So as I wrote in my last post, LM has started full-time preschool. And I’m not doing well. I feel lost, like I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with myself all day. I can’t seem to bring myself to write. In fact, this is the first time I’ve written. It’s some kind of block, I suppose. I wander around the house, looking for stuff to do—although there is actually plenty to do.
I know I shouldn’t complain — I have the luxury of not working. But even if I wanted to enjoy it, I don’t feel like I can reasonably sit around watching Food Network all day while my husband is at the office. My plan was to ramp up my freelance writing, and although I have scored a couple new gigs, they have not provided me with as much steady work as I’d hoped. Ironically, the week before LM started preschool, I got six, yes six, assignments, which prevented me from truly enjoying our last few days together. Now, nothing.
So I’ve got more to do to gain new writing opportunities. But instead of doing it, I just, well, don’t. I’m going through some kind of weird period of adjustment—or rather, trying to adjust and not doing a very good job of it. I’ve been trying to figure out why.
For a long time, my job was my identity. Then I got laid off, and “mom” became my identity. Now, I’m in some kind of in-between place in which I can’t figure out exactly who I am or what I’m doing. I have all these plans in my head, but I can’t seem to translate them into action.
I don’t want to go back to full-time work outside the home. I still want to be here at 3 pm when LM gets home from school. But in those six hours he’s gone, I want to have the motivation to write, go grocery shopping, do projects around the house, maybe even (gasp) cook (even though I’m terrible at it, now’s my chance to get better, right?). I feel pressure to do everything, and guilt that I have not been able to get my ass in gear.
I’m projecting all this onto Foggy Daddy, who I assume is mad that I’m not doing as much as I should. (There’s that word again, “should.”) He seems to understand, though, that I’m going through something and has given me time to figure it out.
Change is tough for me, I’ve discovered. I’ve never been so sad to see summer end, to see the leaves start falling. I love autumn, so it bothers me that I’m greeting it with such disdain. It doesn’t help that it’s still 85 degrees out. It’s still warm enough to swim FFS. The weather is in this in-between state, just like I am. It’s like it can’t commit, and neither can I.
To make things worse, I’ve had very little communication with LM’s preschool teacher. I don’t know if he naps, if he poops, what’s he’s been doing all day. He comes home with cute art projects and always has a smile on his face, so I think he’s enjoying it. But he doesn’t have the words to tell me what he’s actually been up to. With early intervention, in which I knew all his therapists and either participated and/or received a session note, I always knew what was going on. This is quite different.
Maybe I need to cut myself a break and allow myself the time to get used to this. After so long of wanting more time to myself, I finally have it, and now I just want my baby back. I see other three-year-olds going to preschool for three mornings a week, and I’m jealous their moms have the rest of the week to do other things with them. I’m just not ready to send him off for so long. I feel like a kindergarten mom, two years early. I’m counting the days to the Jewish holidays LM will have off in October.
I think if I was pregnant or had a new baby this situation would not be as fraught with emotion. I would still have the role of “mom” to focus on. I could justify lying around if I was pregnant or up every two hours with a newborn. I would have another child to take to mommy-and-me classes.
I know I’m just feeling sorry for myself. I still haven’t been able to pass my fertility testing — my damn lining just won’t grow. After the surgery I had in May, I had to have another procedure to get rid of what turned out to be scar tissue. After waiting six weeks to have that done, I went back into my prep cycle and my body just didn’t respond. So now I have to try it again. I honestly don’t know if it’s going to happen for us. All of these things are coming together to make life difficult at this point, when it really shouldn’t be.
Sorry for the downer post. But I can’t be the only one having a hard time transitioning to full-time school, can I? Please tell me I’m not alone!
This week LM started preschool. He had previously been in a “two’s” program, and also at a nursery program though early intervention, so he was used to being dropped off in a classroom setting. But this year is different—this is “official” preschool. It’s public (because of LM’s hearing loss he gets public special ed preschool), in a building with children of all grades who are deaf or hard of hearing. I believe it’s the best environment for him, and I took as much as they would give me: full time, 5 days a week, 8:45-2:45. Gulp. On top of all that, he’s getting “bussed” (really a guy in a minivan), so someone else is driving him, and I have to trust he will get to his destination and home safely.
It’s a lot for a mom of a newly turned three-year-old to bear.
This week was harder on me than it was on LM. His first-day transportation got messed up—the transportaiton company had the wrong number and so I never heard from them. I took LM to school myself (I wanted to walk him in and meet his teacher anyway), but then the van showed up at my house! I finally straightened things out with someone from the company, who profusely apologized and told me the driver would pick LM up that afternoon. The incident did little to instill confidence in them. And who is this driver? Would he buckle LM in right? Would he speed? Would he take the highway or the side streets? Would he get so annoyed at Sam’s crying that he’d pull over and smack him?
Calm down, I told myself.
