To Preschool or Not To?

After enough contemplation and deliberation, my husband and I decided to put our daughter in the play school. We debated endlessly hearing each other’s sides of argument, quoting researches which suited our perspectives. Finally we concluded that we are in it together. Until the school started.

The first two days were good because I accompanied her. I thought I would just be the fly on the wall. But it turned out to be an experience for myself. With 17 mothers, 3 fathers, 2 teachers and 20 two-something-year-olds, we were cramped in a room and were supposed to have fun. They told us to shake our bodies and wiggle our fingers to the tune of ‘boogie-boogie’. I couldn’t but steal a glance at the awkwardly standing fathers who seemed to be just filling up for the mommies. They stood there sheepishly looking at the teacher doing actions. The bubblier the teachers got, kids reciprocated with equal voice modulated howling.

Third day we were to leave the kids at the gate, just like you put vegetables in the basket. You drop them and walk away. “Don’t you look back, don’t make it difficult for her”, told my dear friend who has been sending her son since last year, who cried for three straight months.

My daughter has never stayed away from me and I have always been around. I mean physically majority of times within a radius of 40 feet. I am part of her landscape like a fixed furniture. I haven’t gone shopping, traveling, movie watching, dining without her, the plan has always been with her or without both of us.

So here I am marching up and down the entrance, feeling equally abandoned. She didn’t know what to expect, neither did I. She doesn’t even know how to be alone. What if she wants to go to the bathroom, at this thought I felt a sudden urge myself. Few mothers stood outside sobbing, some left the premises so they don’t live this moment. I couldn’t but question the whole institution. Why do you need a pre-school? Why can’t there be a better way of doing this? Haven’t they heard of gradual settlement? I began to march faster. I was twiddling the ends of my Kameez. My heart was pounding as I heard the kids howling in the choir with all the octaves placed in complete disarray. To add to the sopranos were the teachers who were determined to complete all the rain related rhymes before they set them free.

There weren’t pre-schools in my time. Kids directly entered the schools at 3.5 yrs. In our father’s time I guess they entered school at 5 or 6 yrs. I can’t make my mind if this is progression or regression. These days you will find mother toddler classes that start at 9 months, soon there will be something at 6 months. Guess the business idea is catch them young. Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby merchandise reorient the natural discourse of our attitudes of parenting.

Two hours passed and I can feel the heaviness in my head. As I stepped inside the gate, the watchman asks, “Madam, did you bring your ID?”.

“No” said I, waiting for his reaction.

“Madam, you should get your ID if you want to pick up your kid.” he blurted and I couldn’t believe that.

I thought of giving him my fist, but decided against. Instead asked him, “Did you ask for the ID when I came to drop her? Didn’t you see me waddling here for the past two hours? And didn’t I allow you to go take a chai break, while I guarded your gate?”

“No problem Madam, just bring it tomorrow.” His eyes looking somewhere else.

My daughter was the first of the nursery kids to come out. Got rid of her at the earliest possible chance I guess. I was devastated looking at her, my heart sank to the bottom. She was tired of crying and gasping for breath. Like her the whole league of howlers came out one by one. Their anxious parents waiting with open arms, seemed a little deceptive to me though, me inclusive.

As I began receding from the gate, I could not but wonder who these parents were? Equally traumatized and juggling with the work/life balance. Carrying big huge laptop bags, adorned in formal attire, buzzing in and out of the cars like a perfect clockwork. Like drones they hovered around at the gates at the right times. As I was looking at them I felt that they themselves needed a rehab. What is there motivation? What is it that they want for their kids? Admission in elite schools for their children? Polished and anglicized tiny ones? Or is this just a glorified day care for children, while they are at work?

I decided I will give it a month before surrendering. The next day I am completely lost to understand her reaction. She leapt into the arms of the teacher crying and saying that she wants to go to her class. Finish it off, get over with it, just do what you got to do kind of feeling I guess. I told her I am waiting outside and she had the “yeah right” look in her eyes.

