We had to make a tough decision recently to move our son out of his old daycare, and this week we’re dealing with a huge, emotional transition as he cries every day at his new place.
The old place had an infant care room, and Zack started going there just a few hours a day when he was three months old. It was a brand new facility with wonderful caregivers. Zack’s primary caregiver, Elsa, became one of his favorite people. She still babysits for us.
When he was 17 months old, the place came under new management and let Elsa go. We were frightened of the changes that would come, but all in all, the new management turned out to be good. Zack was on his way up to the toddler room anyway, so he would not have beenwith Elsa too much longer. At that point, he became the class biter, which was a frustrating situation, and every day we would get “ouch reports” in writing, letting us know that he had bitten one of his buddies. The daycare folks figured he was frustrated and bored and moved him up to toddlers a bit early. Problem solved. We were so happy with that outcome that our trust in the place was renewed.
And Zack did great all through toddlers, until he turned two and a half, at which point he became the class hitter. And again, the teachers suggested to us that he was too advanced for the toddler room and should move up to the preschool room. But there was one big obstacle: potty training.
I’ve read a lot about potty training, and I’ve talked to many parents about it. In fact, as I was starting this post, one of the parents from my old daycare called to say she was sorry we had to leave. And she said that she simply “forced” her son to potty train by three. And he did it.
Color me flummoxed by this idea. My kid is downright resistant to the potty right now. He has had a few victories, which were hugely celebrated in our house. And then he became a stealth pooper. He just doesn’t want to use the potty, and if I’m interested and have the energy to try to catch him pooping, I’ve had to become faster and faster at it. Gone are the signals he used to give. The kid is smart. Before you can say, “Are you poop–” it’s over.
So we backed off. I get it. Some folks can make this happen faster. Apparently. We’re not those folks.
And then we had to pick up our kid all the time from daycare. We must have gotten five or six calls. Come get him. He’s being aggressive. He knocked another kid off a platform in the playground. Come pick him up. You have thirty minutes. He pulled a kid down by her hair and dragged her on the floor. He hit a teacher in the face. He head butted another teacher. He hit someone and got scratched.
We saw none–absolutely none–of this kind of behavior at home. I even went into the daycare one day and secretly observed my son through some blinds as he played outside. He looked like he was having a blast. Then later, one of the teachers said to me, “Did you see him hit that parent?”
And then I realized that these people were kind of nuts. He had not hit a parent. He had walked up to a parent and held his arms out, like for a hug, and then brought them together in a pat on her legs. He was saying hello. And that was interpreted as aggression by these teachers, who took him aside and urged him to be gentle.
I’m sure Zack did pull some hair. He sure does love hair. He is constantly playing with mine, and yeah, it gets annoying. But knocking a kid down? Dragging a kid by the hair? I have to wonder now how much of this is true and how much of this is exaggeration. It seems more likely that Zack’s obsession with hair caused a kid to fall down.
And oh, by the way, Zack is huge. He’s almost three now, and he’s easily the size of a four-year-old. And he was stuck in the toddler room, with 18-month-olds who probably just fell over when he played with their hair.
And he knows the shapes. And the alphabet. And the colors. He was bored. Again. But this time, daycare could not move him into the appropriate room, because his brain is faster than his butt. He was far from potty trained, but he was smart. And enormous. And frustrated and bored.
We were hoping June would solve everything. Magically, we knew he’d get it by then, and then he’d be three, and potty trained, and we could move him to the preschool room, with the fish tank and the older kids, and the more challenging stuff. We worked out a deal where he could visit the preschool room for an hour a day. And we talked to the toddler teachers about splitting “circle time” so they could have an older kids time and a younger kids time, so they could challenge the older kids a little more.
But all those extras came to an end. Not enough staff on hand to handle them.
And then we found out June was a no go. Zack wouldn’t have a space in preschool until September. He’d lost his space. (I think the mom who just called me might have gotten it, actually.) And honestly, we don’t know if he will even potty train in September.
