Repeat after me / by Susie Lubell

So what all went down. It started when I took my kids to school that morning. My son has to be there at 8:30 sharp for his "cutting exercise". They sit at table for 15 minutes and cut up paper. We arrived at 8:32 and my son started clutching my legs and sobbing that he wanted to go home. He's been doing the leg clutch thing for the last few months in fact, since they moved him to the older class. He has an October birthday so until now he's been the oldest in his class. Now he's the youngest. One girl is 14 months older. Don't even get me started on crazy parents holding their summer birthday kids back. It started with just the leg clutching and the rough drop-offs but since preK started a week ago, it's gone from bad to worse. He's started asking if there's school every morning and panicking all weekend that there will be school again. Then he started saying that he didn't want to go to school and on an on. He doesn't like nap time. Gabriel called him a monster. Henry was being loud. Etc.

So I tell him he just has to go and give his teacher a big hug and get settled but of course he's late and so he's not allowed to participate in cutting. He has to sit on the carpet and wait until circle time. Meanwhile no one has said a boo to him - no greeting, no hug, nothing. So I hug him and say goodbye and he's standing there lost and crying out not to leave him.

I drop off my daughter in the other room and she's also crying but she's new here and I know she'll stop ten seconds after I leave. I come back to the preK room and he's still standing there. No one has invited him to sit down or asked him what's wrong. He's just sobbing and the teacher is giving her cutting commands and it occurs to me that this place is all wrong. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK PEOPLE. Somebody engage my kid! Take two seconds out of cutting and figure a way to get my son involved and calm. But my hanging around is not helping so I leave and meet my friend in the parking lot and I sob to her about how suddenly my son is in military preK. Our play-based school is now all about worksheets and tasks and standing in line and repeat after me and circle the ladder and when you're done put your hand above your head! It's more than I can handle on my birthday. I suddenly and tragically realize I don't want this for my kid. And for the last three months I've been kidding myself that he'll be fine. He'll adjust. But he's not adjusting. He's regressing.

The rest of the birthday went like this. I then drive to a cafe to have special birthday breakfast with my husband but instead I cry for an hour about this terrible school and our tortured son. Although I did have a really good latte with a leaf design in the foam. My husband and I then sit down and on the back on my receipt we write down all of the things that we need to do to change this situation and make life here good for us. One of the items was finding our kids a new daycare. So while I had planned to spend the day painting or seeing a movie, I spent the day calling up preschools none of which have even one space, let alone two spaces. My last call was to a woman who was recommended to us by an Israeli guy we'd met at Starbucks eight months ago whose son went there. Turns out it was his second marriage and his son from his first marriage went to medical school with my brother in law. Small world. Anyway, he raved about this woman and said she had two spots but I never bothered to call because we were content with our situation. And I prefer not to rock the boat since that would require me to examine past choices and then beat myself up for being a bad parent. No thanks.

But I did finally call Sherry's Daycare and I told Sherry the story and we cried on the phone (seriously) and she broke the news that they had no spaces. But invited us to come over and see her place and get to know her in the event that she does have space. So I walked over there (did I mention that it's two blocks from my house) and met Sherry and felt like I had a lemon stuck in my throat. I got teary again. It was a perfect place. The perfect yard - a big mess of stuff to do and places to hide and tomatoes to pick and eat. A wonderful and warm house filled with toys and games and puzzles. Kids' artwork everywhere. But best of all there was Sherry and her husband Bob. Big quiet Bob who schlepped a kid in each arm and read stories while playing his accordion and rallied the kids around to wash down a dirty pretend kitchen set outside. No lining up. No worksheets. And no cutting practice. And yet it was not chaotic. Kids put away their toys and moved from one activity to the next. Sherry and Bob provide meals and snacks. They're open 6am to 6pm. They have a 14 person bus and they take the kids on field trips to museums and parks and libraries. They even pick up the older kids who go to morning preK classes and bring them back to spend the rest of the day at their home. It was daycare heaven. And it was cheaper than what I pay now.

So then I had to contend with the guilt of having not found this place four years ago when my son was born even though it was literally two blocks away. Wondering how different my tortured son would be had he spent his days in this amazing environment.

But in fact I know that he's been well-taken care of all this time and it's only recently that things aren't going as they should. So I made a decision that we need Sherry in our lives even if the transition will be tough and a little late in the game. I realized that I had been settling somewhat in the decisions I'd made about daycare and I wasn't doing that anymore.

There's more to the story but it's getting late. I actually brought the kids over there after school to check it out and they enjoyed themselves. My son found a dead motorola and a pair of sparkly high heels so he was thrilled. But when I asked if he wanted to go to school at Sherry's he said no. He wants to stay home and be with me. I don't blame him. But I'm still banking on Sherry and have been broadcasting to the universe my wish for two spaces at her house. Repeat after me boys and girls: How wonderful that Sherry has two spaces for Susie's son and daughter!

Excellent job! You must have gone to preK.