Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We Quit.

On our way home from our medical and free ice adventures this afternoon, we mentioned to Peeper that it was about time to get ready for dance class, and she freaked out on us again.

She LOVES dance class, but suddenly, she'd refusing to go.

The only times she's had a problem were very early on, when she was barely awake from her car nap, and the class had already gone in without her. Both times, I handed her to the teacher, whimpering, and she sat with her for just a couple of minutes, then said, "I'm awake now. I'm ready to dance," and was fine.

Until last week, when she flipped out, wailed in the waiting room, and had to be brought out to me after about fifteen minutes. And today, when she told us, repeatedly, that she didn't want to go.

We told her that we would skip dance today (I was just as glad to not have to go, to be honest, because I'm feeling yucky.) and when we got home, Shrike and I had a talk about it.

I think it's pretty obvious that the sudden aversion to dance class is not about dance, it's about Mother's Day Out, and the fact that she was sad and missed us while she was there, so she doesn't want to go to dance, because she expects to be sad there, too. (Although she never has been.)

After a bit of discussion, we decided that there's no sense in continuing to stress us all out by making her go to MDO if she's not enjoying it, and she's not ready for it.

If we did keep pushing her, would she get okay with it after a few weeks? Maybe, but how many weeks would it take, out of the dozen or so that are left before summer break? Would she be miserable twice as many times as she's happy? And which would she remember when it's time to start back in the fall?

And what is the point in pushing it right now?

There's no real reason for her to be doing this right now. It was sort of a whim that got us thinking about it, and to be honest, it was mostly for us, to get a consistent Peeper-free day, for Dr T appointments or lunch dates.

Yes, we would love to have that us-time, but one of the main reasons that we were really feeling the lack of it is because Shrike's parents have been pretty much unavailable for babysitting since around Christmas, when her Grandma got really sick, because they've been helping to take care of her full time.

Of course, that's changed now.

They watched Peeper for a while yesterday, and said that they'd like to set up a regular day or two each week for her to come visit, so maybe we'll find ourselves with that us-time, after all.

Looking back on it, we see that, at the very least, we screwed up when we started her off with a four-hour day. We should have done no more than a couple of hours to start, and worked up from there. I had hoped that it would help to back off to two hours, but she's so hung up on "I missed you!" from the first day, I think it would take quite a while to get past it and get her happy with it.

I was feeling very ambivalent about it - on the one hand, I just wanted to grab her and run away last week, instead of leaving her there, but on the other hand, I know that we can't always just let her say "I don't wanna."

Shrike, on the other hand, was not ambivalent at all. Truth be told, if she'd been there for the drop-off last week, we never would have gotten out of the car. Hell, we might never have gotten in the car.

Even after we asked Peeper if she wanted to just stop for now, and maybe try again after summer time (she said yes, as you can imagine), I was fretting about whether or not we were making the right decision, but I think Shrike has convinced me that we are.

She pointed out that this is something that wasn't even on our radar until she brought it up a few months ago, in terms of a weekly childcare solution, and that it's not something that we've been planning to do or felt like she really "needed" to do.

(Actually, until we started talking about this in December, we weren't even really planning to send her to preschool in the fall, and not sure about the next year.)

She also said that if there's harm to be done by either decision, there's a lot more harm to be done by forcing her to do something she's not ready for, than by just backing off and waiting a little while.

She also reminded me that "There are people who would think that breastfeeding a three year old is crazy, but we don't listen to them, do we?" and that "everything about the way we've parented her" has been about following her lead, and letting her let us know when she's ready for things, and it's worked out pretty well for us so far.

This is true.

The summer that she was a baby, we tried a couple of times to leave her with Shrike's parents while we went to see Dr T, and she cried the whole time, until she fell asleep. Once might have been a fluke, but when it happened twice in a row, we knew she wasn't ready for that, and we didn't leave her again until she was almost fourteen months old. (I did leave her with Shrike a few times for a short while, but not for a couple of months.)

When we left her again (to buy a Christmas tree), she cried on drop-off and got happy pretty quickly. That happened the next few times, and now she barely even stops long enough to tell us good-bye as she heads upstairs to play.

She just was not ready the first time we tried, and later she was.

