Preschool is the Devil's Playground

I now interrupt your regularly scheduled reading of posts in which I bemoan the sorry state of my existence to complain yet again about my wonderful, generous, and yet completely wack-a-do grandmother.

In a few weeks, I will enroll Isabella in preschool for this coming September. I'm in the process of scoping out our area's preschools, and this Saturday we're attending an open house for one we're interested in.

I casually mentioned our plans to my grandma a few weeks ago. In families where the ties that bind don't have the nasty habit of strangling you at times, grandma might respond with a, "That's nice, dear" and move on to topics of greater interest to the geriatric set, such as the current far-flung plotline of her "story" or how the true winners of Dancing with the Stars were robbed last season.

Not in mi famiglia.

At the time, grandma expressed mild shock and concern. Preschool at age 3? Nonsense. What if she cries? Refuses to go? Contracts a disease and infects the twins? I brushed off her concerns and tried to explain that preschool for three-year-olds is the norm now and that I'm not about to stuff Isabella into a bubble to keep her insulated from the germs that will end up boosting her immunity in the long run. Remember, grandma also thinks I am compromising my children's fragile cores by taking Isabella once a week to a toddler gym class.

However, on Monday when she brought up the topic, she wasn't so benign.

Out of nowhere, grandma says, "And if you think Isabella is going to go to preschool willingly, you're crazy."

She then proceeded to list a litany of reasons why preschool for three-year-olds, and Isabella specifically, is a horrible idea. In addition to the high likelihood that Isabella will contract Scarlet Fever, TB, and consumption, she said Isabella won't learn anything there that she doesn't already know or that I can't teach her (because you just know I'm in the process of setting up a schoolroom in my basement, what with my copious amounts of spare time). Grandma believes Isabella will cry and try to escape (apparently, four-year-old preschoolers, kindergartners, and 1st graders crying for their mothers is okay), and that preschool is where "mothers who don't want to watch their children dump them off." She said, "mothers are selfish and like to socialize," and that preschool is a place for them to drop off their kids so they can have time to themselves.

To which I said, "And that's a problem?"

All kidding aside, I want Isabella in preschool in the fall because I believe she can benefit enormously from it. I want her as prepared as possible for kindergarten, which I understand has moved beyond the fingerpainting and two-hour naps on mats that defined my experience 27 years ago to a very academically oriented environment. I think she'll enjoy the socialization aspects of preschool, and I really want her to learn to take direction from someone other than the hubs and me. And I also think Isabella will thrive in an environment where she's learning new things each day. One of my greatest fears is that I'm not fostering her development the way I should simply because the twins are sapping up so much of my time. (Well, the twins and the Real Housewives of Orange County.)

I think what irked me the most about this "discussion" with grandma is her belief that mothers should not have lives outside of caring for their children. Yes, she cares about Isabella's health and mental wellbeing. She doesn't want her upset about going to preschool, and of course, neither do I.

But when she says that preschool is a dumping ground for mothers who want time to themselves, she's essentially giving credence to the mistaken characterization that so many mothers are fighting to overcome: that in order to be a "good mother," women must become mommy martyrs, and sacrifice their own desires, goals, and dreams for those of their children. We're not to have social lives. We're not to hit the gym to try and lose our baby weight or meet friends for coffee. And we're certainly not to work outside the home and have our children attend daycare, even if we love our jobs. And if you do any of these things (as apparently I am by sending Isabella to preschool) you're not a good mother.

My grandma never said I wasn't a good mother. She always referred to "mothers who do this" and "mothers who do that." But the implication was quite clear. Even though I'm hardly going to be whooping it up with two one-year-olds at home next fall, and even though Isabella will more likely than not LOVE preschool, I'm derelict in my motherhood duties by enrolling her.

It's beliefs like grandma's that place mothers under never-ending pressure and stress. So many moms I know feel enormous guilt for working while their children are in daycare, even though they love their jobs. Other mothers I know won't let themselves socialize with friends without their children tagging along because they can longer see where their children's lives end and theirs begins.

