Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Pre-school’

We picked up the L’il Pumpkin at school mid-morning. It was going to be a fun day, going to the Children’s Theatre to see The Little Mermaid, then lunch and on to Hannukah. But we had a long holding session in the lobby before the play with a few other schools, so I headed over to the large center table covered with paper, crayons and writing prompts.

“Ariel and her father the King are having trouble understanding each other. What do you wish adults could understand better about children?”

“What do you think,” I asked my little grandson.

“Listening,” he said without missing a beat.

And a light went off; I thought about the term “active listening,” like some ancient artifact that had washed ashore in my brain, back before parenthood. While studying child psychology, I knew even before reading a text that some people are checked out when it comes to their kids, and some are just naturally checked IN.

This was long before we had tiny smart phones to ding and buzz our attention away from our children. Just as we need context to read and comprehend, we need to hear between the lines in order to communicate well with little people. Sure meltdowns can happen, but if we are paying attention, we can usually avoid them.

I was recently involved in a conversation with one of Great Grandma Ada’s friends. He had been a professor at Vanderbilt in his youth, now well into his 90s he liked to paint beautiful, vivid landscapes. I was aware of how effortlessly we spoke, and it’s hard to remember what exactly we spoke about, but it started with Brexit. The rare thing of beauty was that here was a man who was listening – he wasn’t turning his head away, or nodding, or looking at his watch. He was engaging, and our words flew elegantly back and forth.

You don’t have to be a Disney princess to get into hot water with your parents. The L’il Pumpkin told me he was glad Ariel smashed the magic shell containing her voice, thereby breaking the sea witch Ursula’s spell. I thought about the many voiceless women, throughout his/herstory, who were destined to live a constrained life; tied up in apron strings, never learning to drive a car (like Nelly, my foster mother), living in a “Doll’s House” like Nora herself, or Shakespeare’s Rosalind before her.

I hope our grandson grows up to be a good listener, to be a mensch. Watching him skip back to our car, holding Bob’s hand in the parking lot, my heart melted a little.

IMG_4303

 

Read Full Post »

The lack of quality, affordable day care is arguably the most significant barrier to full equality for women in the workplace. It makes it more likely that children born in poverty will remain there. That’s why other developed countries made child care a collective responsibility long ago.

Here’s my question, If you were to place a monetary value on child care workers what would it be? We all know how important those first few years are to a child’s developing brain, and yet in this country, child care is anything but valued. Parents must navigate a piecemeal patchwork of semi-regulated private home care and institutional day care franchises or religious, sometimes co-operative pre-schools that in the end may or may not meet their needs. Poor, single-parent, and middle class working parents are hit hardest, because one parent’s salary may all but pay for child care, which means for many couples one will opt to stay home, not to work while their children are young…

You’ll notice I didn’t say the “Mother,” even though the latest US Census Bureau actually counts the Father as a “Child Care Provider” when he stays at home, but if it’s the Mom at home, well, not so much! http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/the-census-bureau-counts-fathers-as-child-care/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Presumably it’s our function right, to stay barefoot and pregnant at home raising the kiddos? And this is exactly the problem with our Democracy – we educate our girls, we passed Title IX, we expect women to contribute to the GNP, and yet we still manage to count them as the “designated” parent. It’s easier that way, then we as a country feel no obligation to provide child care!

I used to hate it when people said the Dad was “babysitting,” early feminists had to readjust their language to reflect the changing culture giving women sovereignty over their lives. After all, is the Mom babysitting when she cares for her progeny? No, we are parenting, co-parenting hopefully. Sure nursing Moms have a bit of a heavier load to begin with, but even with modern Dads picking up more of the slack at home, when both parents want of have to work, their options are dismal.

American day care performs abysmally. A 2007 survey by the National Institute of Child Health Development deemed the majority of operations to be “fair” or “poor”—only 10 percent provided high-quality care. Experts recommend a ratio of one caregiver for every three infants between six and 18 months, but just one-third of children are in settings that meet that standard. Depending on the state, some providers may need only minimal or no training in safety, health, or child development. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112892/hell-american-day-care

And what do we pay these child care workers? Less than $20,000 a year, about the same as a parking lot attendant. Yes, someone who sits in a booth all day watching a small screen and making change is valued about the same in,this,country as someone responsible for our young child’s growth and development. And there are no national qualifications for child care workers, it is a state by state business where a GED will get you in the door.