LM seems to be doing well. He’s all smiles when he comes home, and his teacher emailed that he’s a joy to have in class. Still, my life is much changed. It occurs to me that I need to be doing more, now that I have time for writing, working out, grocery shopping and meal prep. All of a sudden I have all this time, but my worry over LM’s well-being makes it hard for me to concentrate.
Most kids going to preschool are not taking the bus and are not full time. So I’m going through what many kindergarten moms go through, and it makes me want to slow down time. I’m longing for the playdates and activities we used to do. I feel like I’m missing a limb when I go to the mall or Target without LM. For so long, I identified as a “mom,” as evidenced by the crying child attached to me for all the world to see, that it’s strange to suddenly be my own entity again. When I walk in public alone, no one knows I’m a mom. I almost feel like it’s a throwback to my infertile days, when I longed for a little baby to push in a stroller.
Here’s a taste of what my week has been like, in 20 thoughts:
- I feel like it’s my first day! Why am I so nervous?
- Did I get everything on his school list? I don’t want the teacher to start out hating me.
- He’s too young to be going off on a bus by himself!
- The bus is actually guy in a minivan. This creeps me out.
- What is he doing right this moment? (sob)
- Seriously, am I going to get a schedule or something? What the hell is he doing all day?
- There is so much I can be doing here at home that I can’t figure out what to do first.
- Let me go run some errands.
- Oh, look at that little baby in the stroller! (sob)
- Here’s a toddler in a cart. He’s not in preschool. Sam is too young for preschool all day. Why did I do this to him?
- Why did I do this to me?
- Where is the damn minivan? He’s late. Maybe they got in a car accident.
- Seriously, where are they??
- Oh they’re here.
- I wish LM could tell me what he did today. Why doesn’t the teacher write in the little book we send back and forth?
- She wrote in the book! Oh wait, it’s to ask for hearing aid batteries. But I did put in hearing aid batteries because they were on the list. She probably just didn’t see them because I put them in the same bag as his extra clothes. Great. She already thinks I’ve forgotten stuff. But I didn’t!
- I’m on snack duty first. I have no idea how this works: Is it a different snack every day? How to do I get it to school? I have to make sure to get good (a.k.a. healthy) snacks so I can impress the teacher.
- Why did his art smock get sent back home? It’s not dirty. Hm.
- I have no idea what the F I’m doing.
- I miss my baby.
I find myself singing ABBA’s “Slipping Through My Fingers” (really, it’s one of the best songs about parenting ever) while staring out the window waiting for him to get home. Luckily, LM has adjusted really well to being at school. It’s me who’s having a hard time. This parenting thing never gets easier, does it?
What were your thoughts when your kid first went off to school? Am I normal?
All the talk among my mom friends lately has been preschool. Although LM has technically already started in a two’s program, I don’t know if it can actually be called “school” until he hits the age of three. Plus, the facility he’s currently at is labeled a “preschool alternative,” whatever that means.
So, my Facebook feed is now taken up with questions about preschools, how to select them, which are the “best” and which are recommended by other moms. Some moms are very interested in “curriculum,” others that the kids be allowed enough time for free play. When I read the hilarious satire on the criteria parents look for in preschools, It’s Preschool Open House Season, Motherf**kers, I could help but laugh. (Other moms didn’t seem to find it funny.)
But maybe mine was just jealous laughter. Because LM is deaf/hard of hearing (what exactly am I supposed to call it? That’s a subject for another post), he qualifies for free preschool. FREE, you say? Amazing!
Sort of. Yes, it’s cool we won’t have to pay for preschool (although we did have to shell out thousands for his hearing aids, not to mention his therapists, doctors and audiologists). But we also don’t get much of a choice of where he goes.
This is how it works: As LM transitions out of the early intervention system, we meet with the school district. His EI team makes recommendations for what kind of accommodations are needed for an appropriate learning environment. The school district either says they can meet them or they can’t, in which case they will send LM out of district to a more appropriate school.
Through early intervention, LM has recently started at a school for the deaf, in addition to his “alternative preschool.” I wish this had happened months ago, but again, that’s a subject for another post. This school is awesome. He gets to see and socialize with other kids with hearing aids and cochlear implants. He gets to be taught how to listen, speak and interact with his environment in a setting geared for his needs. His teachers are all specially trained to work with kids who have hearing loss.
The school district’s teachers, on the other hand, aren’t. They lump all the “special ed” kids together in one class. Maybe they have an FM system, in which the teacher wears a microphone so the sound can go directly to LM’s hearing aids. Maybe they consider that sufficient.
But it’s not.
I get why they wouldn’t want to send LM out of district. It costs money. And maybe I’m selling the district short — I haven’t toured their facilities yet so I don’t actually know what they offer. But my initial thought is that LM doesn’t belong in a class with kids who have mental disabilities. LM’s disability is physical. Yes, it affects the way he learns. But I don’t want him lumped in as “special ed.”
