila might love the Chipmunk version of “Row Row Row Your Boat” as much as I loved The Beatles.

We are really lucky to have such good choices. I know that.

3 thoughts on “Pre-School Visits

  1. As a professor of education, I have some viewpoints on progressive preschool education that you may want to hear. Yes, pholosophy is very important. If the school is run properly, that philosophy will guide so many of the decisions regarding the curriculum, instructional methods, and especially classroom management.

    As a parent, I have discovered that the philosophy attracts like-mionded individuals, who will become your child’s friends, and their parents may become your friends. You’ll find that these parents raise their children with values similar to yours. That will become more and more important when sleepovers, birthday parites, and peer pressure become more significant.

    So, my advice, if you’re interested, is to play attention to Lila’s reactions. Make that PART of the adult decision that only you and Tom should make, because you’re the adults.

    I apologize for being so pointed, but this is an area of expertise. Take it for what it’s worth, and let me know if you want to hear more.

  2. So enjoyed the concert tonight at Infinity; you two sing beautiful harmonies, and that place really is great! (I bought tickets for four more shows there when I got home!) I have been following your blog– my three sons are now grown, but my advice: gently politic for school A.
    My Christmas candle lights are all the night light I need–

    Kaen

  3. Re: children’s music, have you ever heard Malcolm Dalglish and the Oolites? The kids range in age, but they do amazing things. Look up the albums “Pleasure” and “Hymnody of Earth” in your favorite online resource.

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