In every other developed country, in the Big 8, working women and child care are valued. In France for example, the state subsidizes child care. Babies and toddlers can go to a “Creche” that is run by the public health system, while preschoolers can go to the “Ecole Maternelle,” with teachers who are paid the same as the public school teachers because it is part of the public education system. Is it any surprise that 80% of women return to work in France, while here it is around 60%? Even if one parent stays at home, or hires nannies, France gives these parents generous tax breaks.

In Denmark, most men take a three month paternity leave, and no parent pays more than 25% for child care. I know. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/feb/18/britain-learn-denmark-childcare-model

And guess where our government does set standards on child care, the military! “More than 98 percent of military child care centers meet standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, compared with only 10 percent of private-sector day cares.” Interesting, I guess the American dream does exist for some women in uniform, so long as you don’t mind where you’ll be stationed or that you may be called to duty in a war zone.

If we as a nation would like to move more people out of poverty, and benefit from the increased taxes and economic development of more women in the workplace, we will have to make universal Pre-K a reality. It’s that simple.

The Love Bug Going to Pre-School

The Love Bug Going to Pre-School

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

We start school very early in the South. My daughter tells me that her neighborhood elementary school started today, so the Love Bug is waving “Good Morning” to her favorite school crossing guard and watching the big yellow buses roll by her front porch. And this week, the Bug had her first day at preschool!

The Bride packed her a lunch, strapped on her butterfly backpack, and brought her to school with the Groom for moral support. They had done their research; some schools tried to tell them what not to wear, some schools seemed more like daycare, but this school was just right.

Of course we had to reassure our daughter that the Bug was going to looove preschool. After all, it’s only two days a week, but still she worried. After all, except for her Nanny and her Grandparents, the Bug had never been left with anyone else. But much to everyone’s delight, she sat right down at the table with a few other children and joined right in.

When it was time for the parents to leave, she said, “Bye bye Mommy!”

They called me afterwards from the car and I heard all about it. School is such FUN! She loves her teacher Ms Kiki, she napped for two hours, and only asked where her Mama was once or twice. Ms Kiki told her that Mama and Dada go to work. The lesson that parents sometimes leave, and then they come back, has been successfully instilled in the Bug’s two year old brain. Yay!

In England it’s National Play Day today. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/11012833/Play-integral-to-childhood-development.html

During the early years, as children’s brains grow dramatically and they move rapidly from one developmental stage to the next, play remains central to their growth and development and is the primary means by which they build cognitive skills and begin to make sense of the world.

As an old nursery school Head Start teacher I agree. Play is fundamental to learning. And the Bug loves to play, and recount the highlights of her day to anyone who will listen. Like the time Ms Bean caught a bird in her mouth and Nana said, “Bad Bean!” She is no longer talking in sentences, we’re getting paragraphs!

So Happy First Day of Preschool my little Bug, and may your second day be just as much fun as the first, or maybe more. I am waiting for the call from your Mama. The one about Ms Kiki asking her to talk with you about not helping so many of the children with their art projects. Because I had to explain to your Mama when she was little that it’s OK to draw outside the lines, but it’s not OK to draw on your friend’s paper even when you are just trying to help!

IMG_0962

 

 

Read Full Post »

I remember when we moved back to NJ. The kids were little when we attended a new parents night. The elementary school principal spoke about all the wonderful things her school had to offer; while we parents were encouraged to think about outcomes. What did we hope their school would help instill in its students? She made a list on a blackboard; it was a long list. Parents were calling out things to put on the list – creativity, cooperation, academic achievement. This was a school, mind you, where awards for Being Quiet were displayed proudly on one wall. I called out, “What about compassion?”

Silence.

The Love Bug and the Bride are visiting us this week, and I just happened to read an article about teaching kindness.