The "good mother" mystique is maddening and I refuse to play along.

I'm thinking that asking my grandma to babysit the twins while we attend this Saturday's preschool open house is probably out of the question.

16 Responses to “Preschool is the Devil's Playground”

  1. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    I don't think I have ever used my kids' preschool time to socialize with other moms. When Bridget was at preschool today, I rushed home to write an article, call a newspaper, finalize LLC legal stuff, answer too many emails and put out a few fires. And just like that (fingers snapping), it was time to pick up the kid. Oh, I did empty the kitty litter and run the dishwasher, too.

    Oh, but how I would LOVE to drop Bridget at preschool and, for once, come home and read a book or watch a movie. Just once, without having to cater to the whims of a little person.

    I totally agree with you that preschool will be beneficial to Isabella. Kids might cry for Mommy at first, but it's been my experience that they stop just as soon as Mommy walks out the door and the teacher pulls out the paints and paly-doh.  

  2. # Blogger Simply-Mel

    I unashamedly use a portion of their schooltime to socialise. A happy mom is a great mom. And kids need to see that you can be a great mom AND work AND have social life AND have interests outside of mommydom.

    Your grandmothers opinion is common; I am also inundated with stories and opinions from my grandmother.

    As they say in the movie Madagascar....Smile and wave boys, smile and wave.

    And then do what the hell you want!  

  3. # Blogger Jesser

    I think it's pretty well-established how I feel about mommy martyrs. It's awesome for both of you to have that time. And honestly, if you're going for the whole great mom thing, the twins get some "alone" time with you they wouldn't otherwise have. Though I totally support the gym and latte thing too. ;)  

  4. # Blogger Damselfly

    Your grandma would be unhappy with most of the women I know, including me! You're right -- preschool for three-year-olds is the norm. I know some moms who have waited until their children are four because of the free preschool available for that age (is that just my state?), but most of them have their threes going to some school or another. I am considering taking Fly to preschool in the fall, too (where even though he will be three he will be in the 2.5-year-old class because of how his birthday falls), if only for a couple half-days a week. I think it will be good for him, and it will give me time alone with the baby I plan to have then. In fact, several moms I know with kids in preschool have mentioned that as the reason for enrolling their children: so they can spend direct one-on-one time with their younger ones. Maybe your grandma would go for that reason . . . . ?  

  5. # Blogger Mom24

    I agree with your grandmother that she won't learn anything there that she wouldn't learn from you. My kids went to 'academic' preschools, but even if they hadn't, I would have taught them the basics they learned there. However, and it's a big however, she will learn have experiences there that you can't replicate. It will be good for her to have time away from you and the twins. She will have fun there learning, growing, socializing. I think it will be a great benefit to her. If, and I doubt it, she can't handle it next year, then give it a year, but I bet she'll do just fine. I think preschool is important for kids. Three of mine went for one year, when they were 4, Jacob went when he was 4 and 5. If I had it to do over again, I would have sent Julianna when she was 3. She loved it so much, she definitely would have loved another year. Preschool is a unique and special time in a child's life and I think it's a wonderful gift to be able to give her. (It's not cheap. :-) )  

  6. # Blogger Marie

    Does she know that it's like 2 1/2 hours, maybe twice/week? That you'll drop her off, go do one thing, then come back & pick her up? Honestly. I get very little done in that time, but I love it & K loves it. We BOTH look forward to it.

    I didn't go to preschool myself and was totally unprepared to separate from Mom. In fact, I think I was pretty pathetic when I started kindergarten! It was important to me that K have a preschool experience. I kind of expected there would be some clinging & crying in the 3s class. There was none! He loved it instantly and completely. And now in the 4s class, he acts like he owns the place - so confident and independent. I bet the same will be true for Isabella.

    What time is your Saturday open house? Maybe I can come over & babysit!  

  7. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I am thinking your grandmother would think I was the devil. I could not agree more re: martyr mommies, but I will take it a step further. Someone very close to me had a mother who gave up everything for her kids and the payout was zero and now she is horribly depressed and miserable with a life she basically feels like she wasted meeting other people's needs. Everyone is someone's kid and everyone is entitled to some happiness.  

