Today we took a big step. We visited a preschool. We had been talking about it with him for awhile, so it wasn't a surprise. For the past three years, since he was 10 months old, he's been going to a small family daycare just across the street from where I work in Lewiston. He's the oldest of three other boys who have also been going since they were just wee tots. Long ago, it stopped being a daycare and instead became an environment where he learned to be curious, respect his friends and their belongings, learn to share and so much more. Not to mention, the loving, devoted attention paid by not only the provider, but her entire family. I never felt like I was dropping him off just to be watched after...his endless supply of arts and crafts, stories of play and music, and physical activity tell otherwise. So when he turned three, and Ms. H started a preschool curriculum with him and the others, we saw no need to yank him from his pals and the routine we all were used to.
As we approach four, however, the time is nearing for him to be in an environment that challenges him more---and by that I mean navigating the social world of several other children, structure and rules. We want him to be in a place with kids who he'll likely go to kindergarten with, and a place where both T and I can be responsible for pick up and drop off. Believe me, I would never move him from Ms. H's if I could help it. But it's another phase we're upon and it has to happen.
So this morning, we arrived at 9 am, and started with a tour. We got the lay of the land, saw the other kids arrive and start their day, the play, and got a general sense of what each day would be like. Garrett was curious, and interested...at first.
Slowly he made his way into a room where there was some free play going on and he methodically started to work on getting a train track put together. The others looked at him curiously and the teachers were very inclusive.
Then it was time for the group activity---tumbling. He joined the line and was led to a giant room where they would have an exercise unit and at first, he was great. He sat in the circle, followed the directions and every once and awhile looked over at us to make sure we were watching, a grin on his face. The moment the group activity started, he made a beeline to us and was rooted in place. He wanted no part of it. We could see the fear on his face. His eyes were glassy and he looked ready to burst. The only thing I could think of was, having two introverts for parents is NOT going to help him in situations like this. Yet, he's a contradiction. At the grocery store or Target, he has no problem chatting up the cashiers, asking for stickers, introducing his pooh bear etc. But this is different.
Eventually, we left and the moment he was settled in the car, the floodgates opened, he burst into tears and said "I don't wanna leave Ms. H's...I don't like the school!" Sigh. I sat in silence, driving toward the library, our next stop...wondering where I went wrong. Should I have made this transition sooner? Will yanking him from all he knows and his daily comforts traumatize him?
The rest of the day passed...library, Target, and Panera for lunch, just the two of us. At lunch, I asked him if he was ok. He assured me in his own little way that he was. We talked briefly about the morning, but he quickly would deflect the conversation.
Tonight we did Facetime with Grammie and Grampie. What a different tune he sung. I had warned them earlier how the day had gone, and so we had all been curious how he'd relay the info. He claimed to like it, liked playing, etc. So we shall see.
The change IS coming, sweet boy. It's yet another milestone we must face and prepares us for an even bigger one little more than a year from now, when you get ready for the big K. (heart palpitations happening!)
Embrace it, and know that we are with you every step of the way...