I’m not trying to be snobbish about this. I understand that each kid has individual needs and that there is nothing wrong with being considered “special ed.” I just don’t want that for my kid.
So what do I do? I might have a fight ahead of me. I might need to hire an advocate or a lawyer if the district stonewalls me. I might be labeled as the “problem parent” for the rest of his school career, when and if he does mainstream in district.
I just want the best for LM. I want him taught appropriately with other kids who are like him. He’s different, yes, but his disability is one that can be overcome. He will be able to live a full, independent life—if he gets the proper education.
So while other parents are worried about curriculum and picking the best preschool (I’m reminded of that scene from Baby Boom in which a mom is devastated her son didn’t get into one top preschool, and therefore has lost all hope for a good college), my challenges are very different. It’s hard for me, as a competitive person, to take myself out of the race and feel comfortable on another track for my son’s education. But comfortable or not, I don’t have a choice.
It’s Transition to Special Ed Preschool, Motherf**kers.
Do you have any special challenges to face with your children? How do you accept them?
He only just turned two, but LM is already in school. Sort of. I’m not sure if it counts as “preschool” – it’s a “two’s” program, a pre-preschool. It seems like we keep starting them younger and younger, doesn’t it? Part of me wondered whether I needed to enroll him in such a program — couldn’t he just play and be a kid for a little while longer?
And was I just giving in to peer pressure? I saw my other mom friends sending their kids to school, so I thought LM should be as well. Then I thought of that scene in one of my favorite movies, Baby Boom, when Diane Keaton overhears the moms at the park talking about how they need to get into a good preschool, so they can get into a good kindergarten, a good prep school, a good college. If you don’t have your kid enrolled early you’re “behind.”
And I also think about the current state of education in America (a topic which I’m not really qualified to talk about since I’m not totally informed about it, but I will anyway), and how kindergarten is now like first grade and they get mounds of homework and are stressed out about tests and getting ADHD from sitting too much and not being allowed to play outside. And how in some European countries they don’t even attempt to teach anything educational until kids are, like, six; and how Europeans are smarter than us so they must be doing something right. And how I have no idea how to do that Common Core math sh*t and so I won’t even be able to help him with his homework. Speaking of which, are we supposed to “help” our kids with their homework so it’s all correct when they hand it in or are we supposed to let them make their own mistakes? And if I let LM make mistakes because that’s how he learns will that put him behind all the other kids whose parents do their homework for them? People are so competitive when it comes to their kids that they’re teaching them some really bad lessons. Is that what school is going to be for LM?
OK, hold on, back it up. LM just had his first day of pre-preschool!
Even after going through all that in my head, I’m pretty sure I made the right decision to put him into school. Not because I’m worried about him getting in college (yet). It’s because I think, from what I observed on his first day, it was just the right level of structure and play. They had open gym, they listened to a story, they did an art project, they played in the sensory (i.e. sand) table, they sang songs, they played with musical instruments and blocks. I admit to wondering if it was enough — was I just paying to have him run around the room? — but on closer inspection I think the class was a good way to get him into some kind of routine and to have some structure in his day. And let’s face it: I think LM is bored at home with me all day. I don’t want to over schedule him, but I want him to learn and have new experiences. It’s good for him to be with other kids; and it’s good for him to be without me.
What was actually harder was me being without him.
The night before his first day I couldn’t sleep. I had jitters, just like back on my own first days of school. I was nervous about leaving him, nervous about how he would do, if he would miss me, how his behavior would reflect on me as a parent. I double-checked that I had all the necessary required items (diapers, change of clothes) but forgot to print and fill out the paperwork. I was worried we’d be late (as I often am), and this was one more thing I would need to do before heading out the door.
But the morning came and everything fell into place. We got there on time, and before I knew it, class was about to begin. But not before one unfortunate mom got barfed on by her hysterical child. At least LM isn’t freaking out like that, I thought.
The program I enrolled him in is “gradual separation,” which means that parents can be there for the first class or as long as they feel is necessary. But of the ten kids in the class, only three parents stayed, myself included. Some of the kids had definitely been there before, so that was probably why other parents didn’t feel the need to hover. The class moves between three rooms, and after the first room one of the three moms left; another left during the second. That left me there alone watching the kids. And actually, it was kind of boring (hopefully just for me, not for them). So then I made myself scarce as well during snack time.
One of the other moms and I hung out in the hallway, trying to peek through the windows without letting our children see us. Because we are normally with them almost every second of every day, it was hard to not know what they were doing, if only for an hour. But every time I caught a glimpse of him, he was laughing, playing, bouncing around and generally enjoying himself.
I realized this was my first taste of what it is like to watch your child grow up, that slow process in which they inch by inch detach themselves from you. It almost felt physical, like something had been removed from my body. After so much close contact, he wasn’t there for me to hold. And I had to let him go where I wouldn’t be to take care of him.
This isn’t going to be easy, is it?
Do you find first days of school difficult as a parent?