A few weeks ago my big boy started preschool. It may seem strange to start school in June, but the center he is attending has a summer program. In order to hold our spot for the fall at a popular place, we had to start him in the summer. It works well because I am doing most of my summer tutoring while he is away at school.
We debated a bit about starting Lucas in school this year. He was born on August 9th which is a bit of an awkward birthday when you’re trying to figure out schooling. Had he been born on his due date which was September 6th, we wouldn’t be in this position. The cutoff for kindergarten in Michigan is September 1st, so he would have started kindergarten just before turning six. As it stands, we will have to decide whether to start him when he’s a young five or wait a year.
Having been a classroom teacher for seven years, I bring that perspective to the table and I would prefer to start him after he turns six, particularly because in our district, kindergarten is full day. Jaime was one of the oldest in his class having an October birthday. He brings that perspective to the table and is not against starting Lucas in kindergarten when he is a young five, particularly if we choose a private, half day program. Ah the decisions. Our district does offer a half day young fives program which seems like the best plan to both of us currently.
With all this bouncing around in our heads, we decided to start Lucas in preschool this year, just two afternoons a week. That way I don’t have to part with him too many days but he will have a chance to experience school, learn and grow in his social skills, get used to being away a few times a week, and it will (hopefully) ease whatever transition awaits him for next year. We’re thinking of it as a stepping stone.
Lucas did great on his first day. We had visited two times prior and he was excited to go. He was unhappy when he realized we weren’t staying with him, but he was so brave! No tears, just a quivering, sad face. When I called a few hours in, his teacher said he was having a great time. The second day he was less enthusiastic and when I told him we were going, he said, “But Mommy, I already goed there!” Since then we have worked hard to prepare him, talking about how we go on Tuesdays and Thursdays, telling him which day it is and when he will go next, and it has gotten easier and easier. He even likes to wave to his class (the Robin’s class) when we pass near the school. He is making friends and we already had an outside-of-school playdate with one little boy this week.
Drop off is going smoothly now, and he is always so excited to be picked up. He spots me from a mile away, shoots across the classroom and throws himself into my arms. What a feeling! The reunion helps make the separation bearable. He is so excited to show us what lovely creation he has made at school that day–usually a painting or a drawing. So far they’ve all been for me 🙂
Starting preschool caused some regression in other areas at first–he wasn’t sleeping as well, he was much more clingy than he had been, not wanting to be out of my sight ever, and he was having meltdowns again. Thankfully it’s been getting better and better. Changes are hard for him and we are proud that he’s doing so well!
I had a few meltdowns too. Even though it’s just two afternoons a week, it seems like such a big step. This is not his first “school” experience as he has other little classes he attends, but this time I don’t know his teachers personally and I am not in the building nearby. When he was having a hard time initially, I second guessed our decision, worried we hadn’t fully considered all the options, and considered pulling him out after day two. I know it’s silly, but I hated to see him struggling and telling me he missed me and wanting to stay home. I never knew how acutely I would feel Lucas’s pain as his mother. And how desperately I would want to shield and protect him from it, even though he needs to be challenged to grow. It is especially hard to stay strong when my heart is a little broken for myself, too. I love the time I have with my sweet boy and am not eager to see it lessen as he grows. Lucas does feel very proud to be big enough to go to school, and I know he’s proud of himself for being brave enough to stay. I just have to be brave enough!
I love to hear Lucas talk about what happened at school. Of course we only get bits and pieces at this age but it’s fun to have a little window into his preschool world anyway, whether it be a bird feeder that fell down in a storm (and Eva fixed it, Mommy!) or a book he heard (even the dog had some soup, Mommy!) or a field trip he’s taken (I saw pink and white flowers at the Fairy Garden, Mommy, but no fairies…), or something he did on the playground (Leo and I sang songs on the slide!). It’s an adjustment, hearing about his day rather than experiencing it with him, but it’s a good and necessary step. A stepping stone, for both of us.