This morning I dropped Little Girl off at preschool. It was her second school in as many weeks.
The first one didn’t work out. It was a Montessori. I dropped her off and was jarred by the atmosphere. Very chaotic and more like a daycare than a school. The room wasn’t neat and tidy. No educational bulletin boards. No desks. It wasn’t what we were promised, that’s for sure. And at $350 per month, well, it should have been nicer. When my husband picked her up that day (I was in the city), he was also underwhelmed. So we yanked her out that same night.
Her new nursery school is very different. Tables and colored chairs. Blocks. Toys. Puzzles. A classroom hamster named Speedy. And two teachers — Strict-but-nice cop and super-mushy sweet cop. It’s a really welcoming place. Before we arrived I told Little Girl about what her day would be like. That she would go in and start the day doing quiet table time. Then she would play. Then she would probably hear a story, do some coloring, eat a snack. Heck, she might even play outside.
We got to the school, she went in, and sat right down ready to do table time. I was stunned. How could she understand what I meant? She’s two! And yet there she was sitting down playing with manipulatives. I stood there taking pictures. She glanced up as if to say, what, you still here? Go home. I’m good. I’m ready to have fun. The director of the program was there to greet everyone. She knows me well. She had my big girl for four summers (pre-3, 3, 4, and 5) and two years (the 3- and 4-year-old programs). She looked at me and said, “I think you’re having a bigger problem with this than she is.” I think she was right.
My little digression: I never expected to be able to put a two-year-old in a program. Well, before I gave birth I did. But once I met her not so much. And yet I have done it. I feel really torn. As my husband says, it’s 7.5 hours a week. It’s not like she’s going all day. But I still wonder if I am doing the right thing.
Back to the story…I was so nervous that around 11 a.m. I called the school. I got the director on the phone. How is she, I wanted to know? The director told me she was fine until a wailing little boy sat next to her. She cried out of empathy, the director thought. She put the phone down and went to check on her. She was smiling and playing, I was told. She was fine.
When I picked Little Girl up today she was so excited. She ran and hugged me, but not before stopping off to give one of the teachers two high fives. And then she told her she would see her soon. I grabbed the other teacher and asked if she thought Little Girl was ready for school. It’s a 3-year-old program after all. She’s only 27 months. I didn’t want her to interrupt class or be a distraction. No, she told me, Little Girl was going to do just fine, she thought.
And what did Little Girl think? When we got into the car I asked her: “Did you have fun, baby? Do you want to go back again?” Yes, she told me. I had fun. I want to go back. And then she proceeded to tell me, “I cried, Mommy. The little boy cried and I cried.” And then I heard the smile creep into her voice. “I gonna cry again next time.” I turned around and sure enough, she was grinning ear to ear. “Are you joking with Mommy?” She laughed. “Yes, I joking, Mommy. I not gonna cry.” I’m glad. That means only one of us will be shedding tears.
How was your kid’s first day of school? How young is too young when it comes to preschool? How do I stop feeling so guilty? I’d like to know.