Daniel started preschool this week. As in, the real thing, yo. This past fall I enrolled him in some preschool enrichment classes at the nearby YMCA, and while those are much like preschool (several hours in the morning, kids need to be potty-trained, etc), those classes only meet once a week and require re-enrollment every 8 weeks. Since about Christmas, or maybe his 4th birthday last month, I have really felt that Daniel needs more than that. He needs more social time with other kids, and he needs adult authority figures other than me in his life. I have noticed that when we spend the whole day together we are much more likely to butt heads and argue about silly, stupid things. I used to be so protective of the time we have together, and now I can't wait for the sitter to come so I can leave for rehearsals and such.
So a few weeks ago, I started looking into local preschools. It's a really scary thing for me. They all have different programs and policies and it seems just so expensive (even though I know the people who work at those places are chronically underpaid, so I'm not exactly complaining about that). Plus, there's the reality that after another year and change Daniel will be starting kindergarten and like most other mothers, I get all choked up just thinking about it. The reality, though - and let's not beat around the bush - is that he is bored and he needs this in the weekly routine.
We visited one preschool (Stuart even missed a couple hours of work to come along!) that came very highly recommended by a friend, and I loved it right away. It's very small, but the teachers are wonderful, caring people, it's not big like a daycare, they go outside every day almost without exception (exceptions being extreme cold, thunderstorms) and for a bunch of other reasons it just seemed like the perfect fit. We signed up for the waiting list for fall enrollment. On the way out, we noticed a sign announcing an opening right now, and after mulling it over for a couple days, I emailed the director and we took it.
Daniel had his first day on Monday, and his second day today. He goes in the afternoons, which is exhausting for him, but good in the long run. There will definitely be an adjustment period, as he gets used to going to this place instead of the Y and getting to know new kids and teachers. At age 3, it would have hardly registered for him, but now that he's four, he is much more perceptive and the social relationships mean a lot more to him.
This is a little hard for me, I have to admit. I wish afternoon preschool means I would get a break, but alas, it makes life infinitely more complicated. I have a lot going on on campus, so I'm doing a lot of dashing back and forth from home to the UW back to home to get Daniel to school, then back to campus, all while I'm paying out the wazoo for a sitter. Anya skips naptime more often than not, so it's not like I'd have that time anyway..but the hardest part is seeing Daniel adjust emotionally. He's so tired at the end of the day, for one thing. On the way home this afternoon he announced he wasn't going back, and that he liked his "other school" better. I've always thought of him as a kid who could handle any situation you throw at him; I have always been so proud of how well he travels, how well he adjusted to being a big brother, how well he plays at the park with other kids. But he is still just a kid, just four years old, and since he's the oldest, he's breaking me in to all these new phases of childhood and parenting.
I know Daniel will be just fine. On Monday, he was the snacktime vigilante, immediately informing his teachers when one kid took 5 crackers instead of the allotted 2. Today, he took a tiny nap (about 3 minutes) right before outside playtime, and he was awfully grumpy and tired when I picked him up. This is all part of the adjustment, I'm sure.