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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crying in Preschool

This post is written specially for Malar - a blog reader who specifically asked if I had just such a story to share.

I tried to put The Daughter in preschool when she was 1.5 years old. With her in preschool, I would not have to hire a live-in helper, and that would save us a great deal of money. On Day 1, I was allowed to spend the whole day with her. I accompanied her right through the day. On Day 2, I spent half a day there with her, and she cried herself sick the 2nd half of the day. On Day 3, I left her there by herself, and she cried herself so hard that she had no more tears to cry. I arrived to pick up a wan and listless baby who had been bouncy and full of life the week before.

And a dagger twisted inside my heart when she caught hold of my ear with one hand, and her father's ear with the other hand and pulled our heads close to hers and repeated with a desperate earnestness "Mommy, Daddy, Baby. Mommy, Daddy, Baby." She didn't have much vocabulary then but I knew she was telling me that she wanted the three of us to be together. When she got home, she placed little puddles of urine where she wasn't supposed to, and she wouldn't look at me when I talked to her about her Naughty Pee Pee. I knew she was telling me that she didn't want to go back to preschool. Lacking the vocabulary, she communicated her fear and her anger with Puddles of Pee. I picked her up and placed her on my lap. Then I said "Okay. No more school tomorrow. No more school."

Her next puddle of urine went nicely into the potty.

The experience made me fearful of the day she would HAVE to go to school. So I cracked my head to figure a way around it. When she was 2, I found her a 3-times weekly class in the evenings which allowed me to attend the 1.5 hour lesson with her. When we started, I sat her on my lap and she stayed there holding onto my finger for dear life.

By the 2nd lesson, she was toddling off to different parts of the class to examine all sorts of interesting stuff. By the 3rd lesson, I was able to excuse myself for a little while by telling her that Mommy needed to pee-pee and would come back quite soon. I left the room and came back almost immediately. Slowly, as the sessions wore on over the 10 weeks, I lengthened the time I spent outside of class. By the 10th week, I could stay outside for 45 minutes before going back in. Through it all, I kept assuring her that I would ALWAYS come back for her.

I signed her up for another 10 weeks, and by the end of that time, I could bring her in, leave her there and then get her after class. From there, she transited to 3-times weekly daytime preschool and it was no trouble at all leaving her there by herself because I had already trained her to expect that I would always come back for her. And after that, she went to a daily preschool and was the only kid there who didn't cry on the first day.

I think toddlers very much fear being abandoned. Once they understand that you'll come back, they stop worrying and crying so hard.

12 comments:

Blur Ting said...

While my older son was very happy to attend full day childcare when he was 20 months old, SK protested by bawling his heart out for one whole week.

Finally we took him out. When he was about 12, he told me that he cried so hard not because he knew we would take him out.

Anyway, it goes to show that every child is different. Till now, YK thrives in a social environment while SK prefers to hang out with his close group of friends.

petunialee said...

One whole week! Wow! That was a miserable kid alright. Yeah... every child is different.

Malar said...

Thanks for your post! In helps me to understand more of the situation!

petunialee said...

Malar - Heh! I dunno if my story really helps. Maybe your son has different reasons for not liking school? If you can figure out his reason, the solution may be easier.

Malar said...

Past 3 days i explain to him that he need to go kindergarten. Grandma will sent him and go back home. She will come and pick him up once the bell ring...etc.... Today he never cry! hahahhahaa....
You're so right that kids scared of being abandon!

petunialee said...

If he has done that, and every other baby was crying, then Grandma and you could try to praise him saying "Wow! Our baby is so SPECIAL. He didn't cry at all! Anyone would want to KEEP a baby like that! We will DEFINITELY make sure we ALWAYS go back and get back our SPECIAL baby no matter WHERE he goes."

Lay on the flattery...

Malar said...

Another good idea!
Today he cried a little but not like last time. Your idea really works! I was really worried seeing him crying terribly past few days before......

poiemakoinonia said...

I think sometimes it depends on a variety of factors:
1) age of child and duration of class
2) personality of child

Today I celebrate the first day my kid didn't cry a tear after starting school on 4 Feb this yr!

Before this year, she'd cry until she found us whenever we separated for any class. From 4 Feb, she'd cry 5-10 mins after separation and settle down happily for the rest of the 3.5 hrs.

She's almost 2.5 yrs, so I think the crying was initially from guttural instinct, then habit, then finally she figured she really didn't have any reason to cry anymore cos she was so familiar with the venue and teachers.

I know a kid whose always been fearlessly independent who didn't shed a tear from day 1. Another kid who cried for all 4 hours, and another who cried at least 15 mins every day for a year! that's why parenting is so challenging!

- toddles

petunialee said...

Hello Toddles!!

Sharon said...

hihi,
just came across your blog..its really helpful! thanks :)

Sharon said...

try sending my boy to childcare last week at 2yrs old, accompanied him throughout for the first 2 days and he had high fever on the 2nd night. I have not even left him alone in childcare and he has not been back since cos we are withdrawing him

he used to be a happy n confident baby
after 2 days there, he has become a whiny and crying baby and needs to be carried all the time! he is like a koala bear after those 2 days and hence we decide to withdraw

im wondering if it is because he is not ready?

petunialee said...

Sharon - I thought my son was weird because he droppped outta 2 preschools in USA and 2 in Singapore. In the end, I enrolled him in school for the very first time in K1. It was only 2 hours in the morning. Most parents think that the earlier kids go to school, the more they learn. That is not true. There is a period of time when kids are better off following Momma around. Mine was like a puppy for the first 4 years of his life and in the recent exams he was ranked 16th in the level. Sometimes, it is better to keep them home and teach them other things that aren't academic in nature?