The Preschooler, who's not at preschool, yet. No matter what you do or indeed choose not to do, as a parent, you will always have moments of doubt. Doubt is a natural feeling that enables us to examine our choices, proving we're not infallible and helps to balance our conscience, heart and head to make level headed choices. For if we did not have moments of doubt how could we thus be so sure of our conviction? It's proof we're sentient; that we're human.
Despite the confidence in my decision to delay Preschool, again there is that element of dread that tugs on ribbons of my heart as the inevitable time arrives when we decide 'It's time.' The time arrives through a marriage of knowing the time is right and the need for an introduction to school structure before they'e thrown in at the deep end in September. For Thing One and The Preschooler this is usually around six months before they start full time school (Thing Two went a year before due to her Birthday).
It doesn't matter how many times you've been through this before with the rest of your brood, your heart still plummets and your brain aches as you question your own parenting. You can never quite fully convince yourself that you're doing the right thing, whatever that is.
So you take your feisty, funny, noisy, cheerful, confident little person to a taster session and they transform into a static mute limpet. You don't blame them really, it's an alien environment. Things One & Two had been used to spending a day a week with The Grandparents yet due to the new shinier grandchild, called 'An Apartment in Spain' we felt sending him sporadically to theirs when they're in England would defeat the object of a semi-routine and prove confusing. You've never even left them, you have no money to go anywhere, nobody to go with and in all honesty as unhealthy as it may be, you don't want to leave them. You see it pointless in having forces separation when you don't want it, why should you endure it just to please others? (much to relatives, doctors and The Husbands protests). Anyone who's been a long term reader will have probably realised by now that we don't 'do' groups and the like and instead focus more on attachment and socialisation through general life and ourselves. So this, essentially, was the first time he's been in an enclosed space filled with similar sized children as well as unknown grownups who seemed insistent on being his 'friend'. It's a lot to take in, a hoard of rampant snot monsters whizzing their tits off around him in an unfamiliar setting.
In this situation it's hard to remember that his sudden introverted state was a perfectly normal and human reaction to the situation and environment. Yet the typical Mother's guilt kicks in as you begin to question yourself, gulping down the blame like it's Gin in the witching hour as the thought resonates and swells within your head 'I did this. I've broken my child' You're not even exactly sure whether it's your decision to bring them here that broke them or the fact you didn't do it sooner yet one thing you are sure of is that you've broken your child. It's your fault. You don't even know how to fix this, to fix them. You find yourself nervously burbling at the staff that he does talk, honest and that he's actually a little hurricane normally.
Yet somehow, somewhere beneath it all. You understand. You're already, naturally supporting them. You accept their reaction. It's a valid reaction. You neither attempt to coax nor throw them into the deep end so to speak. You may not always trust yourself yet as always you're instinctively trusting your child. You accept their hesitancy. You remain visible and accessible, the proverbial rock in the ocean that they can navigate towards should they need you as they stare at you uncertainly whilst the well meaning teacher takes them by the hand and away from you. You resist the urge to follow despite that tiny look of pleading in your childs eyes. Yet you keep eye contact should they need it. You don't follow yet nor do you move, you remain the rock so that they can get back to you. So that they know you're still there.
You accept their return. It's a lot to take in, both people and environment. This is not neutral ground. So, you tackle one at a time, you engage with your child within the new environment, helping them stain it with some familiarity.
The Teacher has forms, sign this, sign that .... your child looks stranded. It would be easy to nudge them towards something or someone yet you know your child. They don't need flooding with it, they need to assess and observe. They need to now it's a can situation not a must situation. Through accepting their uncertainty, validating it, you're helping them process it.
The little parental voices are whispering to you that you've failed, you're failing. This is a test. Your child isn't normal. If you'd been a good parent they'd have made six friends already. You've broken your child.
Yet just because the voices are there, it doesn't follow that they speak the truth. These are the voices that tell you you're useless, fat and ugly. These voices lie.
Fuck the voices.
These ludicrous expectations, aren't real. How your child feels and reacts is real. This is normal. Your child is actually exhibiting perfectly appropriate behaviour to the situation.
The next session goes much the same way. You're convinced you're condemning them to abject misery.
Then the first real day comes round. The day you're supposed to leave this version of your child that seems a mere shadow of the one you know at home.
Every fibre of your being is screaming at you not to do this. It seems unnatural to leave them in this situation they're evidently uncomfortable with in the hands of, what are really mere strangers. You are physically fighting the urge to scoop them up and run, run to the hills, run home.
But you do fight it.
You leave them, with a kiss.
They're not clinging to you. They're not crying. They're not asking you to stay.
Yet they should be, afterall, all that extended breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping and over attachment ruins them don't you know? It's surprising you can walk with all those rods on your back. They'll never function normally. You've broken your child.
You go. You worry. The few hours feel like days.
Yet when you pick them up the staff assure you he's been absolutely fine. You ask if he actually spoke, he did.
It continues. Once again you're breaking societies expectations. He's entitled to five sessions, yet you're only taking him for two. For now. For us, this isn't about child care, so thus we don't use it as such.
By the second session, you've been told he's joining in fine, he's made some friends. He's interacting naturally because he's neither been forces to nor had any expectations impressed upon him. This is him being in control.
He goes in excited. He comes out excited. He's never asked not to go. Like his siblings he's shown zero distress. He's happy. Be it because of or despite of our choices.
So the truth is, I didn't break my children. Just like through doing things your way to suit your parenting/life didn't break yours.
Different doesn't equal wrong.
Trust yourself, your parenting and your child. It doesn't matter how you think they're supposed to react or be, that's not reality. Reality is who they are and how they react. Whatever and however that is, is okay. Don't change yourself nor your child to try and aspire to be whatever you think normal is. Everyone's normal is different. Normal doesn't even exist, really. It's just a word. A word sent to break us.
So I didn't send my child to nursery until he was about 3yrs10m old and I haven't broken him.
That deserves celebration. Gin in my soup it is then!