Recently, my husband and I had to make one of those parenting decisions. You know the ones: You are kept awake at night, questioning all your past and future choices. And you might always wonder if you made the right one.
Last year, we loved our parent-run preschool co-op. Our son delighted in going each morning and would talk about it on our off days. We decided to take off the fall semester since we’d be having another another baby partway through, and the thought of trying to leave the house three times a week first thing in the morning with a newborn seemed awful. My husband took a few months of paternity leave, so we just nestled in with our little family, went on a few day trips, and generally settled into life as a family of four.
And when a spot opened up at the co-op after my husband had returned to work, it seemed like a no-brainer that we would go back. However, one month in, we quit.
Why? Well, in short, our son had a very rough re-entry back to the world of preschool. This year, he was one of the oldest children. The younger children didn’t always listen to his requests, which he found to be extremely frustrating. The mornings of open play were chaotic and overwhelming for him. He even told me on more than one occasion during bedtime snuggles that he hated going.
We could have probably worked through these issues, but the way the emotions played out for my son was him hitting his peers. Sure, hitting is developmentally normal (although, let’s be honest, it’s an awful stage to parent through). But we hadn’t dealt with these behaviors in a year or more. And it wasn’t just some hitting. He hit hard. He punched. He threw things and even chased kids and sought them out to hit. In short, it was extremely stressful for him, me, the other parent caregivers, and his peers. Something had to give.
So, we hemmed and hawed for a few days and ultimately decided the best choice for us was to withdraw. Do we still worry that we’ve made the wrong choice? Sometimes. I think every parent worries that her child will never grow out of an annoying behavior or will have trouble navigating relationships. But when I’m laying awake at night, do I really and truly think that’s the case? No, not really. Since we quit preschool, our son has mentioned co-op exactly twice — and once was to say he didn’t want to go because of the other kids. He plays well in groups, and he’s exposed to peer play (that he navigates well) at least a few times per week. Most of all, he seems genuinely happier to spend his time at the park, museums, or the library.
We’re going to try another program in the fall and, of course, I’m nervous about how it will go. But children change so quickly that hopefully this phase will have passed completely, and he will just enjoy the time away from home and playing with other children.