My approach to parenting thus far has been basically stumbling through it.
I’ve been lucky in that neither of the boys really had difficult babyhood issues – like sleep or eating. I made decisions about things sort of going with the flow (e.g. co-sleeping with both of them for my sanity, because it really did teach both of them to sleep at night, not because I believe it’s a beautiful thing).
I guess I sort of thought we were getting away with it, really, this sort of ‘lazy parenting‘. I see other people making really informed choices about their parenting styles (whether or not I agree with them, they’ve made a choice and they are sticking to it) and wonder if I am doing my kids a disservice. What is good enough? What is too much? Did anyone worry about this stuff before our generation??
Then a couple of things kind of kicked us in the ass recently.
First is just Oliver’s behaviour in general. I say ‘just’ because he’s a three year old boy. As I haven’t parented a three year old boy before, I don’t know what is normal and what isn’t. I do know that Mark and I are getting increasingly frustrated with him, and angry. Some nights, everything is a fuss or a disaster. Potty training is pretty much going nowhere. Dinner time, bed time, play time – sometimes it seems like everything is a fight.
So coincidentally last month I attended a training session at work, one where they’re giving us nice topics of work/life balance rather than technical topics – and it was Alyson Schafer speaking to the topic “why do my children do that”. I’m so glad I went.
Everything she said made sense. She is a Alderian psychologist, which doesn’t mean a lot to me since I have no memory of Pysch 101 back in 1996 or whenever (I hated that class, actually, because what I do remember is that it was entirely graded on multiple choice exams which is an evil way to demonstrate learning).
What makes sense is the motivating factors behind his behaviour. He wants attention. He wants independence. That pretty much sums up everything he does – it’s clear. So I need to read more of the book I just got, and Mark needs to read it too, but I am really trying to have more patience when he does act out, and look at WHY he’s doing it rather than getting into a power struggle or just walking away because in the moment, I’d really like to beat him over the head with a wet fish. Sometimes.
And without blaming us, a lot of what is happening is down to us and how we react to him or what parameters we place on him. Not that we are being horrible. But that we need to support more and more independence (I think, actually, we are pretty good about that) and really listen to him more. The frantic pace of our week, with work and daycare and so little free time, it doesn’t really allow for this. So we will need to work hard to make it happen.
I was looking forward to doing some more parenting learning next week as I had planned on attending a talk Barry Macdonald is giving on raising boys that was recommended by Alyson Schafer, but Mark has to go away on business to New Jersey for two days. Damn. I’ve asked Alyson to help me give my ticket to the sold-out show to someone else.
The other issue is giving me a headache. Or maybe an ulcer.
We recently switched daycares. We switched because Oliver will be going to Junior Kindergarten in the fall, and he needed to be at a local daycare in order to get transportation there. The local daycare was not an option until Callum became old enough to enter as a toddler rather than an infant.
Oliver attended the previous not-local-at-all daycare for 2 years. He enjoyed it. I was happy enough with it. Recently, they had started sending home a workbook for tracing letters of the alphabet as homework. ‘Homework?! He’s three!’ I said.
New daycare has no homework. New daycare has no Spanish or French lessons, like the old one. New daycare has no lessons, from what I can see. It’s all play. Play play play. Play is good. But he’s going to school in a few months. And he can now read numbers and letters. And I’d like to work on his writing. And let’s keep developing these skills, right? Where’s the homework, people?!
Last week, we attended an open house at a local Montessori preschool. I knew nothing about Montessori, other than my mother pulled my brother out of one almost 30 years ago because, in her words, ‘all he was learning was how to clean a table’. Mark and I went with an open mind and were initially very impressed with what we saw.
Also completely disheartened when they showed me a workbook of a kid the same age as Oliver who wrote and did math (long addition) perfectly. Wow, hey, we are failing our kid!
Now suddenly we had these two divergent paths. Keep him in daycare, all play all the time, be more responsible for his learning at home, and hope that when he starts with the Kindergarten curriculum in a few months, there will be more formal learning happening. And I have no reason to question this because I do believe in public school. And Mark and I are both products of public school and we’re okay (well, mostly. Heh.)
Or, switch to Montessori (and this Montessori appears to be a full-on-we-drank-the-koolaid-Montessori rather than a softer version). Stay with the curriculum there until he’s 6. No play (15 minutes at recess, that’s it), all learning. All learning all the time, with their Montessori methods and tools. Which are unique. Like the thing where you have to do everything silently. Wow, that’d be interesting with Oliver.
The cost isn’t really a factor; there is a small difference but not really enough for that to be a deciding factor.
There are also logistical questions – like how Callum fits into all of this. He would be making the switch, too. I also have some basic concerns about the Montessori’s licensing but that doesn’t really impact the boys, and that’s the important thing here.
What impact will a seemingly severe change in their preschool education have? And the range of opinions out there about Montessori is huge. Teachers say the kids are more prepared for the public school curriculum; then some teachers say they are less prepared. Parents are happy; parents pull their kids out. High spirited children do really well; high spirited children get kicked out.
I wish someone could tell me what to do.
I wish I knew what was good enough for him, for them.