After much internal debate, over many months, I finally decided to try preschool for Jack. I had been thinking about it on and off, when Jack noticed the preschool room in the dance studio where we do yoga. He was very interested in what was going on in there and wanted to go in every time we passed the door. This, coupled with his budding interest in interacting with other kids at play dates made me think maybe he's ready. Jack has always been a bit shy and reserved around new situations and unfamiliar people, but I thought it might be good for him to learn that it's okay and even fun sometimes to be away from Momma. I investigated several different programs but ultimately decided to go with the one at the dance studio. The space is familiar and obviously enticing to Jack, the teachers are warm and friendly and have been there a long time, and the classroom has a calmness to it, even with fourteen kids under age five in it.
So, after visiting a couple of times and talking about it a lot with Jack, we set up our first day of preschool for Monday. I only planned to leave him for a couple of hours to start. We got his clothes and his backpack ready the night before. In the morning, before we left the house, I took a picture of him by the garage door, backpack on, Jack smiling proudly. I was nervous, but doing a damned good job at acting normal, if I do say so myself. We got to the school, and as we entered the classroom, Jack started to act nervous, wanting me to pick him up. I smiled, though and told him I'd help him find something to do, and then I would go. I tried to get him involved in playing to very little avail. In the end, I hugged and kissed him, told him I'd be back in a couple of hours to get him, and left him crying in Miss Mandy's lap. I strode out into the parking lot, my vision blurred and I broke down into tears. I sat in my car and called Jason. I was crying so hard, he couldn't understand me, though he insisted it was his phone reception going out. I felt horrible. It took every ounce of willpower I have ever had to walk out of that classroom and leave when Jack was crying, though, having taught preschool for years, I know that delaying your departure only makes it worse.
I spent the next two hours getting a pedicure and shopping - bought several things I really don't need. I almost relaxed. When I went to get Jack, I peeked into the room where they were doing tumbling. Music was playing, and the teacher was helping kids jump on small trampolines, crawl over big foam blocks and hop through hula hoops. Everyone seemed to be having a blast, except Jack, who was just standing by the teacher. As soon as he saw me, he ran to me and tearily asked to go home. We stayed for a few minutes so I could talk to the teacher. She said Jack had stopped crying after I left, but he alternated between being upset and settling down to play.
Two seconds after we got home from preschool, he was bouncing off the walls. He had more fun in yoga class later that day than he ever has before. He is obviously not scarred by his first preschool experience. I, on the other hand, have not recovered so quickly. Over the past two days, I have questioned my decision to start preschool. I wanted it to be in place before the baby gets here in February, but is Jack really ready? Should I just cherish this time with him at home and not push him to be more social? On the other hand, once the baby is born, having Jack in school a half-day, two days a week might be a real godsend. And, more importantly, he is going to have to try new things. He is going to have to do things without me, and maybe it's time for him to do that, even if it is a little stressful at first. After all, a little stress isn't necessarily bad. I really don't think Jack is analyzing it near as much as I am.
I also have to admit that part of my negative feelings about starting preschool have to do with it's disruption of our schedule. If we do preschool Monday and Wednesday, I have to totally restructure when we've been going to yoga and scheduling play dates. I am a routine person, and I do not like having my routine thrown up into the air and scattered all over the floor like a stack of cards in fifty-two card pick-up. So that part of it is about me, not Jack, and definitely something I need to set aside in my decision about whether or not we are ready for preschool.
Tomorrow, we will try our second day of school. I intend to leave him there a bit longer than Monday but not the whole time just yet. It's tap day, and Jack is excited about wearing his tap shoes. Funny thing, he has said several times he wants to me to stay with him at school, but he hasn't said that he doesn't want to go. I take this as a sign he wants to go but is just unsure about my not being there as of yet. I am hoping that, over the next several weeks, Jack and I both will get more used to school and even if he isn't jumping for joy when I leave, he'll at least participate and enjoy himself once I'm gone.
After killing myself over whether or not this is the right decision for the past two days, I have reminded myself of a piece of advice I've given friends countless times: If you're not sure, just try it. You can always change your mind, and you won't know if you don't try. I asked myself if I really thought I was doing permanent harm to Jack's psyche by trying out preschool, even if it turns out he's not really ready yet, and my answer was "no." We can always quit if after a few weeks, it doesn't seem to be getting any better. So, as usual, I have come upon a solution that harkens back to something people have been telling me my whole life that I never really got until now: "Try it! You might like it!"