Preschool Good For My Child? I'm Not Convinced

30/06/2017 16:07

So the boy has been starkers since approximately 6.30pm last night. He didn't fancy putting on his pyjamas, wasn't pushed when it came to getting dressed this morning and is now happily enjoying a post-lunch nap, au natural.

In fairness, it's been business as usual with him. Meal-time eagerness was not effected. The usual (incessant) toddler chatter has flowed, unmodified. He is getting on with his daily jumping, running and zooming around, unabashed. He thought it prudent to put on his wellies when venturing out at various times to feed the hens, visit the compost heap and unleash the hound - even acknowledged it was a tad chilly. But, obviously, not enough to warrant... oh I don't know... underpants?

We weren't particularly planning on going anywhere today (I generally use the word 'plan' extremely loosely in any case when it comes to our day-to-day muddling through life) and we live in the middle of nowhere, so not many drop-in visitors - it's not a big deal. Frankly, it's not even a small deal, because my parenting philosophy basically follows along the lines of 'Leave them off, they'll be grand.' It involves a lot of unstructured being within a structured day of sleeping and eating. At least, that's what I'm working on, because just 'being' isn't as simple as it sounds.

I'm three years into this parenting malarky now and really only starting to find my feet within what is a constant hurtling of behaviour, advancements and set-backs. It's a zany ride - and that's why I'm hooked. When you're at home you can take things slower, the pace is gentler and it's dictated by the child - if you allow it to be. Because you do have to allow it - you have to give in and go with the flow. When I manage it the benefits are enormous.

There's not really any rush, little pressure, no real must-dos. There's time and space and play and wandering and meandering and seeing and hearing and listening and living. Depending on the mood of the day we might get up and go out or stay chilled and watch cartoons - we may wander to Aldi, might get out to the swings or a picnic, perhaps visit Nana & Gaga. Some Fridays the market calls, sometimes we might make it to playgroup. But overall, and in so far as we all can, I follow the small ones' pace - and that's a slow, deliberate one. One which allows them to unfold.

Of course, the real world despises anyone going at a snail's pace. 'Get off the road!!'. After my first baby my public health nurse was interested in two things - the health of the baby and my getting out for coffee (obviously the Health Service's most reliable not-suffering-from-post-natal-depression-indicator). In reality, I didn't want to be getting out with a tiny newborn in tow - I wanted a quiet cuppa, when I could manage it, at home with my baby. At 36 I'd had a million coffees - I was onto better things, for now and the coffee outings would return. With two free preschool years now available to all Irish children, the pressure to move outward from the home remains. And this is not solely an Irish phenomenon.

My unclothed cherub can, if we like, avail of his first free preschool year from September, a fact which has me torn in pieces. 50% of the time I am relatively comfortable with the thought of sending him to the local (I've heard and seen) excellent pre-school for two three-hour sessions per week. Most of my peers avail of the system and they praise how their child has 'come on' (how vague is that?) and how its been great for 'socialisation'. I'm buying none of it. Children 'come on' in preschools (no longer called playschools) as they begin to learn the skills we have been trained to identify as advancements, such as standing, quietly in a line, painting and singing songs. Tick the box - my child is well-rounded. As human beings, like it or not, they'll be socialising for the rest of their (hopefully) long lives - there is no rush. I feel it's all a cod, but when things become the 'norm', as attending preschool from three has become, it's very hard to buck the establishing trend. I'm not sure I'm that gutsy.

The only remarks from friends that I go by are the ones that go along the lines of 'he really enjoys it'. Really, I only want my little man to go if it's something that makes him happy and so that's why I have his name down, while I continue to mull it over.

Maybe he'll surprise me and absolutely adore every second of it and within the first week I'll have him signed up for five mornings. If he does, I will truly rejoice...

...while perhaps also slightly, inwardly weeping for the loss of days like today, where I sat across from my real-life cupid, wearing only his halo to lunch.

To see other articles by this writer, check out www.iamlauriem.com

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