  8. # Blogger M

    You know, our grandmothers just grew up in a very different time from ours. My grandmother thinks it's a sin that my idea of scalloped potatoes come in a box. :)
    Madelyn is in preschool everyday. And she is definitely learning things I would never have been able to teach her. In art class each week they "study" a different artist and then try out that type of art. In cooking class they learn how to "pass it on" as Madelyn says, where each kid has their own little part and they pass on the tray to the next kid. She has learned to sit in a cirlce for circle time, share toys, take turns, listen to directions from teachers...and most of all-- her language TOOK OFF when she started there. It's amazing.
    I can't be everything to her all of the time. What if you took your grandmother with you to the school??  

  9. # Blogger kenju

    I hope that your grandma will eventually come to support you in that decision. I do. I think it is good for Isabella to be around other kids.  

  10. # Anonymous Ness

    Oh dear. My eldest has been going to a playgroup, THREE times a week (8-12) since the age of ONE. I would have been institutionalized by now, if not for that!

    I say, wave your paw at her and simply say BAH! (Not sure if you read Dilbert, but it's a Dogbert thing - I don't really think you have paws).

    Tell your grandma that I'm currently considering full day school for BOTH my kids, the 3.5yr old AND the 9mth old. She'll think you're a saint after hearing that!

    When I first had a kid, I was all for spending time etc but frankly, I get BORED SHITELESS with half the stuff he wants to do. It's not that I don't love him to pieces, I just don't want to sit and count/read/play cars/trucks/blocks all the time. (Stamps foot).  

  11. # Blogger Tracey

    I am snorting because the idea that you will get a BREAK during that short period she is in school is a riot. You will have 2 babies strapped into car seats. One will probably fall asleep, even though it's not naptime. You will then have to figure out dozens of errands you can do in the 1-2 hours that a 3 year old preschool runs so that you don't have to take them in and out of the car, thereby screwing up any nap schedule you have finally figured out.

    Oh yeah. You are totally slacking off...

    That said, I have never done 3 year preschool for a couple of reasons (one being I am CHEAP and 2 years of preschool for 3 kids was more than I could cough up). But I have done classes for each kid at that age, just to get them used to listening to another adult and enjoying LIFE.  

  12. # Blogger Riley & Tiki

    We think preschool is a great idea. Isabella will have lots of adventures to to talk about. You'll get a little extra time alone with the twins. It's a win win.

    Our cousin Bea is 18 months old and going through a picky eater stage. G-Gma doesn't understand. The pediatrician said to not make a big deal about food, to keep offering her things, and she would eventually start eating more things again. G-Gma says you have to make her eat and that the pediatrician doesn't know anything. Gmas & G-Gmas - what can you do?  

  13. # Blogger The Princess

    We decided not to do preschool right now, but instead we're doing drop off classes for Camille. This at least gives me some time w/ Rosemary and will allow me to run quick errands w/ just having to wrestle 1 out of the carseat vs. 2. However, ME time is now a high priority and that does come often in order for me to keep being me.

    I totally agree w/ your statement: they can longer see where their children's lives end and theirs begins. I monthly have Girls night out but know many who can't socialize w/ me outside of their kids!!  

  14. # Blogger beagle

    Ah . . . the generation gap.

    This is your grandma, right, not your mom?  

  15. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    That's so funny. Our families are very different. My grandmother (who for some reason does not like my cousin's wife) is thrilled that her great grand daughter is now in preschool -- "because it's good for her."
    I'm fighting a different preschool battle of my own. Everywhere I go in our town, I am constantly asked when I'm putting Little Elvis in preschool. He's not even 2. (And good preschools are unbelievably expensive here.) We seem to live in opposite worlds.  

  16. # Blogger Le laquet

    The system is slightly different in the UK and nursery schools (aged 3+) have qualified teachers ... would that be ok with your Mum?  

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