Little T started going to play-group when she was two. She went every Wednesday, it was mostly my husband who took her when he could, which gave me a free morning off. That’s where she met F, her best-friend.
There’s little F and little T at the play-group, they were both two years old when the above photo was taken. Then when they turned three, most of the kids in that play-group (including little F) started going three times a week to play school. We held back a bit and just wanted her to stay with us. I for one felt she was too young.
But when she turned three last year, we though it was time. We prepared her by talking about it and letting her choose her own lunch-box. She seemed really excited about it too.
There she is on her “first day” at play-school. Things went well for a couple of weeks. At one point, she would even wave me away. So I thought – Okay, that’s done then. It wasn’t so bad was it? I spoke too soon.
Then it happened. She had a bad day and wouldn’t stop crying. The play-school phoned us and we had to pick her up. I knew she was tired, because she didn’t have a good night’s sleep and should’ve just let her stay at home. Since that day, she would absolutely refuse to go and wouldn’t let me leave her behind.
So we stopped going. I know some parents might not approve of my decision. Some may think I should’ve just let her be and cry it off and she’ll eventually stop crying. I know I could’ve done that. But the thing is, I know my daughter. Had I done that, it would’ve totally put her off play-school. I didn’t want it to be traumatic for her. I didn’t want her to think that play-school was a place where she cried her head off. I wanted her to think of play-school as a fun place where she played with her best-friend and made friends with other kids.
So we bided our time. I knew my husband didn’t agree with me, but he also knew his daughter. He knew that little T is stubborn and will make up her own mind. So months came by and Christmas came and went and she stayed home with us. She wasn’t really bored though, she still went to her rugby class and then she also started her swimming lessons.
In the meantime, we waited for her and let her decide whether she wanted to go to play-school or not. We however, talked about it A LOT. We didn’t nag her though. We just talked about how fun play-school is, about making friends and doing lots of fun stuff.
Until one day, she decided she wanted to go but had her condition: She wanted me to stay with her “forever.” My husband and I have actually been talking about my “volunteering” at her play-school. It also happens that F’s dad is the chairman of the committee of the nursery and he mentioned that the staff welcomes volunteers from parents or anyone for that matter.
So that’s what I did. I went with little T to play-school for about a month. Wiped snotty noses, played with the kids, read to them, helped them put their helmets on. She was a bit clingy the first day, but as the days went on, she didn’t even want to go home.
I was talking to the supervisor one day and we were discussing the way forward with little T. It was a Friday and I was thinking maybe it would be good to start leaving her behind for a couple of hours next week and see how it goes from there. I remember it was just after lunch and it was almost time for us to leave. So I told her we were going in awhile and she didn’t want to go. I told the supervisor about this, and she said, why not try it now? Tell her you’ll be back for her later. So I grabbed the chance and asked T if she’d like me to come back later to pick her up instead? To my surprise, without any hesitation she said “Okay, mummy! Bye, see you later!” I left as fast as I could! But called them up when I got home, just to see if she was okay. She was very much okay.
And now she absolutely loves play-school! She nags me in the morning and even wants to go at 7am! We have to constantly remind her that it isn’t open yet. She goes every Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If she had her way, she’d go everyday!
Before this, we were even worried about her starting reception school. All her friends are ready to go by September. Here in the UK, parents have a choice whether to send their kids to “proper” school when they turn four years old or five. We thought at the rate little T was going, she’d go when she was five. Actually if my husband had his way, he doesn’t want her to go so soon. He said, once they start school – they’re gone! But as always, we will let little T decide whether she wants to go or not. I have a feeling though that she will decide to go this year.
I have mixed feeling with that. I’m happy and excited that she wants to have fun, be with friends and learn new things at the same time, I’m a bit sad that she’s not constantly with us and I terribly miss her. Most days it feels like I’ve actually lost an arm and I’m not so sure what to do with myself. But like little T, I’m also learning how to fill my hours without her! In fact, I’ve just finished a book. It used to take me months to finish one, now it only takes me a few days! Whoopie-blood-doo-dah!
On hindsight, I don’t think I’d do things differently. So if someone would ask me advice on what to do if their little one also refuses to go to play-school or nursery, I’d say:
1. Don’t force them.
2. Talk things over with them, but don’t nag or scold them about not wanting to go. Remember, they should associate play-school with fun and not tears!
3. Talk to the play-school staff and see if you could volunteer, just till your little one gains their confidence back. And they will, however, don’t be impatient and expect them to love play-school after a few days of going. It takes time.
The good thing about volunteering too, is that you’ll also get to know the staff better and the children too. I love it whenever I take little T to school and the kids would greet me with lovely little smiles and when I pick her up, they show me whatever art work they’ve been working on.
4. Lastly, trust your child and yourself. You know your child more than anyone else. Don’t compare them with other kids. Children are different, just because your neighbour’s kids seem to have it easy, won’t mean that it will be the same for your child. People mean well when they give advice, but at the end of the day, only you know what’s best for them.
Perhaps, one important thing to remember is that our little ones won’t stay little. Soon they’ll be flying through the door and might not even want to be with us. They’ll want to be with their friends. They’ll want to learn new things and explore the world … without us! So don’t be in a hurry and too worried that they don’t want to go just yet.
Have you experienced something like this with your little one?
How did you deal with it? Please share.
This post is linked-up with PODcast’s #WhatsTheStory
I know that things may be different and difficult for single mums and working parents as well, where they don’t have much choice about leaving their kids behind. Already there is much guilt/stigma about leaving children at such a young age, even when they’re upset and absolutely refuse to be left behind. It’s difficult isn’t it? I can only imagine the stress these families are going-through or have been through. Like I mentioned though, whatever situation we are in, at the end of the day we should be governed by our own instincts as parents and not the opinions of others.
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