Tuesday, April 27, 2010

to school or not to school

Yesterday was the first day back at school since spring break. We got dressed and ready without much problem, and our neighbor came over for a ride to school with us. All three kids were playing nicely, and then it was time to go and Frances resisted. At first she wanted to play school here at the house rather than go, then she didn't want to wear those shoes, then she wanted to ride in the very back of the van where there's no car seat, then she needed me to go back in and get her Dora, then everything was tragic and horrible. I asked her if she wanted to stay home rather than go to school and she said no--she wanted to go, but she still couldn't get it together. I finally just buckled her in and backed out of the driveway. She probably would have wailed all the way to school, but Clark held out his hand for her to hold and that quieted her. So sweet. They held hands all the way to school, and Clark said, "Better." He was so happy that he could help her.

When we got to school she pouted and sulked and clung to me, but didn't cry. I had a feeling the moment I left she'd be just fine, and from emailing with her teacher later that was indeed the case. But when she came home she melted again... complete fall out. She has a hard time with transitions and she had been home with me for what seemed like a month. I've thought before that it would be easier for her to go to preschool several days in a row, and then have several at home rather than go every other day, adjusting back and forth, back and forth. Anyway.

My most recent conviction about preschool next year is that I want to keep her home all together, while Clark goes two mornings. This is a complete turn around from the beginning of last week when I decided that I was totally and conclusively onboard with her going all five days. (I even emailed the school and told them to go ahead and put the payment through, and then emailed again and asked them to wait... I'm sure they love dealing with me.) So the fact I've made this decision means very little, I have to admit. I could come to another radically different place tomorrow.

I've been obsessing about this so much for the past week that I've been suffering from one ongoing migraine.

The truth of the matter is that things are more pleasant around here when there's no school. Frances is calmer. She and I get along better. There's no getting dressed and hustling little people along in order to rush out the door. We have the morning to explore the yard or the neighborhood or the attic. We go to the post office, the grocery, the library, music class. We cook and paint and build things. I don't know precisely why it's different, why she's easier to get along with, but I have some guesses.

One is what I mentioned before--that she can't deal with transitions, and transitioning from me to school and back to me is stressful for her (even though she's in love with school), and I simply get the worst of her. Another, similar to the first, is that the more we're around each other the more we sort of settle into each others' company. It's also a teensy bit possible that I just enjoy the day more when we can go at our own pace and I am therefore easier to get along with. Yesterday morning I didn't slow down enough to realize that the reason she was delaying was because she was anxious. If I had realized, I could have talked to her about what to expect from school, about who she was going to see there and what songs she'd sing. I hate when I miss the cues.

On one hand I think she would do fabulously in school five days a week. I think she would get into a rhythm of the every day and it would be easier for her than what she's got now. I think she would absolutely love it. I know that I can't teach her as much as school does, can't provide that kind of stimulation, and I certainly can't offer her the same social interaction. But is that what she needs? At three and a half? She'll get all that the following year... Would it be better for her to be home with me, to focus inward to the house and the quiet and her mom? Is sending her to school five days just reiterating what society already tells us: that we have to always be busy, stimulated, entertained?

Although this may seem dramatic, I see next year as my only opportunity to really be with her. I was with her full time for the four weeks before Clark was born, and I loved it. But before that I was working, and since she was 17 months old I've been taking care of a baby (and then a screaming maniac of a toddler), only focusing on her for small bits of time. Mitch says I can be with her plenty, even with preschool. Which is true. But the morning is the best time for these little people, and I don't want someone else to have it. She and I have a hard enough time already.

I don't know don't know don't know. But I think I've stopped stressing about it so much. Right now I'm sort of letting it stew. I know the questions, the issues, and I'm waiting to see what floats to the top.


andrea said...

I think you will just know.

I have four boys with me here today. A 15 month,
2 3/4ths, 4 year and 5 year old.
We have been doctors, mommies, daddies and babies, have gone to storytime, eaten lunch, had our own storytime, put the 1 year old to rest and the others are enjoying a short winnie the pooh (not normally part of our schedule t.v. that is, but some days just warrant some pooh time.)

You are going to celebrate whatever decision you make and it will be perfect. Life whizzes by and it seems like you are seizing every moment with purpose and reflection.

I quit working when Rohan as 2 and 3/4 old (Max was just 1) We struggled at first with routine and schedule but then found we had so much time to anything or nothing depending on what we all wanted.
I loved that time and would not trade it for 1 million bucks. ;o)


Paige said...

Cali, I know this is a hard decision to make. On the one hand, she'll have another year of preschool before kindergarten, so why not keep her at home and enjoy her? On the other hand: Winters are long. And snowy. And cold. Keep talking and writing about it...