That’s my Little Miss, looking into the preschool play lot every day after I pick her up from daycare. Three of the kids there, all older, used to be at her daycare, and she is fascinated by their new school. Ever since she realized over the summer that this was where they went, across the street from her daycare, she has asked me everyday, “walk to Abby’s ‘cool?” Abby is the four-year-old alum who is akin to the senior in high school with whom my freshman daughter is enamored. So tall, capable and allowed to watch TV - what two-year-old wouldn’t look up to that?
Over the past few months, I’ve seen my daughter’s playmates leave and I’ve noticed that Little Miss has fewer friends her age with whom she can interact and play. Those who’re still there are either younger or aren’t as challenging, so she’s left with very little stimulation, other than that which comes from yiayia, the Greek lady who runs the place. She’s a grandmotherly type who showers the kids with plenty of affection. There are kisses and hugs in abundance, just like grandmas do, and she also scolds them the way grandmas do. I often feel that my daughter is part of an extended family when she’s there, rather than in the home of a stranger, and that’s comforting to a mom like me who works all day.
Yiayia and her husband, papou, (grandma and grandpa in Greek) have been taking care of my little girl since she was nine months old and while I think they were wonderful with her as an infant, lately it’s been nagging at me that she needs more. From the way she longingly looks at the preschool and how little actual interaction there is between Little Miss and her current playmates, she may be ready for something above and beyond what this little home daycare is able to provide her.
One day I decided to take her to the preschool orientation across the street, where she ran over in the school hall to see her old friend, a boy just a little older than her, and they played and laughed like it’s been forever even though it’s only been a couple of weeks since they last saw one another. Well, in toddler years, I suppose it could feel like years. And there she met several other kids in her age group; she even started having “conversations” with them, although I don’t think anyone, including myself, knew what she was saying. Or maybe the kids did, who knows?
When I saw her there, I really could see her there. Her dad and I watched her gleefully explore the place and realized that she was really into the older kids, and it’s nice for her to have a few people to look up to, rather than being “lonely at the top” like she is in her current situation. So we bit the bullet and registered her for the two-year-old early childhood education program.
The fees are paid. The paperwork signed. There is already a locker with her name on it. The only thing we’re waiting for is for her to turn two in November. While it’s a done deal, I still wonder if we did the right thing. I weigh the pros and cons of each place almost every day and constantly second guess our decision.
She has blossomed beautifully in yiayia’s care, why are we ruining a good thing?
But she has no one there to challenge her, and she so clearly needs that now. Yiayia and papou are not the educating type and while play is important, she also loves exploring and learning new things.
But she does learn through play. She knows her numbers. Her colors. Even her alphabets (at least several anyway). She’s not missing out just because she isn’t in preschool.
But we taught her those! In the two hours per day we have with her and on weekends, we try to cram everything we can - play/learn/explore. It’s exhausting.
She is a talking, walking sponge and she loves it. Wouldn’t it be a disservice to her to not harness that energy and enthusiasm to learn? What if she’s ready for more and we’re the ones hindering her?
I vacillate, I contemplate, I wonder, I doubt and doubt and doubt. When I see the hugging and kissing that happens before we leave yiayia’s every day, my heart hurts. Little Miss will be deprived of this kind of affection from her teacher at the new school. It’s just not that kind of place. Will that hurt her? What if she is as capable as she is now because of the nurturing, affectionate environment that she has both at home and at daycare? If we take away that last part of the equation, what will happen to her?
Are we doing the right thing?
But that’s just it, isn’t it? As parents, we will never be 100% certain of the future that we’re providing our children. The answer isn’t in the stars or the psych books or research. Every child is different - what works well for some may not for others. We can’t just go by others’ experience and advice; sometimes, we just have to go with our instincts. And what we know of our little girl.
We know she’s eager to learn. She’s smart. She’s capable. She’s also resilient. No matter where she is, she will thrive. But we also know she desperately longs to be in “Abby’s school”. So I guess we have our answer. At least for now.
Some time mid-November, Abby’s school will be known as Little Miss’ school in our house. And we’ll get to find out if this decision was the right one for her. In the meantime, we have to break the news to yiayia, but we just don’t know how. One is hoping that the other would. I think we’ve finally agreed to do it together tomorrow. (Wish us luck?)
Once that’s done, perhaps the doubts will end as we begin to settle into our decision. Although somehow, I doubt they will.
What kind of a decision-maker are you? Do you find yourself waffling more or less when it comes to decisions for your children, or for anyone other than yourself? Have you ever been absolutely certain about your decisions? What’s your secret?