Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tory's First Day of (Pre) Preschool

The moment I became a mom, I began to worry about providing the best for Tory. (Heck, I started to worry from conception, really.) Tory's got a few big changes coming her way; namely, becoming a big sister this winter and I've been concerned she'll feel lost in the shuffle. I'm putting it mildly when I say Tory rules the roost around here. There's going to be a period of adjustment when Baby Boy arrives in November and honestly, how that transition affects Tory has been my biggest concern regarding Baby #2.

Tory's a big mama's girl which honestly, I love. I'm fortunate for the opportunity to spend every day with her, but I also stress she'll have an even harder time starting school programming because she's so used to me being with her every single day. So, Andi and I agreed enrolling Tory into a structured toddler program outside the home would be a good way for her to learn and grow while socializing with kids her age. I toured a nearby Christian preschool with a two-year-old program, but ultimately decided to enroll Tory in the Twin Cities' Early Child Family Education (ECFE) program which offers various classes for parents and children. Part of me really wanted a drop-off two-year-old preschool (like the Christian preschool program where I could drop her off and go run errands or spend some one-on-one time with Baby Brother) but a nagging part of me worried Tory's young age coupled with her first experience with parent separation would be enough adjustment. With a late August birthday, Tory is literally the youngest child in her age group based on the school district's cut-off dates. There's a big difference between a child who's 24 months old and another who's six months older, and I didn't want Tory to feel overwhelmed.

On Tuesday, Tory and I attended the first day of her weekly ECFE class. In this program, she and I attend the class together and half way through the session, we separate into different classrooms. I don't get any "mama free time" like I was hoping for, but it gives Tory the experience of attending preschool alone in small doses.

I started to talk up "school" a few days prior to the class and Tory's response every time I brought up the subject was "no!" I tried associating school with other kids who attend (like her cousin Brooke, for example) but it didn't seem to play up her interest in "school" any further. Tuesday, Tory even started to fuss as we were loading into the car to go to class. I'm not sure if she was nervous about school in general or worried I was going to leave her there, but her reaction was pretty uncharacteristic of my bubbly girl.

Once inside the toddler classroom, however, Tory perked right up and ran from toy to toy with excitement. She zoomed cars on the floor with another little boy in class, then pushed baby dolls around in the stroller. She didn't seem the least bit interested in where I was standing. Look at my girl go! She doesn't need me one bit. What was I even worried about?

... and then "Circle Time" came and Miss Outgoing had a little trouble listening to Teacher Anne's direction. There was a definite difference in children's ages (a younger "two" vs. an older "two) when it came to sitting patiently in a circle. Tory had no interest in sitting quietly with the other kids and kept getting up to play with the toys. I was a bit embarrassed when Tory kept running over to the play slide and other kids started to follow her. Oy.

Next, the parents met in another portion of the room (no separating into different classrooms on the first day) while the kids interacted nearby with the teacher. Tory did a great job playing independently for the first ten minutes or so until she slipped on the ground near the sandbox and started to cry. Then it was all over. Tory didn't want anyone to console her but me and there was still twenty minutes of class left to go. She sat on my lap for the remainder of the time.

As soon as we loaded into the car after ECFE class was over, Tory melted down. I think the combination of the 90 minute class, meeting new people and being in a new environment was just a little much for my girl. But, as her mom, I'm glad she felt safe enough to let go of her emotions after class when she was by my side. Tory fell asleep an hour early Tuesday afternoon, curled up in my bed while reading books. Poor Beanie was just tuckered out.

Overall, I'm really glad we selected the program we did (parent / child separation class vs. drop-off preschool). This is Tory's first experience with a preschool setting and I hope the gradual exposure to me leaving her proves to be a good transition to real preschool, then kindergarten and beyond. Tory's a smart cookie, so I know she'll adapt. And while she does, I'll continue to give her all the support she needs while worrying deep inside every step of the way.


  1. Awww! It's tough, especially since she is still so young. Kids can't even start preschool here in MA until they are 2.9. Lilah was barely 3 when she started and the difference between last fall and this fall in school has been TREMENDOUS! She's like a totally different kid! She'll be the youngest in her class too though, so I felt strongly about her having 2 years of PreK under her belt before starting kindergarten. But she will be more than ready, I can already tell.
    I'm sure Tory will adjust just fine over time once she gets used to the space and structure of the class.
    Did you consider a daycare program that is more play focused rather than preschool since she is so young? I have my kids do a couple of half days at daycare when they are younger so that they get the socialization and are used to some time without mom being by their side 24/7. It also gives me some time to get stuff done without kids (or without all my kids, haha!).

  2. Oh you will love ECFE. Both of you. :) I just know it. Such a wonderful program and TOTALLY play focused. And iif you are at the same school we are, and it's the same teacher Anne that Gus had, then yeah. She's wonderful, and has completely appropriate expectations of 2 yr olds. ;) Been there though. Circle time can be stressful when it's your kid being somewhat uncooperative. Trust me. Totally normal and she's seen much worse. (My kid? Ha!) Have fun! And I think you'll also enjoy and appreciate the connections with other moms you make in the parent education part of class as well.

  3. I think it's great that you're getting her used to this when she's younger. Allie's first non-mom event was Sunday School and the first week was awful - she cried for about 10 minutes before finally engaging in activities with the other kids. The second week was better and by the third week, she did great. I think it really helped because when she did preschool last year, she had no problems leaving us at all!

  4. What a great way to help her adjust to preschool! I really wish we had something like that here - I am stressing already about PK for Lauren and she won't go until next year. Gah. Do I send her? Do we go public? Do we go private? Do we go Christian? Who knows!

    Tory looks so cute in her little backpack! So grown up!!

    I totally agree with the 2 year old thing - HUGE difference between just turning 2 and almost 3. I have kids in my class that are a full year apart, it is crazy.

  5. Ahh, kids in backpack pictures get me every time. She looks so grown up! I can't believe that she is going to be a year ahead of Lucia in school. The Catholic school I'm going to send my girls to has a very strict August 1 cutoff date, so L will be one of the very oldest in her class.