There are probably plenty of people who'd say that it was crazy to have a three year old in our bed (or even in diapers) but when she decided, right after her birthday, to move into her own bed and to ditch the dipes full-time, it went more smoothly than we could have imagined - because she was ready.

I'm still not certain that this is the right choice, because maybe she'd get used to it soon and love it, but as Shrike pointed out, what is the worst that will happen if we quit and try again later? She thinks she can always just cry and quit and will be a big wuss who will never, ever be willing to be away from us.

And the worst that will happen by continuing to make her go? She never gets okay with it, is sad for several hours a week, feels like we've abandoned her, and learns that school is a place where she's unhappy.

Which is more likely to actually happen? And which is worse?

She's three years old. As the website I referenced the other day puts it, repeatedly, "that's really, really little.

She's got all the time in the world to get used to being away from us, and to go out on her own adventures.

For now, we're going to concentrate on getting her back into dance class, for starters. I really hate that this school thing is negatively affecting what has, up until now, been a great experience for her.

I talked to her dance teacher (who is the owner of the studio) this evening, and explained that "She loves dance class!" to which the teacher said, "I know!" because she sees her in there every week, and it's obvious that she's loving it.

I told her that I was certain that it was about MDO, not about dance, and she said she totally understood, and to take whatever time she needs to "adjust to the new situation" (this was before we decided to quit MDO) and "let me know if there's anything I can do to help," and "tell her that I will miss her tonight, and I really hope she comes back next week."

I think I will give her a call back and let her know the revised plan, and ask if it would be okay if I went in with Peeper next week, if she's hesitant about going. I'm sure she'd be willing to go if she didn't have to leave me, and maybe that would give her a chance to remember how much fun it is, so she'd be willing to go in by herself the following week.

When dance is over for the year, we are going to try to put her in some other without-Mama-but-I'm-right-there activities during the summer. We're thinking about the "Sporties for Shorties" (basketball, soccer, tee ball) class at the rec center, with the same teachers she had for gym class, and swimming lessons, if she's physically able to keep herself upright with the float pack and has the attention span to hang on the side of the pool and wait her turn.

Maybe - maybe - we'll think about a few-day, couple of hours "camp" toward the end of summer, but we'll have to think long and hard about it.

In the meantime, unfortunately, all the preschools are filling up, so we need to make some sort of at least tentative decision about fall pretty much now.

We are leaning toward looking at some of the other local programs, and maybe going with a different one - if we decide to do it at all - because they are all more like two or three hours, and there wouldn't be the "I hated this place last time" stigma that I'm afraid she might have if we went back to the same one.

We need to do some visiting in the next week or so, and at least put down a deposit somewhere to hold a spot, even if we might change our minds before September rolls around.

For now though, we're just going to take it easy, and tomorrow, she's going to be going to art class with Mommy, and she's thrilled with that idea.


  1. I've been reading for at least two years, and I adore your blog, but I haven't commented until now. I wanted to commend you guys for making this decision. I'm 29 now, but I have vivid memories of being 3 years old and in a similar situation to Peeper--I was the only child of a stay-at-home-mom, and suddenly, I was at pre-school, and I was miserable. I missed her, I was scared, my life was upside-down, etc. She made me push through, I think worried that I would never go back if I stopped. I don't hold it against her, but I don't think it was the best, most beneficial decision at the time. It takes a lot of chuzpah to go against the grain, but I'm glad you guys did. Thank you for advocating for Peeper. And she seems to happy and well-adjusted and involved, so I'm sure she will do just fine.

    P.S. As a gay lady in a relationship with another gay lady who wants a kid (I'm not sure I do!), I really, really appreciate your blog in general for a realistic view of parenting and building a family in the way I would.

  2. We have a nursery-kindergarten program at my church, and recently there was a little boy enrolled who cried loudly, every day, much worse than Peeper. He was just a mess. The mom debated pulling him out, but needed to work, so he stayed. That was last spring. When fall came, she re-enrolled him, and lo and behold, he loves it. No more crying, he's very happy. And the mom (and teachers) are very relieved. Just being a bit older is probably what has made the difference. Remember that September is six months away, and by then Peeper may be way more ready to try another program. I do agree with not putting her back in the same program, even though I'm sure it was all good and she probably had fun, when she wasn't crying.


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