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Dec 13 2012

I Chickened Out of Preschool

By at 9:50 am

This past summer, my husband and I decided to send our toddler to Jewish preschool. We agonized over our budget to see if we could make it work. I read up on gentle separation techniques and ordered him a backpack. Since the arrival of our second baby coincided with the start of the school year, we wanted to wait until the after the new year for him to start.

January felt so far away at that point.

Fast forward to last week. And by fast forward I mean three months of figuring out the logistics of raising two kids, getting dinner on the table, and exactly how many consecutive days one can use dry shampoo without looking like Nick Nolte’s mug shot (the answer is two). And here we are at our scheduled December meeting with the preschool director to discuss my toddler joining the class in a few weeks. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 25 2012

Why We Chose a Jewish Day School Over Public School

By at 9:47 am

I can still remember being 5 years old, sitting in the hallway outside my kindergarten classroom, while my buddy–an eighth grader–taught me the Ma Nishtana, the four questions for the Passover seder. Eight years later, and it was my turn to help a new kindergartner learn the tune and words to the same questions.

I’m a Schechter gal, through and through. From kindergarten through eighth grade, I attended Ezra Academy, a Solomon Schechter Jewish day school in the suburbs of New Haven, CT. Not only did I attend the school, but my mother was there long before I started, teaching a variety of grade levels before settling into her current position as the school’s computer instructor. The Jewish day school experience was an integral part of my childhood, and one that I truly look back upon fondly. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 12 2012

My Daughter’s Ready for Preschool But I Am Not

By at 4:44 pm
amy deutsch preschool

Amy as a preschooler!

This week my 3-year-old starts preschool. It’s only two days a week, and only the mornings, but still–it’s school. We’ve been talking about it a lot. We called my mom to see if she could find a picture of me on my first day of school, and we ordered my daughter a new special dress online for her first day picture (don’t worry, it was cheap—I anticipate it coming home covered in paint and glue!) Her teachers are coming over for a home visit to introduce themselves and get to know Abigail a little bit. And I think my little girl is going to adore this whole thing.

My mommy friends and I have been talking a lot about how starting preschool works. There seems to be this universal thing called phase-in, where the children go for short periods of time, sometimes with only half of their classmates, to help them get used to the classroom, the teachers, and the routines of school. Parents are often expected to stay in the room or the building in case our kids get nervous and need us. It’s a gradual process to make kids feel comfortable. There’s no pulling off the band-aid here. Just a slow, gentle, easing-in. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 31 2012

A Little Girl Broke My Daughter’s Heart & I’m Mad

By at 11:43 am

sarah tuttle-singer little girl dancingSo, I wanted to cut a bitch today.

Which isn’t really anything new, except for one thing: This “bitch” was 3 1/2 years old.

(Watch the storm clouds roll in, people. It’s about to get real.)

It was the end of the year party in my daughter’s preschool–(Cue Sunrise Sunset and throw in a side of falafel and you get the idea.) And it’s kind of a big deal. My daughter has had quite a year. And while she’s weathered a shitstorm with a stalwart valor that humbles and inspires me, she is a sensitive child who survived some serious upheaval. And sometimes it shows.   Read the rest of this entry →

May 22 2012

Letting My Daughter Talk to Strange Men

By at 10:05 am

little girl in ballet tutuMy 3-year-old daughter likes to talk to strange men.

She approaches them without any trepidation, outside of her preschool, at the park, at the grocery store, at ballet class. She’s fairly savvy when it comes to social interactions, so she’ll often start with a question designed to engage the man-of-the-moment in a conversation before launching into her own monologue:

“Hi! Is that your motorcycle? I like it! I have a baby doll! Do you want to see her? She had a headband, but I left it at school. We’re going to get it tomorrow. My little sister has the same baby. Grandma Dede gave it to me.”

“Hi! Are you putting that cereal there? I’m going to ballet class. That’s why I’m wearing a pink leotard and pink tights. I don’t get to put on my tutu until we get to ballet school. We’re getting chocolate bunny crackers for a special treat because today is the last day of ballet.” Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 30 2012

Should Our Kids Not Have Best Friends?

By at 10:02 am

bff necklaceI’ve sat silent as I read about teachers not using red pencils to mark up students’ work because the color is “too stressful.” I’ve soaked up articles about helicopter parenting, Tiger Moms and a “Bad Mother.” But this piece about schools dissuading children from having best friends or circles of close friends has me meshuga.

Disclaimer: I know the author. I have a picture of myself holding hands with him at maybe my third birthday party. Today we are loosely in touch via Facebook, which is how I came across this article, and I want to make clear it’s not necessarily him with whom I disagree. It’s the whole idea of sparing children emotional pain, which is the basis for the movement he writes about. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 20 2012

Free-Range Dad

By at 9:30 am

I pride myself on being a hands off/free-range kind of dad, especially when it comes to the playground. I attempt to emulate my neighborhood moms in most ways, but I cannot fathom heading out into the jungle gym myself, unless explicitly invited by my daughter. The reason is twofold. Selfishly I want that time to space out or blissfully stare at my daughter from afar. (And yes, I will cop to furtively sneaking glances at my smart phone.) And unselfishly, I really feel that it is her space, and I want her to learn to navigate it.

I recently got a friend to take her to the playground so I could play frisbee in the adjoining park. This is easily simultaneously one of the geekiest and jockiest things I do. Appropriately, I injured myself on the first day of the season, diving underneath a fellow player, a medieval-bearded-kind-of-dude named Duvid, to intercept a pass. He landed on a part of my body that I didn’t realize could be injured, the meaty small of my back on the left side. Essentially, my love handle. I had the wind knocked out of me, but got back in for the next play, and promptly re-injured it, so I hobbled over to watch my daughter, who I had been feeling extremely guilty for leaving, anyways.

I found her on the swingset. At this point, pushing my daughter on the swing was not an option, so I obeyed my inclination to hang back. I saw her at the center of a group of moppets. I couldn’t hear her voice, but her pantomime was clear. The group of fellow 4-year-olds hoisted her in the air, like a group of moshers helping someone crowd surf. As her cohort pushed her, I saw a look of beaming pride I have seen few times on her face.

I felt completely validated in my hanging back to give space. “She doesn’t need me,” I practically purred. There are some family stories involving nameless relatives of mine lining up all of their playmates and giving detailed instructions of how they needed to play, but this was different. Ronia was the instigator, but was happy to give others a turn. I stood there, aching with love for my charismatic spark of a daughter.

Apr 3 2012

Semi-Last-Minute Kid-Friendly Seder Ideas

By at 3:02 pm

You want to engage your kids in the seder. But it’s almost here and you haven’t quite figured out how to make that happen yet. Never fear.  Here are a few easy, low-effort ways to make the seder more entertaining for the preschool/younger kid set.

1. EVERY YEAR, I WRITE THE BOOK! Sit your kids down and ask them to dictate the story of Passover to you. Write what they say down word for word, including ‘um’ and ‘you know’ and run-on sentences. DO NOT HELP THEM: the ‘blooper’ characteristic of this is what makes it so wonderful.  Once they have done so, pick out a few elements of their stories out and ask them to make a drawing to match (“Can you draw the Red Sea splitting in half for me?”). Then put the text you’ve written together with their drawings, and make a cover saying, “Kid 1 and Kid 2 Passover Story, 2012.” If you are really ambitious, you can make color copies to hand out at the seder.  If not, just pass this one around. Trust me, it will be a keepsake.

2. WORK HARD, RELAX RIGHT. Get some pillowcases and markers, and let the kids go to town on them, with Passover-related or abstract art work. Then put pillows in them for people’s seats so they can chillax in freedom-lovin’ style. Offer the pillowcases as a ‘souvenir’ if you find them too, um, aesthetically challenging. Hint: Let these artworks dry before putting them on seder chairs.

Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 9 2012

Friday Night: She Got In!

By at 10:06 am

On Tuesday, I sent my husband a text message that said something like: “SHE’S IN! Two mornings a week! Phew!!!” To which he replied: “?”

Wasn’t it obvious? I was talking about preschool.

Here in Park Slope, mecca of babyhood, toddlerhood, and childhood, applying to preschool and kindergarten is almost more insane than college applications. (For example, one school has a Monday morning first-come first-served process… for which parents get in line at 4 and 5 am. When the doors don’t open until 9. In February.) For months now my friends and I have been talking about preschool. Where would each of us choose to apply? Should we just scrap the whole thing and start our own co-op with each other? How do you afford preschool in the first place–especially because you often still need a babysitter to pick the kids up? Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 17 2012

We May Need to Switch to a Jewish Preschool

By at 12:48 pm

little girl with paper snowflakeI love my daughter’s preschool. It’s gentle, the director is an expert at firmly getting kids to do their best while encouraging them to be themselves, and I seriously get a huge charge out of being on-site one afternoon a week to help in the classroom. I get to watch my daughter in action with her friends, and enjoy the cheerful cacophony of a roomful of kids being amazing, curious little creatures.

But the runup to Christmas seriously threw me off, and I don’t know if I’ve done her a disservice by not putting her in the Chabad-run day school nearby.

We’re Reform. Compared to my parents, we’re pretty religious, but compared to Chabad, we’re barely on the radar. Still, their school is beautiful, fun, and well-run. Many families that send their kids there aren’t even Jewish. It’s mostly just a school that has, you know, Shabbat on Fridays and a baracha here and there.

Our school is completely unreligious and, in fact, pretty crunchy-hippie-granola. Our dance teacher is a Burning Man aficionado, we only offer organic snacks, and the kids help us rotate the compost bin. But holy crap, people. In the 24-day runup to Christmas, every single art project, every single story read at story-time, and every single CD played during open-play was Christmas, Santa, Christmas.

Wait, not EVERY one. One time, after like 3 Christmas CDs in a row, the music switched to an awful, shrieking dirge that was, of course, the omnipresent “Oh Hanukkah.” Why does it sound so freaking ominous when they sing “and while we… are playing … the candles are burning low,” as if what we really meant was that while we were playing, bodies are rotting in the shed and the moon is about to crash into the North Pole?

“What the hell is that,” the afternoon teacher muttered. “Oh. I guess someone put the Hanukkah CD in.” Read the rest of this entry →

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