By this time, it was getting discouraging to constantly hear so much negative feedback about our kid. We believe he’s the most beautiful, smartest, cutest, and sweetest boy in the world. But we were being told to come and pick him up from school because he was aggressive. And we disagreed with that consequence. Developmentally, how could that be right? We asked the school about timeouts, and the director told us that kids Zack’s age don’t understand timeouts, because by the time the timeout is over, they’ve forgotten why they were in it.
So how could Zack understand being sent home? That happened 45 minutes after the incident in question. Why would he make that connection? The director advised us to basically make the rest of the day suck for Zack to really drive home that he had been sent home for misbehavior. Don’t read books to him, don’t do fun stuff. That’ll show him.
So we realized, crap, we’re in a place that calls itself a “child development center.” And we completely disagree with them on fundamental issues of child development. Force potty training by three? We believe that’s wrong. Send a kid home as a consequence he doesn’t understand and then tell parents to make his whole day bad as further consequence he can’t possibly understand? Wrong all around. Have kids stuck in a room that’s too easy for them and then chide their behavior when they act out? All terribly wrong.
But Zack loved his teacher, and he knew all the kids, and he’d been in that center since he was three months old. We had only had to have him there part time, and I was starting a new full time job. Fearing a change, we tried to stay for a few more months, and we kept getting worse and worse reports about him.
So we looked around, and I got it into my head that Montessori might be the way to go. I visited a local Montessori school, learned a little about the methods and the philosophy, found out this school is accredited by one of the Montessori accrediting agencies, and I got a good feeling that this would be a better fit for Zack. A few things bummed me out about the school, like the food is a little junky and there is some TV watching. But overall, it seemed like it would be more challenging, get him with kids his own age, and not force him to potty train until he was ready.
I approached Montessori as a skeptic, but the more I learned about it, the less I could find any reason to protest it. There have been a couple posts on here about Waldorf, so I was looking at Montessori as another cult like situation that proposed some untested, dogmatic theory about kids and just ran with it. It seems quite the contrary. The ideas are fairly sound, and studies show Montessori kids are often ahead of their peers when they get to regular public schools. And the idea that Zack could choose his own activities was very appealing to me. Watching “circle time” at our old school, I felt like the kids were a bit restricted. Circle time seemed like a nice way to look like they were actually doing something of value, but I wasn’t sure what it was, besides teaching them to sit in a circle when asked to do so.
Mostly, I was impressed by the idea that there was a pedagogical, methodological approach for teaching young children that seemed to be based in actual observation of their abilities and tendencies. Every other preschool I looked at gave blanket statements in their marketing literature about respecting the whole child, individual attention, encouraging social skills. But I never saw any particular philosophy or method for getting there. We all want to respect the child as an individual, but in practice, just how do you do that in a preschool setting? What does that mean in terms of the instructional approach, the materials you use, the way you offer or do not offer help, the interaction you expect among children? Montessori offers pragmatic guidelines for what that vague statement means on a moment to moment basis.
Interestingly enough, Maria Montessori actually advocated for the mixing of children of different ages, which was exactly one of the problems we had with our old daycare center. We felt Zack was frustrated because he was with younger kids. But perhaps he was frustrated because he was having to do the activities of younger kids. It wasn’t the kids themselves. It was that he wasn’t being challenged by the work he was doing.
We’ve been going to our new Montessori school since Monday, and here’s the result so far: Zack cries for me all day and hates it. He doesn’t do any of the Montessori “work” yet. He is confused and sad about why he’s in a new place. It’s heartbreaking.
At my new job, the first month was a downer. I’ve been slightly depressed and disoriented, not sure if I made the right choice, and it took a while to just get used to the new surroundings and calm down about this huge life change.
So I can’t even imagine (or remember, since I know I went through it) how sad and difficult this kind of enormous life change must be when you’re under three.
The whole experience of seeing my kid this sad has made me question daycare altogether. The transition has just been way too tough. I could kick the old preschool director in the shins for forcing us out. My rage that she put us in the position of making my kid have a hard time like this is fairly huge.
So we’ll see how it goes. I hope to be posting in a couple weeks about how Montessori was the right choice for our family. I hope to be posting that Zack loves his lessons and his friends. For now, all I have to say is that I would like to win the lottery, quit my job, and home school. Today is Wednesday, right? I need to run and by myself a lottery ticket. Thanks for reading.