It’s amazing the subjects that deserve research, how does one raise a successful child? How to raise a happy child! Finally it’s occurred to someone that children need to be taught NOT to always think of themselves first. I’ve noticed with the Bug, who will turn 2 next month, that altruism is there just waiting to be nourished. She noticed my wrapped hand and kissed it immediately. She shares her food willingly. She pets Ms Bean gently.

But I always thought you teach kindness by modeling it yourself. It’s not something you need a worksheet for, it doesn’t need to be drilled into your child. Today I offered the Bride a small gift of time to work out at our sports club. I played with the Bug, while Mama and baby-to-be raised their heart rates a bit. Since it was raining when we arrived, we didn’t swim, but we joined in with a group of children who were at day care and tennis camp. Suddenly a toddler ran into a wall, cutting his eyebrow.

The Bride arrived just in the nick of time, she got to work examining the boy, cleaning his superficial laceration and reassuring his mama that it didn’t need sutures. The Bug saw some of this medical operation, and I’m sure she registered this in her brain. We are the kind of people who help people.

Random acts of kindness might sound good in a curriculum, but I think it’s something we learn before Kindergarten, at our parents knees. Maybe if more of us practiced this concept, we’d be less inclined to wage war, or shoot down planes for instance. Maybe it’s as simple as that?

Bug rock climber

Bug rock climber

Read Full Post »

The mountains have been shrouded by early morning fog. It was another wacky weather week highlighted by an invitation to audition for the role of Grandmother. Good friends and colleagues of the Bride’s have two amazing children, a little girl almost 2 and an almost 4 year old boy. They are the smartest and most adorable twosome ever! It was a pleasure to represent my generation at their pre-school “Bring Your Grandparent (or other special person) to School Day.”

It got me thinking about bringing the Bride to pre-school in the Berkshires. I was told, very kindly, that it might be best if I said my goodbyes out in the car, instead of subjecting all those other poor children to the inevitable breakdown of both Mother and Child in the classroom. So we ended up with a family rule, maybe you’ve got a similar one in your family? “Big girls don’t cry in public.” This proved to be an invaluable lesson when she encountered her first bully on the Kindergarten bus. Warning – turn away if you are afraid of strong girls.

Riding a school bus will most likely be the first time your small child will be unsupervised by an adult. My sweet little, five year old, curly haired daughter got off the bus that day in a pickle. I asked what happened, insisted she tell me. An older boy had grabbed her jacket, which she was carrying since of course it was hotter coming home from school than it had been in the morning, and she didn’t let go. They proceeded to have a tug-of-war in the aisle of the school bus. What was that movie where the girl learns that the boy must like her if he’s pulling her pigtails? Well, my girl broke down and told me about the jacket-pulling-incident, bravely carrying her prized jacket into the house.

Did I tell her that he must like her and and that love hurts? NO NO NO!! Her lesson that day was that I was so proud of her for not crying on the bus and defending herself. This family rule must have been learned at the Flapper’s knee. But it’s tough being a strong, non-crying, intelligent woman, even in 2012. You run the risk of appearing too strident, dare I use the “B” word, or as Rebecca Traister wrote in her book about the 2008 election, Big Girls Don’t Cry – The Election that Changed Everything for American Women, “It means that Hillary as a mold-breaking, ball-busting, aggressive, relentless female candidate encountered a level of resistance…” Yes, she examines the intersection of race and gender in that groundbreaking election; the anti-Hillary Clinton cankle spouting spew vs the stupid, mean girl anti-Sarah Palin rhetoric and the slightly veiled, articulate language lobbed at Barack Obama.

Because after the groundbreaking New Hampshire primary win, the first time an American woman has ever won a primary in 220 years of presidential politics, what does the media focus on? The NYTimes talks about Hillary crying. Crying, cut to the violins!! I admit it, I voted for her in the primary, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. At least I never liked John Edwards.

My Big Girl is laughing today since her residency program just won the video challenge run by Emergency Medicine Physicians as a recruiting tool. “We Vandy” celebrates one of the most esteemed EM programs in the country – look for that tug-of-war champ behind the guy in the dark sweater on the left. I wouldn’t mess with her if I were you.

http://www.emp.com/emergency-medicine-video-challenge-2011

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: