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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 →

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 →

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 →

Dec 2 2011

What My Daughter Learned at Jewish Preschool

By at 10:08 am

hebrew letter blocksA few months ago, I was freaking out over my daughter starting preschool, not because I didn’t want her to go but because I can’t believe she’s old enough for it. After a few weeks of adjustment (mostly on her part; I found the additional free time quite easy to adapt to), Ellie is a happy student at the school in a Conservative temple.

The thing is she already knows more about Judaism than I do. I attended religious school at a Reform temple from first through 12th grades, but much of what I remember is the socializing. (No comment, please, Mom.) When Ellie came home from her second day of school and said “boker tov” (good morning) to me, I thought perhaps she had sneezed.

Sometimes when she says a word I can’t make out, I wonder if it’s Hebrew for something. I know her teachers give the Hebrew as well as English names for things.

All of this has made for interesting, if not at times awkward, conversations. At home, Ellie has asked to kiss the mezuzah (we have several) and at Yizkor on Yom Kippur, she was ready to rush the ark, shouting “See ’em Torahs?” during a moment of silence. At school, her teacher asked how our Sukkot was, and I said, with downward-cast eyes, “Very nice, thank you.” We hadn’t done much to celebrate it at home. OK, we hadn’t done anything to celebrate it at home.

When I was a kid, we celebrated the Jewish holidays with the traditionally appropriate festivities: seders, break-the-fasts, latkes, challah, matzah, etc. But we didn’t keep kosher or learn to converse in Hebrew.

I love being Jewish and part of the Jewish community, and I am glad I chose a preschool where Ellie can learn more than I can teach her. That’s the point, after all. It just so happens I will get more for my money than I bargained for when I enrolled her. I’ll get an education, too.

Sep 7 2011

Mama Can’t Wait for the First Day of Preschool

By at 11:42 am

If your friendship circles are anything like mine, your Facebook feed is probably filled with status updates about little ones starting preschool, bigger ones heading off to kindergarten, and the biggest ones of all holding back their tears and trying not to imagine their babies going off to college one day. I can’t keep track of how many pictures I’ve seen of back-to-school haircuts, new clothes, and Dora backpacks. One of my friends even went so far as to tape family pictures on the inside of her son’s lunch box; it was such a simple yet sweet thing to do, and I was totally impressed.

Such a thing would have never occurred to me.

I totally understand where these parents are coming from; my older daughter is starting preschool on Friday, and my little one will head back to daycare next Monday. I too have had those weepy parental feelings, that overwhelming sense of nostalgia for a moment that hasn’t even passed. Just not about my little girl’s first day at preschool. I know, you’re probably thinking that it will hit me when we head out of the house that morning, or perhaps when we walk into her new school, or perhaps when I leave with the baby.

I don’t think so.

I know from experience. Twice. The first time was when I left my then 3-month-old at daycare for the first time, and the second time was with my second daughter, also then 3 months old. Both times were just for an hour, a trial run before the real first day. Based on my friends’ reports and the numerous anxiety-ridden posts on my local Mommy list-serv, I was waiting for the worry and the guilt and sadness to set in; I was expecting to spend my free hour going through a box of Kleenex while clicking through the hundreds of baby pictures we had stored on the computer. But as I walked out of our daycare, leaving my happy, calm daughters behind me, I felt… relief. I went to the gym. I watched crap TV while I was on the elliptical. I got myself a cup of coffee, and just sat. Quietly. It was AWESOME. And I was thrilled to see my girls at the end of the hour.

Yes, my babies are growing up, and yes, I have those moments when I’m just not ready for it to happen. (I still struggle to let my big girl walk down the stairs alone. I know, we all have our meshugas, right?) But my girls heading off to school (or daycare or whatever) doesn’t trigger the tears for me. The truth is, I’m not SAHM material (although I am endlessly impressed by my friends who are) and I need a break from them. In addition, I loved school as a child, and my girls do, too. They’re happy at their second homes. I trust their caregivers and teachers, I like their friends, and I know they’ll be safe. And I’ll be sane.

So, Friday’s coming, and my little girl will be going off to school. I’ll pack her a lunch the night before (UGH), and we’ll probably pick out a special outfit for the big day. I might even take a few pictures that morning, and they’ll most likely end up on Facebook. But don’t kid yourself—after 11 days with no childcare and a vacation that was cut short by a feverish and vomiting toddler, I won’t be the one crying at drop-off.

Aug 29 2011

The Missed Nap

By at 2:20 pm

Yeah, this happens a lot these days.

The importance of napping to toddlers is well-documented. It gives their growing bodies a rest and chance to recharge. And that’s pretty much why naps are important to parents, too. Not naps for parents. Naps for their toddlers. When the kids sleep, we get a chance to rest and recharge, too. I learned this the hard way today when my toddler, Ellie, decided not to nap.

You know the saying you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone? I didn’t realize just how much I depend on her naps. It’s my two hours of the day to check e-mail, write, conduct interviews, clean the house and stay seated in a comfortable chair for more than 30 seconds at a stretch. And today my 120 minutes of no-toddler time were spent listening to said toddler talk, cry, talk, cry, talk in the monitor. No amount of soothing, rocking, tickling or pathetic begging (from me; hers eventually made me crack) made a dent.

I’ll probably never know what caused her sleeplessness today. She should have been good and tired out after running around an outdoor playground all morning at a preschool meet-and-greet ahead of the start of the school year. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 22 2011

Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven

By at 1:33 pm

“Everybody wants to go to heaven,
But nobody wants to die.”

— Loretta Lynn

I was tripped up by a country song — it’s an occupational hazard for those of us with blood or marital ties to Tennessee. As such things go, the occasional humming of a Loretta Lynn song is not such a terrible price to pay for your beloved. This time, though, Loretta landed me in trouble.

The best country songs are infectious bluesy numbers with wry insight into the human condition. And, for some unknown reason, I was a line into singing “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven” while setting out dinner for my girls. Realizing what the next words out of my mouth would be, I let the song trail off, hoping they wouldn’t notice, only to hear my older girl ask:

“Wouldn’t that mean everybody has to die?”

So, I carried on singing, as if I hadn’t missed a beat: “But nobody wants to die.” Which answered the question, at least in the context of the song. But, as both girls launched into loudly sung and gleeful repetitions of the two clauses, I realized that it was a potentially dangerous chunk of thought to be blurting out in an East Coast preschool where the students and teachers tend to be pre-Loretta-Lynn-literate.

What we didn’t need was two loudspeakers broadcasting at full strength completely unreliable insight into our family beliefs. So, to avoid embarrassment at school pickup, I tried to morph it, before bedtime, into: “Everybody wants to eat ice cream,  / But nobody wants to put on PJs.”

I sang it over and again. The girls liked it. They joined in. They bought into the sentiment and put on their PJs. I sealed the bribe with some ice cream which they sat down to eat. And then while sitting, they carried on singing:

“Everybody wants to eat ice cream,

But nobody wants to die.”

Aug 10 2011

Yikes! I’m Sending My Daughter to Preschool

By at 3:19 pm

cherry suckerPicture this: It’s drop-off time on the first day of preschool. There’s all sorts of kicking and screaming, outstretched arms and wails of “No!” And that’s just what I’ll be doing in a few weeks.

When my husband returned to work a couple weeks after I had Ellie in December 2009, I panicked: What was I going to do with her? What if she choked on spit-up? What if I had to pee and she was asleep on me? What if I had to eat and she was asleep on me?

Fast forward 20 months and Ellie and I have developed a lovely routine of enjoying music classes, play gyms, play dates and mother/daughter fro-yo parties. I’m lucky that my gigs as a freelance journalist and group cycling instructor enable me to perform my most challenging job: stay-at-home mom. As a result, I know what she’s doing every minute of every day.

And soon I won’t. It’s not a control issue, despite how it sounds. I just genuinely enjoy seeing what Ellie does each day – what she likes, what she could do without, how she learns and develops. After months of reading the same book to her and hoping she likes it, she suddenly asks for it by name, for instance.

I sound ridiculous to moms who leave their children at daycares or have regular babysitters. I know. And I also know that putting her in the care of someone else for nine hours a week will be great for her. Her teachers know way more about early childhood education than I do. After all, it takes a village.

Besides, it’s not like I’ll be twiddling my thumbs while she’s at school. I’ve taken on a Spinning class one morning, and I can resume writing arts and culture articles, which got too hard to do when I spent my time at a museum exhibit chasing E than pondering Picasso. Plus, I can go to Target and actually concentrate on what I’m buying so that for once, I come home with the toilet paper I need and not a random assortment of toddler clothes, garden supplies and wrapping paper that somehow catapulted into my cart while I was busy preventing Ellie from smashing nail polish bottles on the floor.

I think Ellie will love school, so I’m not worried about her reaction. I just hope I won’t embarrass her when the teacher tells me to be a big girl and shoos me out with a lollipop of consolation.

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