We had a big decision to make a fortnight ago. Along with debating the merits of regular versus aged cheddar (we take our cheese VERY seriously in this household) we also had the small task of deciding whether Oliver remained enrolled at his current day care. It may not have been quite as big a deal as the cheese but it was rather significant.
To backtrack slightly, Ollie has been at the same day care since he was 2 and a bit. He started a few months after we moved and after the initial ‘OMG where’s mummy?’ tears, he settled in fantastically. The centre we had him enrolled in was small, had a good feel about it and ran a 2+ program from 8am-4pm. I’d usually drop Ollie off around 8.30/9am and pick him up at 3pm. It worked perfectly. I got the chance to log almost a full days work before Evie arrived and some much needed 1 on 1 time with my girl after she was born. Ollie’s socialisation and language skills came on like a freight train and just before Evie arrived we’d reached the point where I barely needed to enter the centre such was his desire to get outside and into the sandpit. We hit some rocky territory after Evie’s arrival which I had expected but things seemed to go back to normal. That is until about 6 weeks ago when it all went, to put it nicely, tits up in a major way.
Ollie decided, without preamble, that he no longer wanted to go to kindy. We still have no real idea why though it’s coincided with a spike in his separation anxiety and nightly trips to our bed. There doesn’t appear to have been an issue with bullying or any specific incident that’s frightened him or caused anxiety. He’s a very verbal kid who can recount in detail the bike ride he went on a fortnight ago so we feel pretty confident he’d have shared with us if something big had happened. We spoke to the staff who’d noticed his reticence upon arrival but also assured us he was his usual self within about half on hour of me dropping him off. The issue was the drop off itself or more accurately, getting to the drop off. Ollie refused to leave the house as in squirrelled himself away so that I had to drag him, kicking, screaming and sobbing down two flights of stairs and into his carseat to actually start the journey to the centre. On the rare occasion I got him into the car, he’d refuse to get out once we arrived and the same process as above would ensue. Kicking, screaming, sobbing. Begging me not to leave him. It was horrendously distressing for us both. Monday and Tuesday mornings became the absolute worst part of my entire week. The stress was unreal. It also went against every natural parenting instinct I possess to force my child to do something he so clearly, vocally was against. I generally consider myself a fairly gentle, attached parent and dragging 18 kilograms of pre schooler out of a car to the soothing sounds of hysterical yells really didn’t fit with my ethos.
It was dilemma however not only as I use the time Ollie is at kindy to work and hang with Evie but because it raised the whole issue of ‘when do you fold’? As the song goes; ‘you gotta know when to hold, know when to fold em’ and my husband and I endlessly debated whether withdrawing Ollie would set a precedent. Will we face the same issues next year when he starts 4 year old pre-school? What about the year after when he’s due to start school? Are we doing him a disservice by removing him from something that he’s benefitted from and that he used to enjoy? What about his socialisation and early years education? We are extremely involved in a bunch of playgroups and activities and have an amazing group of friends but it’s different to a formalised learning environment. So many questions. Not many answers.
In the end, it came down to me in a sense as my husband supported whatever I felt was right. I was the ‘person on the ground’ so to speak who was managing the situation first hand. I decided to withdraw him. I went with my gut. And while a bunch of questions still plague me, I feel at this stage that it’s the right decision. For whatever reason, kindy just wasn’t fitting our boy at the moment. Something had thrown a really big spanner in the works and it was having a knock on effect on his behaviour and personality. We’ve noticed it as well with a really dramatic increase in his separation anxiety. He’s always been quite an attached kid though we’ve never really had issues with him around people he knows and family members. All of sudden though, I’ve become the sun to his planet earth and if I’m not in his orbit, all hell breaks loose. If I’m in the vicinity he’ll quite happily do his thing, play with his friends, hoon around the park on his bike but remove me from the equation and things go south real fast. This morning he refused to stay at the library for story time with his sister and beloved nanny and poppy while I ran errands and got a jump on work. That was new. And frustrating. And distressing. Because I can’t be ‘mad’ with him. He’s not doing anything wrong and is clearly grappling with some pretty massive emotions but working out how best to manage them is proving tricky.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve dealt with something similar with your kidlets. Any suggestions? Likewise, should you be able to settle the age old ‘normal vs aged’ argument, please give me a yell.