Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “preschool”

“All the World’s a Stage” (and my kids will probably try to set it on fire)

I refer sometimes to my older son as The Destroyer of Worlds.  Before having children, I had no idea how quickly a home could start to resemble something out of a documentary about Sarajevo.

The baby is now joining in.  His big brother is teaching him about how fun it is to throw all of the couch cushions on the floor and climb Mount Ultrasuede.  There are a few things I’d hoped my elder son would teach his sibling.  How to turn the living room into the set of Saving Private Ryan was not on that list.

Is this the living room? Has anyone seen the remote? Or my shoes? Or the dog?
(Special thanks to http://www.cinemotions.com for the image from “Saving Private Ryan.”)

Years ago, I listened to my husband recap stories about how, when he was a boy, his friend and he would put bottle rockets into PVC pipe, hoist the pipe onto their shoulders and launch explosives out one end.  At each other.

I used to think it was all very funny.

I am not laughing anymore.

And, recently, my mother asked me what my plans were for the kids for the summer.  Would we be sending the preschooler to theater camp?  Would the boys try gymnastics classes?  Might the baby like “Mommy and Me Yoga”?  Anyone up for summer classes at the local community center?

No.  No, indeed, I’d not be releasing my two tornadoes upon unsuspecting Art Camp counselors or Nature Walk leaders.

We have the most amazing nanny.  Truly, we adore her.  She’s been a fabulous addition to our family.  But, even she looked like my children (who she loves) were going to send her to the nearest clock tower where she’d happily put herself out of the misery caused by my little monsters by hurling herself to her own welcome demise on the pavement below the other day.  I have no illusions about my kids being easily handled by untrained 18-year olds working at YMCA swim camp for summer break.

My boys are beautiful, loving, sweet, fiercely independent, smart, creative and athletic.  I didn’t know it was possible to love anyone or anything this much.

All of those amazing qualities have their dark sides, though.

Beautiful children sometimes know that their cuteness gets them stuff.  Loving children can learn that withholding their love can be a great manipulation tool.  Sweet children don’t always understand why Mommy isn’t sweet to them all the time; they don’t always understand why Mommy has rules such as “Don’t run in the street even though it might seem so fun” that make her seem so mean.  Fiercely independent children may be born leaders who will not be victims of peer pressure, but they also don’t really listen to their parents, either.  Smart kids can learn more than how to read at age 3:  they can learn how to push your buttons, too.    Creative kids can believe that your walls are the perfect canvas for their work.  Athletic kids will be fit, active and happy…and hard to catch.

So, indeed, raising my little men is an enormous job.  I have tons of help and I have no idea how so many women do it (and do it so well) alone.  But, for now, I will keep the Gymboree teachers, private piano lesson instructors and t-ball camp counselors out of my karass.  They ain’t ready for what my boys bring to the table.

Maybe next year…

 

Off Duty Mom, On Duty Complainer

Let’s talk (and by “talk,” I mean “complain”) about education.

So, I’d like to outline my list of complaints about preschool, specifically.  And, no, I do not plan to wait for Superman here and get all judgmental about our country’s teachers and the state of educational efficiency nationwide.  I do not plan to spew hatred for the millions of men and women who’ve devoted their lives to helping to raise our nation’s youth.  I do not plan to pretend to know ANYTHING, really, about the inner workings of early childhood education and therefore I do not plan to pretend as though I know EVERYTHING about it by suggesting that things like merit pay, standardized tests, de-unionization or de-tenurization might “fix” the “broken” educational system in the United States.  I do not plan to turn this into a bitchfest about how cruddy our schools are and about how we “deserve” better for our kids.

Instead, I just want to crab about my experiences with choosing a decent preschool option for my kid.  I shall offer no advice, solutions or thoughtful ideas here.  Only whines.  You can decide to stop reading now if whining ain’t yo thing.

First, I’d like to moan about how many public school systems have opted not to offer preschool at all.  I live in a nice neighborhood with a nice school system.  It’s one of the reasons why my husband and I selected the place.  But, they start with Kindergarten, not Pre-K.  So, I had to set out to find another option for my little guy.

Second, I’d like to complain about how I didn’t realize that I’d have to start the process of finding this preschool program so damn early.  I began my search when my older son was 2 1/2 years old.  It was January and I was searching for a viable option for him for the following September.  He is now nearly 4 and I’ve STILL not heard from one location where we had been waitlisted well over a year ago.  We were also waitlisted from our #1 choice, a Montessori school very near to our house (which, by a stroke of luck, our son got into only because someone moved away).  The little guy did, however, get into a private school that required a $500 non-refundable deposit (which we paid and which, incidentally, was INDEED not refundable…).

That private school was a fabulous place and our son would have done well there.  And, it would have cost about as much as my freshman year of college cost my parents.

This is not, interestingly enough, the reason why we opted not to send our child there.  The convenient location of the Montessori program was the deciding factor, but nevertheless, what preschool can cost is pretty crazy.

The school system for which I work offers a tuition-based preschool option for those of us who work for the district but live outside of it.  The program costs $700 per month.  And, it runs only 6 hours per day.  Of course, I work more than 6 hours each day, so that $700 cost is just the beginning as I would have to find childcare and transportation for my child, too.

So, the nanny costs me $15 each hour regardless of whether one or both of my children is home.  She will gladly take my older son to and from school, but by the time all of this is said and done, at $15/hr. for 10 hours per day (8.5 hour work day plus commute — assuming I NEVER have to go in early or stay late…) that is $750 each week for childcare, or $3000 each month or $36000 each year just for someone to look after my children (not that that is an easy job; but that just only begins to cover all of my family’s needs).  Then, with the cost of tuition-based school at my public institution, that takes me to almost $43000 for one year of my child’s education and care together.  That, too, is more than my private college education cost for one year when I attended back in the dark ages in the 1990’s.

Now, tell me, is this a standards-based curricular component or is it competency- or task-based?

I did not ever consider sending my son to a daycare center that offers “preschool,” because (and I imagine I will get angry comments about this — bring it) I do not consider this to be real school.  I have visited many of these locations and have asked to see a curriculum.  I have yet to visit a daycare center that was able to produce a curriculum of any type, or even really explain to me exactly what benchmarks they intend to help kids reach.  The closest I got was at one place where they told me that kids will sing and learn numbers and letters.  Great.  At 2 1/2 my kid could already count to 20 and sing his A-B-Cs, so that wasn’t really fucking helpful.

Homeschooling is absolutely not an option, either.  First of all, my husband and I both work, so it might be a little hard to fit that in to either of our schedules.  Second (and I may get angry comments about this one, too…), I personally think that homeschooling is bullshit.  I spent about 12 years teaching high school literature.  I was really good at it.  This does not in any way make me an expert on Science, Technology, Mathematics, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Physical Education, or any of the other subjects I would want my child to have the chance to learn such as Digital Photography, Music, Painting, Industrial Arts, Sewing, Graphic Design or Health.  Yes, yes, yes – there are lots of resources out there to assist people with homeschooling and kids can even attend field trips, participate in local schools’ sports and communicate with other homeschool students through technology.  Whatev.  I believe in traditional education.  There is a reason why I spent 8 years earning multiple degrees and certifications to work effectively with young people.  It all made me QUALIFIED to teach.

Squeezing a human out of your vagina doesn’t a teacher make.

I know NOTHING about how to teach someone to read or play nicely or understand the water cycle.  So, I will leave that up to the experts.  When my kids are ready to talk about William Shakespeare, Richard Wright, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Orwell and Sylvia Plath, I’m all over that.  Until then, I want to be a homeschool teacher about as much as I want to be (or think it’s a good idea to be) a home-doctor or home-dentist for my kids.

And, now I am back to the beginning.  Preschool is expensive and hard to find.  There are more kids on this planet than schools to fit them.  We do not value early childhood education nearly enough in our society.  And, most frustratingly, at THREE YEARS OLD, my child’s schedule is already causing stress.

So, there you go.  Ranty rant rant.

Got something to add?  Feel free to comment here.  I love hearing what you have to say (unless you disagree or want to call me names, in which case I don’t give a shit about you).

…Or Get Off the Pot

How hard can it be to potty train a three-year old?

If you have to ask, you probably don’t really want to know.  

Yeah... This "potty" stuff doesn't always go as planned, I guess.

DAY 1 — After reading some parenting magazine article about how to potty train a kid in one weekend, I decide to employ the potty training technique where you introduce the potty and then usher the kid to it every 15 minutes without fail.  This is even more gruelling than I thought it would be and I get far less accomplished than I imagined in my wildest dreams.  The 15-minute interval regimen doesn’t even last until lunchtime before it slowly goes to every 20 minutes, then 30.  But, all in all we’re fairly successful and pottying and pleasing Mommy seem to be good motivators.

DAY 5 — Making Mommy happy?  Who gives a shit?  Not my preschooler.  So, we hang a reward poster in the hall and my little guy gets to put a sticker on it every time he successfully gets something – anything – in that potty instead of his pull-up.  Thomas stickers work better than Elmo.  And, Toy Story stickers seem to work best of all.  Whatever.

DAY 10 — If Mommy remembers every hour or two to tell her son to use the potty, he generally will.  But, he will NOT alert her to his need to use said potty.  Fine.  I can hang in there.  How long could this process take?

DAY 14 — After reading another theory about potty training, we decide to repeat a hundred million times each day “Pee goes in the potty,” or “poop goes in the potty.”  We hear that these statements are the only ones you need and the only ones that matter.  Bullshit.

DAY 23 — I read another philosophy of potty training for boys that informs me that they will use a potty “when they are each individually ready.”  I am not to pressure a youngster who is not developmentally prepared for this adult endeavor.  So, I feel like an ass for all the yelling I have been doing when pee and poop have ended up in anywhere but in the toilet.  Clearly, I am the worst mom in America for pushing my three-year old to aim for Froot Loops in the family commode.

DAY 32 — Seriously?  32 days now?  He’ll be wearing diapers at his wedding.  Do I even bother to buy more pull-ups or should I just give up and put diapers on him again?  Ugh.

DAY 36 — We haul out the Toy Story and Thomas-themed big-boy undies.  The hope is that he wouldn’t dare crap all over Buzz Lightyear.  That hope is soon lost.  So is the hope of rearranging my living room couch again.  It…um…should really stay right where it is on top of that carpet.

DAY 65 — We set out for family vacation to the beach.  The new plan coincides with yet another theory published by another genius pediatrician.  Let him be naked.  He won’t just pee all over himself.  Oh yeah? 

DAY 66 — Okay.  So, we decide not to put a pull-up or swim diaper under the swim trunks on vacation.  Pull-ups only at night.  For the most part, this works nicely, but we still have to be vigilant about telling him to use the bathroom.  At least he will hold it until we tell him to go.  But, in all this time he has not once told us that he had to go.

DAY 74 — While running around in his swim trunks, little guy says, “Mommy, I have to poop!”  Victory!  We rush to a toilet and he uses it properly, quickly and efficiently.  We’ve done it!!

DAY 99 — Yeah… It’s day 99.  We most certainly have NOT “done it.”  We’re on our 477,000th package of pull-ups, I am sure. 

Fuck you, mom-whose-kid-that-is-who-pooped-where-you-wanted-him-to.

DAY 100 — On the 12-hour ride home from the beach, the little man refuses to use the potty all day.  We find him at the end of the evening, sitting happily on a completely soaked car booster, watching a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DVD in the car.  He is drenched from the waist down.  He literally drips when we take him our of the car.  Thank God for leather seats.

DAY 102 — Little guy starts preschool.  Surely the positive peer pressure from other trained kids will make him want to use the potty more regularly himself.  Right?

DAY 109 — Little guy stinks to high heaven when I pick him up from preschool.  The kids still PLAYED with you while you stunk like that?

DAY 114 — I start giving prizes (bribes) for successful pottying and dry/clean pull-ups and I start taking away privileges when the little guy sneaks off to another room to crouch down and poop in his pants.  One conversation goes like this:  “Do you want to play with your fire truck?”  “Yes!!!”  “Okay, then no pooping in your pants.  Do you understand?”  “Understand.”  “Okay.  Good.”  “Mommy?  I pooped.”  “Okay, so you don’t want to play with your fire truck, then?”  “Noooooooo!!! I dooo!!!  I dooo want to play with my fire truuuuuck!!!  I doooooooooooooo!  Aghhhhhh!!!”  “Well, I said that you could play with your fire truck only if you don’t poop in your pants.”  “Aghhhhh!!! Noooo!!!  I dooooooooo!!!  Gimme that!!!  Give it to me right noooooww!!!”  “Well, we can try again tomorrow.  If you stay clean and dry, you can play with it tomorrow.”  You can imagine that this went on for some time.  And, on Day 115, he did not manage to stay clean or dry.  At one point, he peed so much, he soaked through his pull-up and pants, it dripped into his shoes and created a puddle on my hardwood floor.

DAY 129 — This all has spun widly out of control and has become a real power struggle.  As he seeks autonomy, his control of his body is really the only thing in his little world he can much control anymore at all.  So, he flatly refuses now to use the potty.  In fact, “Please go potty and wash your hands” is now typicaly the catalyst for little guy throwing himself on the floor violently, thrashing, screaming and crying.  Advice from other parents has led me to believe that ignoring a tantrum is the best methodology.  But, those parents never met my kid. I think he’s better at it than their kids.

DAY 159 — Consult with little guy’s preschool teacher: a 26-year education veteran who owns her own Montessori preschool that has churned out some of the brightest scholars in our town.  She assures us that his behavior is NOT abnormal, that he’s just testing his boundaries and that no kid goes to high school in diapers unless he has a developmental or medical problem.  So we are to chill the fuck out.

DAY 177 — It is hard to stay chill when I have now cleaned crap out of someone else’s crack for three and a half years now.  And, I have another infant in the house now, so I have two in diapers, essentially, though I specifically waited three years between their births to avoid this very thing.  Awesome.

DAY 185 — I give little guy a new toy for staying dry all night.  He is so excited.  Ten minutes later, he throws it on the floor and screams that he doesn’t want it.  He wants Skarloey, a new train.  Tough break, kid.

DAY 198 — 8:00 AM:  little guy tells dad he has to poop, then uses the potty all on his own to take aforementioned poop.  9:15AM:  little guy pees in his pull-up.  7:30PM:  little guy hides under the dining room table and poops in his pants.  His play date, a sweet little girl (potty trained at age 2) lets me know he “is playing hide-n-seek.  I found him.  He’s under the table.  He pooped.”

DAY 204 — Another article in some other magazine suggests that I should help my little man to recognize when he needs to use the toilet.  Lady, he RECOGNIZES it just fine.  I swear he just wants to piss me off.  You got advice for that? 

DAY 205 — The smell of feces is now permanently lodged in my sinuses.  I will never be poo free.

DAY 210 — That’s today.  You thought this was going to have a happy ending, didn’t you?  You thought I was going to tell you what finally worked and I was going to get to tell you about how all of this was worth it and it has been a long journey, but that I am proud of my son and I am so happy to have been a part of helping him get closer to manhood and closer to the independence he so desperately seeks himself.  Well, you must be new to this blog.  My kid just told me, “I pooped ’cause I was being a bad boy.  Now, come change me.”  Hmmm…  

Three-year olds. Yikes.

Now, if you aren’t a mom, or if you don’t already know, my kid isn’t an indignant little jerkface.  THREE IS JUST THE WORST AGE IMAGINAGBLE.  I used to look at friends’ kids and think “God, why is he such a little shit?”  Now I know.  THEY ALL ARE.  Don’t believe the “terrible twos” hype.  If you’ve never raised a child through three-dom, you simply can’t understand  One day, perhaps the Off Duty Mom blog will change from being a rant-filled, angsty bitchfest and be a rosy dialogue about how beautiful children are.  When they’re 34.

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