Friday, September 27, 2013

Our impossible situation

My 5-year-old daughter is putting us in an impossible situation. It's the 5th week of school and we're still stuck in the same place we were on day 1 - the crying place.

Our problem is this: last year at age 4 she started JK. And when she did so, she was one of the lucky (unlucky?) ones to go to an all-day kindergarten school. It was the first year of the program there and that's just the way it was. She cried a lot for the first few weeks - going to all day school was a huge adjustment for her as a child who, with the exception of a couple of hours of preschool a day, had never really been away from mommy.

And even with preschool, she cried for weeks. She suffers from separation anxiety, social anxiety or whatever you want to call it - she doesn't deal with change. And so, last year, once she got over crying, she liked school. And although I was told by her teacher that she occasionally still had 'I miss mommy' moments, we never really had a problem again.

Which brings us to this September. Alex changed schools this September to go to the French immersion school with her brother. You have to start in SKor you can't go through the system at all. We expected tears at the start - tears for the separation, tears for having to make all new friends.

The problem was that the SK school is only half-day kindergarten. So after being used to being in school all day, she suddenly had to go backwards. And me, who after spending a year building my workload up to full time, would have to scale it back to part time.

And so, Ryan and I decided to register her in a Montessori school for the other half day. It seemed like a perfect fit - I could work, she would still be around other kids and because it wasn't daycare, she'd still be learning and stimulated. And the woman who runs the school would pick her up at her French immersion school every day. How much easier could it get? And as a treat to Alex and me, Fridays would mean no Montessori school but instead come home to be with mommy.

It was a great plan on paper. But here's how, 4 weeks into school, it has worked out: Alex cries every morning. And I don't just mean as we get to school - most mornings it's from the moment she wakes up (which is anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours earlier than usual lately) at first the crying was about school in general but now it's more focused. Now it's about Montessori school only. She doesn't want to have to go there. Here's the catch, she seems to like it when she's there, and her teacher there says she's doing fine and seems fine. But she doesn't want to go. She says her days are too long when she goes (they're the same length as her all-day kindergarten days give or take 15 minutes). She says it's too much work (which it's not).

What it comes down to is the transition of having 2 starts and 2 ends to every day is too much for her to handle. It's stressing her out, it's causing her anxiety, it's wearing her down. How do I know this? Because she doesn't cry before school on Fridays.

This is where the impossible situation comes in. I'm feeling incredibly guilty for sending her there. Someone (a social worker) suggested to me that she may be feeling feelings of abandonment. A sort of 'why doesn't mommy want me, why do I have to go here?' Yeah, that made me feel so much better.

So now I'm seriously wondering if I should pull her out of Montessori and just have her come home everyday. She's such a happy, easy going kid and she looses all of that when she even thinks about having to go there.

So I'm thinking of pulling her out. It's only one year, I can manage one kid in the afternoons while I also have a workload for one year, can't I? Will I regret it if I have her home every day and start losing my mind when works gets busy? Will we be teaching her that you can just give up when you have to do something you don't want to? Or will we be causing her long-term emotional harm my forcing her at 5 years old to basically 'suck it up buttercup'?

Isn't this one of the reasons I like what I do, so I can be flexible and be there for my kids? Do I really want to scale back my work after working so hard to build a successful business? And whats wrong with it if I did? Well I'd have to start saying no to some clients if the workload gets to difficult to handle.

It's a impossible situation without a good answer.

*Since I wrote this, Ryan and I had a long talk. We're going to stick it out until Thanksgiving and really talk to her and try to work her through this every day. We're wondering if it's not only the transition that's difficult for her but if it's actually the school work. Half-day kindergarten is definitely more of a sprint to get through the curriculum than full-day kindergarten is. And she's used to the more leisurely pace of learning. So now she's got the sprint learning in the morning, followed by more learning in the afternoon -- maybe sending her to montessori school wasn't the right idea after all.
I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

Alison said...

Hi Deb - just got to read this. I am so sorry she is having so much trouble, and thus you are too! One idea I thought of was to take her out of the Montessori and hire a sitter or mother's helper to play with her in the afternoon while you work. That way she could be home with you, but you could also get your work done. Hard situation - I wish you the best of luck. Call me or email any time if you need to talk!