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.