Today is the end of the third week and things aren’t improving from here. I scour the internet to figure out if this trauma is going to be damaging. Dr. Bruce Perry’s research at Baylor University says that chronic stress over-stimulates an infant’s brain stem, which pumps out excess adrenaline. The portions of the brain that thrive on physical and emotional input if are neglected (such as when a baby is repeatedly left to cry alone), the child will grow up with an over-active adrenaline system.

What was I thinking?

Researchers at Yale University and Harvard Medical School found that intense stress early in life can alter the brain’s neurotransmitter systems and cause structural and functional changes in regions of the brain similar to those seen in adults with depression.

So, are the neural networks in her brain not going to connect properly? I am beginning to worry, cause she has become very restless and fidgety. She would not leave me alone, I have to also negotiate a pee break with her.

After a lot of lost sleep and residual droopy eyes. I don’t know what I am going to do. I have decided to wait it out for a month. Just hope my neural networks won’t go haywire in the meantime. Fingers crossed!

8 thoughts on “To Preschool or Not To?

  1. Like you, I also had similar apprehensions when my son was to go to play school at the age of 1.5 yrs. His whole vocabulary was “Mama’ & “Da’. How was he going to communicate with his teachers if he required something or was in discomfort? Anyways, he did and the remaining as they say….

    At the end of the his curriculum year one thing that came out of all this is that he is potty-trained.
    Is it worth the money I spent and the anxiety that Jaden went through?

    I fail to understand the eagerness of parents or atleast one parent to have their child run the rat race which he/she would then be running throughout their life’s.

    1. Am with you Cyrus. I completely empathize. Its we the parents who make things horrible for them. Its our expectations. I have already entered the reassessment mode. Will keep you posted.


  2. हमारे देश में लोगों को पश्चिम की नक़ल करने की ऐसी आदत है कि हम हमारी भाषा-संस्कृति-जीवन शैली को छोड़ कर सब कुछ उनका अपना लेने को आतुर हैं जैसे भारत की हर बात बेकार है, भाषा कोई काम की नहीं, संस्कार दकियानूसी विचार हैं और जीवनशैली तो आदिम ज़माने की निशानी. हमको सबकुछ विदेशी चाहिए. प्री-स्कूल भी उसी का एक भयावह उदाहरण है. पाँच से कम की उम्र में बच्चों को स्कूल भेजना उनको सजा देने से कम नहीं है.

  3. Apparently i refused to go to pre-school 😛
    I haven’t read the science articles, and don’t want to really wade through the statistical sophistry.
    But overall, i’ll just use Taleb’s heuristic here.. The new has to prove itself, and i don’t think schooling as early as 3 has proven anything.
    So pre-school sme-school… I’m homeschooling my kid* atleast till 10 😛

    * — Not that I have a kid, just hypothetical case 🙂

  4. Continuing on the Taleb’s principle, I would say, given pre-school is a phenomenon over the last 50(?) years across a mankind/civilization lifetime of 1000s of years, there has to be a clear statistical advantage before we adopt it as a necessity. I wouldn’t rely much on research, because: 1. There isn’t much funding available for developmental research in children
    2. This kind of question(usefulness of pre-school) by nature requires a 10,15,20 year study and that just compounds both the funding and researchers’ time problem.
    Both these add up(along with pressure to publish) to very insufficient data that draws ridiculously exaggerated conclusions.

  5. Why dont you homeschool her till she is ready? I am sure she can learn a lot more from you at home. And if she is not enjoying being there with all the other kids whats the point? Apart from company of other kids, i dont think most of these schools have anything to offer. I wish Trisha had more kids to play with here, then i would not have thought of sending her to school till 5.

    1. I completely subscribe to your idea. When I initially decided to put her, I thought its only 2 hours and shes going to learn to handle stranger/place anxiety. Also it would help her to go to a place without me, which will help her when she goes to school next year. On the hindsight I think I should have waited 6 more months. So lets see….

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